By Chea Jackson, Gazelle Sports Public Relations
In 2011, I ran my first half marathon. Tears were streaming down my face as I crossed the finish line. Not because I was overwhelmed with a sense of accomplishment, not even because I was so happy it was over. But because I was in an incredible amount of pain.
Let’s back up. I started running regularly in spring 2010. I did a 5k with a group of friends and was immediately hooked. I stuck to short distances—three to five miles—and started my collection of bibs and event t-shirts. When my brother-in-law asked if I wanted to train for the Detroit Free Press Half Marathon, I dove in without thought. Ultimately, the “without thought” part is what hurt me—literally.
I followed my training schedule religiously: three shorter runs and one long run each week, going up in mileage as the weeks went on. Mid-training, I started getting some aches in my left knee. So I iced. Stocked up on ibuprofen. Carried on with my life. In the final weeks leading up to the race, the pain was becoming intense. So I rested and hoped that if I took it easy, I’d be able to finish on race day.
Fast forward to the face full of tears. Turns out I strained my IT band and ended up in physical therapy for several weeks. Why? Because I didn’t cross-train. It took all that pain and PT for me to learn that you should add other types of exercise, strength training and stretching into your routine to prevent injury. Cross-training can increase your stamina, prevent muscle imbalances, and work your muscles in different ways so they don’t continuously get worn down or overused by the same repetitive activity. Failing to incorporate cross-training into my routine was a critical mistake on my part, especially since I had no experience with long distance runs.
I learned my lesson. When I did my second half marathon three years later, I did it right. I dedicated time to stretching and I worked different types of training into my routine. I found that two shorter runs during the week and my long run on Sundays was enough running to get my mileage where it needed to be. I gave myself one hard core rest day, and filled the remaining evenings with hot yoga classes or body weight circuits. If you don’t want to pay for classes or a gym membership, I highly recommend mobile applications that walk you through super effective circuit workouts that you can do at home. I’ve personally had great experiences with Nike Training Club and Aaptiv.
I felt strong and prepared for my second half marathon. I didn’t need to take painkillers as part of my preparation and I left all knee and ankle braces at home. At the end, there were tears again—but these were tears of excitement and happiness as I saw my mom and my husband with our sweet golden retriever pup cheering me on at the finish line.