Are You New to Running? Lessons From Lulu

Contributed by Berkeley Half Marathon 2016 Ambassador  Stephanie Laska [email protected]

Mark Zuckerberg continues to inspire my family with his “A Year of Running,” inviting the public to run 365 miles in 2016. People from all over the world, many who had never ran a day in their lives, publicly pledged to achieve this goal #werun365.

Doesn’t that make you wonder? How did they even get started­­ and stick with it? Over 130,000 runners signed up, and most of them, I suspect, might be new to the sport.

lulu2I’m pretty new to running myself. I’m the girl that took choir in high school to avoid P.E. (that was an option back then). After two kids and two decades of sitting on the couch, I decided that pushing 300 pounds was no longer a viable option. A walk around the block soon translated into jogging a mile, and before I knew what was happening, I was running marathons.

So, what advice would I give these runners on how to get started in running and train for their first race? Although my own speedy journey into the running foray has left me dizzy, I clearly remember the lessons my newly adopted dog LuLu has taught me while training her to run this past year. She went from a couch ­potato shelter dog to the winner of the acclaimed “Doggy Dash” at our local SuperHero Run! You will be happy to learn Lulu has met and exceeded her pledge of 365 miles and is pushing past 500 year to date!

 

How did LuLu go from zero to hero? And how can these lessons apply to you?

  1. lulu1Get checked out by a doctor. Are you fit to run? Lulu is a large breed red­ticked coonhound, not a traditional “running breed.” Her vet assured me, however, that like a human, dogs can learn to run long distances with gradual ­ incremental increases in training. Start with a base amount of running (example, a mile three times a week), then slowly add on (week two increase to two miles, three times a week), and so forth. W here many people go wrong is doing too much too soon. Then they burn out – or worse – injure themselves. You may even consider a structured training program like irun365.org
  2. Clarify your motivation. When LuLu isn’t properly exercised, she gets into serious trouble. Drywall eating, dining room chair chewing, ripping apart her bed, trouble. My motivation for getting LuLu to run with me is to calm her down and get all the willies out. (That may not be an actual behavior term but indulge me here). What is your goal for running? Are you fundraising for charity? Trying to improve your health? Be as specific as possible in identifying what exactly will motivate you to get out on the streets, rain or shine, to run those miles.
  3. Rest when you’re tired. Most of the time, LuLu is excited to run. She sees me lacing up my Asics and starts licking my legs. But on that rare occasion I find her back­assward in her crate, hiding from me, I know it’s a day for rest. Rest days are as important as running days to maintain your motivation and keep injury free. On that same note, LuLu has taught me to pay attention to what hurts. A sore limb or whimper means something is wrong and not to be ignored (as we human runners tend to do). Dogs eat when they’re hungry, and drink when they’re thirsty. Pay attention to your body and nourish what it needs; your running will thrive.
  4. LuluStay positive out on the run. I’ve noticed that LuLu starts to drag around Mile 4 and often tries to pull toward a shortcut to head home. She is more interested in breakfast than our training plan (who isn’t?). But when I anticipate her turn and start complimenting her, “Good girl, LuLu! LuLu is a good runner!” she kicks it into fifth gear and does the “giddy­-up” of happiness. She will even tease me by looking at the short cut then accelerating toward the last long mile. The lesson I’ve learned from LuLu is to keep it positive inside. Those positive mantras and compliments go a long way toward success.
  5. Track your progress and celebrate success. My husband and I opened a Strava account in LuLu’s name, and we both log miles running with her. Our entire family celebrates the milestones in her running with special treats and photo shoots. Those little miles add up quickly when done on a regular basis! Whether it’s every 10 miles for a beginner, or 100 miles for the advanced runner, be loud and proud of what you are achieving and honor yourself with something special.

The bottom line is that running is supposed to be fun. LuLu has taught me time and time again to stop (literally) and smell the roses (or something not so sweet). She always makes new friends along the way, and encourages me to try out new paths and adventures. Mark Zuckerberg, if you’re listening, LuLu has met your challenge in “A Year of Running,” and now the question is, “Will you be running the Berkeley Half Marathon?”

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