Run, Heather, Run!


I remember having to run in gym class in high school. I hated it. I hated that burning sensation in my lungs and I hated turning purple. Years later, I did some breathing tests at my allergists office but the damage was already done. It would be a very long time before the word running, when associated with my name, would elicit a reaction other than “yeah, right!”. You may even be able to find places on this blog where I said i only run when someone is chasing me. Well, call this a self improvement exercise.


Yesterday, I bought my first pair of real, grown-up running shoes:



Pretty sweet, huh? So anyone who knows me even remotely may be asking “what the heck happened?”. Well, I’ll tell you.


A few years ago, I lost a significant amount of weight. Let’s just say that Kirstie Alley isn’t even the second best looking spokesperson for Jenny Craig (I kid, of course…kind of) though she’s lost more than I did…I’ll give her that much. I found that the more I focused on excelling at work, the less I focused on leading a healthy lifestyle (and nobody was going to stop by my office to tell me to stop working and start exercising). One day, I was in the midst of a conversation with someone and something they said really hit me hard. When it comes to making big changes, I’m all in or all out. Suddenly, I was incredibly motivated to take some control of my health.


That was 3 or 4 years ago (I can’t believe I am blogging about this) and I’ve really changed my eating habits (I’m all about the whole grains/lean proteins/low-fat dairy/lots of fruits and veggies thing), but the exercise thing was nothing I ever really embraced other than my time on the treadmill in my guest bedroom. I could clock the time, but I wasn’t improving. So this past March, I started my personal training sessions at the Pro Club with James (cardio and strength training…whee!). I remember one of the first things I said to him was “please don’t make me run!” and by the end of the first hour I recall him saying “we might just get you running at some point” and me thinking “nice try, but I don’t think so”. Of course, I had to decide for myself that I was going to do it. I’m sure that’s no surprise.


Once I started really exercising, my focus was on my heart rate and by focusing on that, I can keep myself from turning purple (my target heart rate range makes me turn a nice flushed shade but nowhere near purple). Unfortunately, or fortunately, I have found that the more I exercise, the more work I have to do to get my heart rate up. I guess that’s called improved fitness but it also seems like a cruel irony. Speed walking on the treadmill turned to intervals on the treadmill, which turned to working out on the elliptical, increasing time and level. And still it requires more work to get my heart rate up. Now I think I am ready for running, especially now that I want to increase the amount of cardio I do. So I picked up a guide to starting a running program and was off to get fitted for my cool new kicks. I’m pretty excited.


I’m not sure why I am sharing all of this other than the fact that blogging about it means I have to actually do it (and to answer the few follow up questions from friends on how my training sessions are going).

Comments (24)

  1. darrenstraight says:

    Hey best of luck with your running, keep us updated! 🙂

  2. Todd Raphael says:

    I’ve found that not only does running relieve stress and is good for you, but that running is when I am able to generate ideas, remember things I would have otherwise forgotten to do, and so on. It’s almost like it activates a part of the brain that doesn’t seem to activate as easily any other way! Todd

  3. HeatherLeigh says:

    darrenstraight- Thanks and will do!

    Todd-I hope it has that effect on me!

  4. nick says:

    Thats the smartest way to fight a war – wage one battle at a time, and build up to handle the tougher ones 🙂

  5. HeatherLeigh says:

    Nick-that is definitely what I am finding. I got through my first day (you start the program out slow doing intervals walk/run) and considering that I had already done my elliptical and strength training right before, I’m allowing myself to feel pretty darn good about it. Goal #1 is to get through the week without missing a day(I get Sunday off).

    I have to admit that half the reason I post about this stuff too is that you guys are so encouraging. I feel a little self-serving almost asking for encouragement (by posting about this in the first place), but I can’t tell you how much the comments mean to me. And I can go back and look at them when I’m starting to try to make excuses.

  6. Pablo says:

    Heather, that’s great!

    I love running – but I only recently got back into it.

    I find it’s the best way to just clear my head and get the blood flowing, and the endorphins pumping.  There are tons of places online where you can find support, such as training programs for beginners, ideas to vary your workouts, logs where you can record your workouts (with distance and time), and routes that you can plot out and share with others in your area.  Let me know if you want some URLs and I’ll shoot them to you.

    After about 8 weeks or so you’ll really see some improvement – for example, I went out for my longest run recently and had enough energy left at the end, just from the excitement of having finished the distance, that I did another 10 mins of sprints.  Felt AWESOME at the end!

  7. Mike says:

    Heather, you might want to know that some of the links on your blog don’t work.  Examples: your bio; the disclaimer at the bottom.  There may be others….

  8. HeatherLeigh says:

    Pablo-I would love to have those urls. Right now, I am on the 6 week program in Prevention’s RunningFit guide. I also scaled back my regular workouts to 3 hrs of strength training and 3X 20 minutes of elliptical  per week in addition to the daily running. The Prevention program even mentioned finding some online resources, so I’d love to know more about that. Thanks!!

    Mike-yeah, I know. I’ll clean that up one of these days.

  9. tod hilton says:

    Congrats on sticking to your "healthy lifestyle" decision Heather! It certainly isn’t easy, but I think it’s well worth the effort. I know that [most of the time] I feel much better after a rough day if I go to the gym versus being a couch potato. Of course there are those days when I just say "screw it" and grab a beer and the remote, but that’s life. 🙂

    Keep up the good work!

  10. HeatherLeigh says:

    And that’s exactly why I don’t keep beer in my house ; )

    Hey, you need a day off every now and then, right?

  11. mike boze says:

    Heather, Keep running.  Running is one of the simplest forms of fitness.  I cann’t think of any better way of staying intouch with your body.  Healthy body, vigors mind.  More enegry.

  12. HeatherLeigh says:

    That’s what I want!

  13. Tim says:

    I also wish you congrats! It’s hard work. I hated, hated, hated running when I took it up. Felt like vomiting the first 10 minutes or so. And kept thinking, "Why am I doing this?" However, I WAS lazy and never stretched, so my feet, shins, and heels got worse over time.

    Man was I glad my wife talked me into buying bikes (burns fewer calories, but, ouch, are my feet glad).

  14. Nancy Sagar says:

    Hi Heather — I just came across your blog and added you to my bloglines.  Looks like this group is really going to help you stick to those goals — lucky you!!!  But food for thought:  6x/week running is a lot, even if you’re run/walking.  It’s easy to injure yourself on a schedule like that, regardless of whether you’ve been running for 2 weeks or 20 years.  Plus it’s incredibly easy to get bored & lose motivation when you’re running around the hood day in and out.  Blech.  If you’re not having fun, you won’t want to run.

    My tips:  1)  Get a subscription to Runner’s World — they’ll give you different workouts (as someone mentioned) to keep things spicy.  2) Sign up for a 5k or 10k.  You’ll be so excited to put on that number and cross the finish line!

    Happy trails!!

  15. nick says:

    "I have to admit that half the reason I post about this stuff too is that you guys are so encouraging."

    The effect of human mass – when you do something like this, and other people read about it, they feel that its possible for them to do something too – or they realize that they shouldn’t slacken on something similar that they’re already engaged in.

    A large chunk of your readership base is probably folks who enjoy such posts in particular 🙂 Lifestyle blogging,  to coin a term (if somebody hasn’t already beaten us to that!)

  16. HeatherLeigh says:

    Nancy-I’ll definitely think about your recommendations. I’ve been switching between running at the gym and the neighborhood (listen to me…it’s only day 4). I’ll defnitely try to mix it up. Entering a race scares me…maybe. But good point about mixing it up.

    nick-I do tend to get more comments on the posts that aren’t necessarily work related. I doubt I’ll get anyone to do anything athletic other than put down the remote ; )

  17. nick says:

    "I doubt I’ll get anyone to do anything athletic other than put down the remote ; )"

    More likely that you’ll get the do-ers to congregate around you 😉

  18. HeatherLeigh says:

    I’m happy to report that I made it through my first week of the program! And now I get to take Sunday off..woohoo!

    I won’t bore you with the trivial increase in my running ability since I’m sure it’s only a big deal to me (not turning purple was a bit of a triumph in and of itself). But the shoes were a good choice.

    I also found out that my friend from work, known to us as JohnnyMack, also runs and suggested we do a 5K together. Talking with him about that was a huge motivation boost (thanks John!). John’s a new dad…not sure where he finds the time to run but I hope to take him up on his offer when I’ve progressed far enough in my program not to embarass myself ; )

  19. Kit says:

    Keep up your running. Don’t pay attention to the heart rate thing in my opinion.

    I run cross country and when I first started running, all I did was build it up by adding an additional distance every 2 days. You want to build your heart rate?

    Run up the slope.

    I love running. It does clear your head and after doing it for a month or so then you should have built up a pace.

    Run and you can eat all you want.

    My hair was thinning after I had kids but runnig actually helped my circulation and my hair is actaully more healthy. Skin too.

    Another good things to do – eat at least one tomato a day. The best thing for your skin.:) I dip mine in sugar . Sounds weird but I love it.

    In any cas. Good luck. I definitely think you have the right character or attitude to keep it up. This is one thing money cannot buy.

  20. HeatherLeigh says:

    Monitoring my heart rate is what makes me able to increase my distance/time. Trust me, I have no trouble getting my heart rate up there (no hills necessary). The problem is not letting it get too high and make me turn purple. The monitor is what tells me I am running hard enough to get the cardio benefits (one of my goals) without milting my ability to keep going.

    You know, my skin did get better after I started running. I think the sweating flushes out your pores. I can’t eat whatever I want, but I can definitely eat more without putting on weight. The tomatoes are good for you because of Lycopein (I’m sure I spelled that wrong). I have to watch the acid…but I do love fresh tomatoes. I don’t really eat sugar (only on very rare occassions), but your tomato eating method sounds interesting. : ) Sounds southern (mmm, tomato sandwiches). Am I right?  I like them with a little olive oil and lots of black pepper.

    I took last week off due to some knee problems and as of yesterday and back to my running, with the help of some stretching exercises and some ibuprofen.

  21. Kit says:

    You sound very committed. Good for you. I do not use the monitor myself because it somehows draws me to the awareness of pain more. Pyschological.

    Sweating from exercise is a way for your body to get rid of the bad stuff. Your skin, hair and all that will improve.

    The only thing I would reccomend if you start to do this consistently is to get into some sort of relaxing stretch exercise like pilate – alternate. The reason why is your calves will get pretty big. I had to stop running once because of that. I was doing like 9 miles a day then too though.

    About the tomato thing-I love it. No one ever showed me to eat it like that. My favorite color was red and those tomatoes just looked so good. I used to eat like 4 a day. I just dip it in sugar and eat them

    If you are having knee problems. Try some Tahitian Noni juice. A bit pricey but you only need a little each day. A neighbor of mine just had knee surgery and she drinks that and actually soak her knee in some and her doctor is amazed with her recovery. Becareful about running if you do have some knee problem though.

    Now a days when I do not run then I just put in one of those walking exercise tape Leslie Sansone. They give you a pretty decent workout too.

    When you run – take in deep breath and breath in a calm control way if you know what I mean. There will be less cramp.

    Your first week is the hardest so congratulation.

    Oh yeah – cool blogs by the way 🙂

  22. HeatherLeigh says:

    Interesting. I distract myself from the pain with other stuff (TV or music at the club, music if I am outside). Or I start to think about something and my mind goes off to the happy place (I usually have to be a good way into the run to reach happy polace status).

    I’ve been doing the running for about 3 months. I’ve been stetching before. Though monday, my trainer helped me stretch and it made a big difference. I refuse to do pilates or yoga. I need a beat. As for big calves…well, some of us start that way ; )

    Is the noni juice the stuff that tastes really bad? I just bought some Acai smoothie mix. Wonder if they ar related. I thikn the knee problems were related to stretching because they felt better after Monday. I don’t really have cramping problems. I do deep breathing to lower my heart rate of it starts to get too far up there. I’m getting better at it.

  23. Kit says:

    I listen to upbeat music too when I run.

    My first time running-the coach gave us all a test to run 3 miles and I felt like spitting up by the time I was finished. My leg was also all itchy because of the pounding which I was not used to. That first week was tough.

    My coach was tough. Rain, snow or shine, we were out there. I felt like Rocky. I hated it when it rain and soaked our sweats which made them so heavy.

    It is good that you have a trainer. Good motivation.

    The Tahinian noni does taste bad  but you only need like 2 teaspoon a day. It is not as bad once you get use to it. I drink it and it helps me be more alert I think. It could also be mental. Who knows:)

    Stretching is great. You will build good posture doing it and less injury too. Pilates to me really is just stretching but more contrtrolled.

  24. HeatherLeigh says:

    Hmm, not sure i can get my mind and my tastebuds around the noni ; ) Your trainer sounds pretty tough but I assume that you are referring to a coach you had as a person younger than I am now. I really had to ease into running. I am up to 3 miles at a time, but I had to get there via gradually increasing increments. Also, I have yet to do the 3 miles outside….which I am sure will be harder.