Confessions of an amateur athlete: Running is cheaper than therapy

A fumbling fitness junkie explores the benefits of running while training for a triathlon.

click to enlarge Downtown St. Pete's waterfront: Helping runners go the extra mile. - Resie Waechter
Resie Waechter
Downtown St. Pete's waterfront: Helping runners go the extra mile.
One of the best parts of running is the sheer simplicity of it: No fancy clothing, no expensive gear, no gym membership fees or inconvenient class times to rush off to. Day or night, rain or shine; if the urge to run calls, you lace up your shoes, walk out the door and pound the pavement.

In high school my dad took me out running sometimes to help deal with my depression. At the time, I thought he was crazy to suggest that a run would help the way I felt, but it turns out he was right. My angsty teenage self may not have wanted to believe it at the time, but running is truly therapeutic. His advice has stuck with me to this day. I know when I feel myself getting stressed, overwhelmed or imbalanced, I definitely need to go for a run. And every single time I run, I feel better afterwards. Running is what keeps me calm, balanced. It is what quiets my crazy.

Running in a triathlon, however, is a bit more complicated. Not only is it a challenge to gather energy to run the short transition from swim to bike, but by the time the bike portion is over, your legs feel like jelly — even if you have been training hard leading up to the race. My first triathlon last summer was a true reality check on how hard the sport actually is. Sure, I can go for an hour-long swim, bike or run and feel great afterwards — but putting them all together is a new sport entirely. 

It is a relief to get off of a triathlon’s crowded bike course and move onto the run, but the transition between the two is awkward. You don’t want to be in the way of others hopping off their bikes; at the same time, though, your legs are so heavy and wobbly that you’re not sure you're stable. After experiencing this on my own, I learn it is completely “normal” to feel. Many triathletes experience what they call “jelly legs” getting off the bike. Jelly legs turn into lead legs once you position your bicycle back onto the rack and begin the run portion of the race: Your limbs are so tired, it can feel like you’re in mile 12 of a half marathon.

The solution to this, of course, is training. You especially have to train your mind to expect the struggle; accept that it is inevitable. No matter how strong your training is leading up to the race, chances are your legs will feel weak during the triathlon. For the first several minutes of the run, your mind is the only thing that’s going to push you through until your legs catch up. 

Training your body is equally important. Rather than focus on one portion of the sport each day, “brick sessions” are practiced. Brick sessions combine two or more sports in preparation for race day. For example, I may wrap up a 30 minute bike ride with a 20 minute run, or head out to Fort De Soto and top off my swim with a ride along the trail. 

One last tip I recently learned is to downshift your gear for the last mile or so on the bike. An easier gear and faster cadence will help flush out your leg muscles and ease you into transition. 

Regardless of your training and preparation before a race, it will still be a shock to the system and the run is where you will be the most exhausted. This is where being a runner is especially beneficial: It is as much mental as physical. I think of all the times running has helped me; of the ways running has healed me. It is running that pulled that girl out of the dark in high school; it is running that pulls her out now. 

Am I exhausted from following months of half marathon training with months of triathlon training? Yes. Will I be exhausted as my feet pound the pavement on race day? Hell yes. But running has given me the tools and the confidence to know I am capable of pushing through. 

Onward to the finish line.

About The Author

Resie Waechter

%{[ data-embed-type="image" data-embed-id="5bccb9c0b38df12e008b45d6" data-embed-element="span" data-embed-size="640w" contenteditable="false" ]}%Resie Waechter is a recent USFSP graduate who majored in English literature and cultural studies with a minor in history. She is a fumbling fitness junkie with a special...
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