Yesterday I told you all about how my adventure with running began, about my frustrated gym teacher and how a lap around a track changed my habits for life. Today, I want to demystify running for you and take it from something you see others do in the park to something you might be trying out. I’m always a firm believer that we all have our likes and dislikes and that some things aren’t for everyone, but running is a horse of a different color. I think everyone can try it, enjoy it and even excel at it, even if excelling has a different meaning from one person to the next. By excelling I don’t mean run a 5K, a marathon or run in the olympics, I mean do it with giddy excitement and keep it up as a part of your life.
Many people are a little spooked by running because they’ve heard friends or coworkers talking about getting their feet measured, about getting state of the art expensive shoes, about the pace they run at and the next half marathon they’ll be doing. If we’re only walking right now, and we think of running as a professional olympic sport, we might get caught in the running trap. Sure these things are great if you love to do it as a competitive sport, but for run-of-the-mill folk like me, well that kind of stuff just doesn’t fly. Here’s what makes you a runner: running! Getting up from that couch and running. It doesn’t matter how slow you go at first, where you do it, or what gadgets you take with you when you do. Let’s go for a run shall we? Here are some of the things that helped me get started and keep it up. As always, if you have any medical conditions, have had any injuries (or just to be sure!) consult your doctor before beginning any type of exercise.
– Easy does it: When most of us think about running, we think of the movement it would take to escape from a serial killer. You might not think so, but I bet that’s what you were aiming for the first time you tried it out and lasted for about 30 seconds. Hopefully nobody will be chasing you, so easy does it. When starting to run, go as slow as possible. I’m talking almost a glacial pace here. Exactly the minimum amount it takes to go from walking to running. Try to maintain the same pace throughout your run, but definitely stop and walk if you need to. With time, you’ll be able to do it for longer, and eventually you’ll start picking up the pace. Be patient, and keep it slow. You’ll be surprised how long you’ll be able to run for when you slow it down.
– Find your spot: Yes, running outside through the trails of a beautiful forest is dreamy, but it’s not a possibility for everyone. In fact, you might find that a very different place is where you feel happy running. For some this might be a public park, a track where you can run along others, the city streets, a treadmill at home or at the gym. Don’t dis the treadmill people! It will be your best friend when the weather has gone nutty. I can tell you that with my busy schedule, sometimes my ‘running time’ and ‘catching up with my favorite tv show time’ is one and the same, so a few years ago I got a treadmill, stuck it in our tiny study, and when I run I prop my iPad right in front and run in the beaches of Lost and the New Mexico desert with some Breaking Bad episodes. This is also a great option if your running time is often late at night, or if your city isn’t the most appropriate place for running outside due to terrain issues or safety issues. Find the place you love and mix it up once in a while. I love my treadmill, but I also love a great run in the park while I look at the doggies running after the ducks near the pond, the grandpas sitting in a circle telling stories, and of course, the wind in my hair.
– Stay safe: I love running in the forest near my house, and my neighborhood is pretty safe. However, the woods are usually empty and pretty secluded, so when I choose to run there, I do it on days or times when I know I’ll run into a lot of people. On other days I choose the park, my street, or I run at home.
– Wear clothes you’re comfortable in: This includes great boob support for us ladies! This is key to enjoying your run. Take the weather into account and know that even if it’s the middle of winter, your body will heat up quite a bit after a few minutes.
– Make sure your shoes are appropriate: They don’t have to be state of the art running shoes, you just need a pair of trainers that aren’t too worn out and offer you good support for running.
– Music is my radar: Music can be a great partner in your running adventures. I’ve often gone on a run just as an excuse to listen to a new record I’ve bought. Picking great upbeat tunes, especially if they make you feel empowered, is the little magic key to help you pick up your pace and love the experience. Go through your iTunes library and pick some songs that make you jump out of your seat, put them in your iPod or your phone and head out. Same goes for picking out a great movie or tv show if you’re running on a treadmill at home. Pick something you’ve really been looking forward to watching, or watch a concert of your favorite band on youtube! Keep it fun and change it up.
– Steady pace or sprint?: Pace is something many runners are obsessed about. It refers to how fast or how slow you run, and I personally suggest you forget about the rules and start listening to your body. Play games with your pace! Slow it down and pick it up to the rhythm of the song you’re listening to. Go as fast as you can for a minute and then walk for a minute. The next time you run increase the fast one to two if you feel like it. Run at a steady pace if this is what makes you comfortable. With time and the endurance you’ll be building, your own body will start asking you to go a little faster for a little longer. We have so many rules in our day to day lives that running should be fun. Go with what feels right for you and challenge yourself a bit when you feel your body is ready.
– Once a week or every day?: How often you should run is entirely up to you. Nowadays I run anywhere from 3 to 5 times a week, but it’s simply because running has become such a central part of my life that I don’t even look at it as exercise anymore, it’s just something I do during the day, like brushing my teeth or walking our dog. If you’re trying to get into the habit of running, try doing it at least twice a week and start going up from there. This number is very personal, hubby runs every other day, but if I feel like it, I just run, even if I ran the day before or if I had a yoga class that morning.
– Miles or time?: Here’s another one that is up to you, some people like running for a set period of time, some for a set number of miles or kilometers. I prefer the latter and here’s why. Since I’m usually pressed for time, by telling myself I’m going to try to run 4K, I’ll tend to pick up the speed if I’m in a rush, which has definitely played a role in adding an awesome kick to my run. Having said that, every once in a while I also love going out for a run without paying attention to anything. I just run and head back home when I feel I’ve run for long enough.
– Get motivated: Get a running app like runkeeper where you can track your running routes and change them up, or track the number of times you run a week and try to beat them next month. Add your friends and feel like you’re not the only crazy runner out there. There’s a great feeling of satisfaction when you log in a workout because you know you’ve given a little present to your body.
– Find a community: When I was in Venezuela recently, I was completely overcome by jetlag and was waking up at 4 or 5 am (sometimes 3am) every morning. My awesome father and sister in law go running every morning at 5 am, but they don’t do it alone. They meet in the park with a dozen other runners and a running coach and they head out together. On one of those jet lag filled mornings I decided to join my father in law and get a glimpse of this little community. It was an unbelievable feeling. I’ve always run alone, and I couldn’t believe the energy I felt. These guys meet up every day, they’ve become friends, they often run a 5K or 10K or even half marathons together and they help each other out. No man is an island right? If you can’t find a running group in your area, how about starting one up with people in your building, or with your friends and coworkers? If all else fails, even getting a running buddy is fun and will keep you motivated.
– You are what you eat: You know by now that I’m a passionate vegan, and whether or not you’ve made this change yet or are in the process of making it, what you put inside your body will determine what it can do for you. I have to tell you though, that when I became vegan, it was like a little furnace was turned on inside me. I suddenly wanted to run every day, while I was running I always felt like running faster and for longer, and for the first time, doing this took almost no additional effort. My body was a well oiled machine, with so much energy I didn’t know what to do with myself. Keep your body clean, eat clean, eat whole foods and leave the processed junk in the supermarket, un-bought. Eat whole grains and an overload of veggies, especially green leafy vegetables. Stay hydrated (with water!) and RUN FORREST! RUN!
Photo taken by Diane Hammond, and shared through Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 2.0 Generic