Photo by Nathan Migal
Running. That word may be piercing for some. Running is a punishment.“You want me to run a 5K on Saturday at 7am? Are you ill?” Others bound like gazelles down the trail and will tell you it’s their very favorite thing to do, seven days a week.
I’m not here to convince you I can get you to sign up for your first marathon in six months (though, I would certainly encourage you and help you!). And as an avid, long time runner and marathon coach, I’m not going to say “everyone is a runner if they want to be”. That message is overplayed, deflating and simply unrealistic. But, what I can offer are tips to make it suck less because I truly believe in the power of running. The physical and mental benefits are endless and I promise you could learn to love it.
There’s a great quote in one of my favorite books I looked back on a couple of days ago. It is entirely relevant to current issues. Running has spiked throughout history in times of crisis and today is another opportunity to pound the pavement.
“And when things look worst, we run the most. Three times, America has seen distance-running skyrocket, and it’s always in the midst of a national crisis. The first boom came during the Great Depression when more than two hundred runners set the trend by racing forty miles a day across the country in the Great American Footrace. Running then went dormant, only to catch fire again in the early 70s, when we were struggling to recover from Vietnam, the Cold War, race riots, a criminal president, and the murders of three beloved leaders. And the third distance boom? One year after the September 11 attacks, trail-running suddenly became the fastest-growing outdoor sport in the country. Maybe it was a coincidence. Or maybe there’s a trigger in the human psyche, a coded response that activates our first and greatest survival skill when we sense the raptors approaching.”
- Born to Run, Christopher McDougall.
So if you’re a CrossFit athlete, a yogi, a spinner, a HIIT workout enthusiast, you’ve got the engine, no doubt about it. Here are some tips to help you with your love/hate relationship with putting one foot in front of the other.
1. HAVE FUN
I know, I know. This goes against a lot of what I said up top and is kind of a “DUH” comment. Hear me out.
Leave the gear at home. You don’t have to track your miles. You don’t have to keep up with Speedy Stevey on Strava who held a 7 minute pace for 6 miles yesterday. It’s okay for you to go run 2 miles at a 10-minute pace, stopping multiple times. It really is. Embrace it, laugh at yourself and understand that at one point Speedy Stevey was Slow-as-Shit Stevey. He’s been running for the last five years. There’s no comparison. The best part of all is if you leave the GPS watch or fitness tracker at home, you’ll never know how slow you actually ran!
If you get tired, bored, or just straight hate that you’re two miles away from home and are done with this shit...skip, gallop, twirl. Again, if it’s your first week back to running it’s entirely unrealistic that you’re going to run four miles without struggling. Be easy on yourself.
Play this game. Try and speed up your arm swing without speeding up your leg gait. All I’ll say is it’s impossible. If you’re running with a friend, make them do it. Even better is to laugh at someone else.
2. Switch up your route
While it’s nice to time yourself on a route you’ve done recently to see if you’ve improved, running the same route over and over can get pretty stagnant. You wouldn’t do the same WOD every day. You wouldn’t spin to the same songs in a cycling class every day. Why would running be differently?
Drive to a local trailhead and hop on a trail through the park. Connecting with nature while getting in a run is a win-win.
Opt for a loop rather than an out and back. A loop allows you to see more of the neighborhood or park and is less of a mental game when you get to your furthest point from home or your car.
Even if you have a loop you love, instead of heading out the door to the right, turn left and do the loop in reverse. You’ll see the world in a whole new way and what was once an elevated crack in the sidewalk is now a ramp to fly off of. Send it.
3. Go slow
I cannot stress this one enough and one I struggle with the most.
A slow steady pace and even a couple stops during your run is going to make it a sustainable activity for you. No one bench-pressed 315lbs on their first attempt at the lift. You’re not going to go out and run six miles. Ease into it.
Run one mile today at a pace you can keep the conversation at (right now you might be talking to yourself until it’s acceptable to run with a partner). Take tomorrow off. Two days from now run another mile, maybe a mile and a half. Slowly work your way up knowing that rest days are just as important as the days your running.
Like I started this blog off with, I’m not attempting to convince you to run your first marathon. I do think running can be a part of anyone’s fitness routine if you go about it with the right mindset and a slow, steady introduction to the activity. No one ever said you have to love it but I think you can learn to appreciate it, just remember to have some fun when you can. You might not look like the Kenyan’s cleaning up any distance running event at the Olympics but it doesn't mean you’re not capable of putting one foot in front of the other and progressing forward. Now is the time for all of us to do that, no matter how slow or fast.