Monday, December 2, 2013

Day 2: How I Learned to Run & How You Can Too!

I know what you’re thinking, why would you need to learn how to run, don’t you just get out there and run?

The quick answer is no. The longer answer is the subject of this blog post-Day 2 of the Blog A Day ‘til X-Mas Challenge!

Honestly I could not tell you when I first had the desire to run; it almost feels like the urge to run has always been there. The first time I remember strongly having this urge was when I first moved to Victoria 10 years ago.  I used to envision myself starting each morning with a run along the water on Dallas Road. A strange vision for someone who was not a morning person, who chained smoked and pretty much lived a sedentary lifestyle as a graduate student. But nonetheless the vision was there and it has stayed.

Every now and then, over the past decade, I would attempt to run and I would subsequently fail to run. My strategy (not really a strategy at all) was to throw on some runners, head out the door and just run my hardest for 20 minutes and then come home. Sometimes these attempts lasted months, weeks or days. Regardless of the length, running never stuck. Turns out I was running too fast and too much for just starting out. But I wouldn’t learn that for another 8 years.

The year before I learned to run and what was likely very instrumental in me learning how to run was working out at the gym. I was going through a particularly stressful point in my life (breaking up with my partner and starting a new job at the same time!) and needed to get rid of the anxiety I was feeling. There was a gym at my work so I would go there every day after work and do the elliptical for an hour. After a few weeks of this I could not imagine not doing this every day. I felt great after working out, the anxiety was reduced and I had more energy. After my cardio improved, a few months in, I tried running again and failed again.

I was frustrated. I mean how could I not know how to do a seemingly innate human activity like running? I remember feeling really stupid about that but you know what? Running may have been innate when we were hunter gatherers but that was a really long time ago.  In the mean time, I think we have lost this running ability in our convenience society and have convinced ourselves we were not meant to run. I even remember going through several months of believing that I couldn’t run because I didn’t have a “runner’s body”. In the end my desire to run out weighed my bruised ego (i.e. I sucked it up) and I signed up for a beginner’s run clinic.

Two important things you will learn from a run clinic (if it’s a good one): 1) you do not need a runner’s body to run, and 2) you are not running properly. I will elaborate on both.

The runner’s body

Lots of people think you need to be slim and athletic to be able to run and this is absolutely not true. I know you are looking at me and thinking but you are slim and athletic so what the hell are you talking about. True, but listen up, I didn’t look this way until after I started running.

Truth is there is an ideal body for running and that is your body after you start running. Everyone is different and so are their bodies and I have met a heck of a lot of runners and they come in all shapes and sizes. And even though I may be slim and athletic that doesn’t necessarily make me a better runner than anyone else. So don’t waste your time trying to lose weight before you start running just get out there and start running. If you follow a runner’s lifestyle you will lose weight and size after you start running. What does that mean you ask. Well if you run and eat properly (i.e. don’t binge on alcohol and junk food just because you ran) you will lose weight because what it always comes down to is calories in and calories out. If you are still confused, click the link and check out this website for starters on how to eat and run.

You are not running properly

Most of us go out strong, we want to learn we want to give it our all and in doing so most of us overdo it causing our bodies to burn out or worse get injured. And once this happens you create a negative association with running that is hard to change.

Being the overachiever that I am, I would over do it all the time with running and subsequently fail to run. It wasn’t until I joined the run clinic that I realized my approach to running, although well intentioned, was ass backwards.

The following are the main points I learned and pass on every time I meet someone who would like to learn to run:
1)   Start with interval training. This means the first week you start running, run one minute and walk one minute. Repeat this 10 times. The next week increase the run interval to two minutes with one minute walk breaks, repeat 9 times. With each subsequent week increase the run interval until you hit ten minutes straight of running followed by one minute of walking, do this 6 times. At this point you will be running for a full hour. Running intervals helps our bodies go longer and recover quicker, essential for the beginner runner.
2)   Take your rest days! Run your intervals three times a week and never run back-to-back days. I know you are excited about running and you would like to do it every day (maybe that’s just me) but doing this will lead to burnout and/or injury. Also, rest days are an essential ingredient for a speedy recovery. You can graduate to running back-to-back days when you can run an hour effortlessly. And once that happens take at least one rest day a week, your body will thank you for it.
3)   Talk while you run. When you first learn to run you always go too fast as it takes awhile to learn the art of pacing. An easy way to not go too fast is to talk while you run. If you can have a conversation while you run you are going the perfect speed. If you can’t get out more than a couple of words to your run buddy you are going too fast. Take it down a notch! Talking also helps create a social environment for running. A community of runners creates an incentive to get out there and run. You become accountable to other people. In other words, this is the upside of peer pressure.  

These seemingly simple things were what I needed to learn how to run. Not only did I learn to run but I fell in love with running, as I suspected I might, given I had been thinking about it for the last 8 years!

To drive the point home, once I learned to run properly I haven’t stopped running. I joined that beginner’s clinic in September 2011 and haven’t missed a week yet of running. Because I have become the runner I dreamed I would be and like all runners it is not whether or not you will run today it is when will you run today.

So if you think running is not for you and you have never tried a clinic I encourage you to sign up for one and give running another chance. A little bit of knowledge goes a long way and in the process you may make a life long friend of running.

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