Running, a mystery to some, a hobby to some, a career to some and a lifestyle to a select few. It looks easy from the sidelines. And you think to yourself, “I can do this.” Now as a result of this epiphany you go to a sporting department in your nearest shopping center and you get yourself a nice pair of running shoes, sweatpants, a vest, tights, shorts, a hat, sunglasses, binoculars (even though you have no idea why), a smart watch, a rehydration pack and a pair of wireless Bluetooth headsets. You are about cash out and then you see a sporting magazine with a cover image of a man and a woman running, without hesitation you grab it and throw into your already full shopping cart.
Back at home, you start unpacking your goodies and jump into your newly purchased running gear. Your mirror agrees. You look fantastic. You look like a real runner. You already see your neighbors in your mind envying your gear. They are so going to be jealous of your binoculars. Even more, they will be mad when they see you win the Comrades Marathon down in South Africa. And you are planning to enter and win it.
You are now ready to get into the road and test drive your running shoes. Man! They feel so good on the foot. Your phone is fully charged, the playlist is ready, your smartwatch is on your wrist and the Bluetooth earplugs are in position and paired to your phone. You are set to go. Nothing, I mean nothing at all is going to keep you from running at least 5 km. Those marathon runners won’t see you coming and they won’t see you going. You walk out the gate and then you start the clock on your smartwatch. You start the music and it is an impeccable selection. Perfect for this occasion.
Like a bullet, off you go. If only they could see you now. This feels right. If feels good. The clock reads one minute. The body is heating up now. You notice that you are breathing heavily now. Wait! What is going on? This is not right! The chest feels like a small plastic bag. It feels like it is taking in very little oxygen and then throws the rest out. The clock only says 3 minutes and you have barely ran 500 meters. You think to yourself, “Is this a joke? Wait! Am I dying?” You start feeling pain on your thighs and your knees are getting tired. Five minutes in, you decide to call it quits. You then bow with your hands on your knees until you breathing is recovered. With a crushed ego, a paining body and a destabilized chest you think to yourself, “I should quit eating McDonald’s.”
This happens to a lot of people. I have personally experienced it. This caused me to hate running. I avoided it at all costs. One day, after seven years (give or take), I decided to try again but this time I was not in the hurry. I figured that if I start slow and with shorter distances, eventually, my body will get used to the idea of running and then be able to run longer and perhaps faster.
If you are afraid to start running or you have no idea how to start, this is your lucky day. I am going to give you tips on how to shake off that fear of running and get started. It doesn’t matter how old you are. As long as your legs are working and the doctor allows it, you can get started. So go ahead and gather your friends and family and I will teach you how to “Run Yourself Crazee.”
Running has to be something you want. If it is imposed upon you, you won’t get very far. You need to have something that will serve as an anchor and keep you motivated while you commit to running. I have to lay it before you from the start. Running is not as easy as it looks. You need incredible amounts of self-motivation.
I decided to start running because I wanted to lose weight. I knew that losing weight would not come by easily. So, knowing my competitive nature, I opted to train for that Marathon which I was not going to enter anyway. With the help of Nike Running Club, (an app that tracks my running and stores my running data) I was able to set up a training plan. All I had to do is follow the plan and never think about losing weight ever. The improvement in my running speeds and my endurance are the motivation factors. I am not just running. I am racing myself. Each time I run, I always to seek to beat my younger self on a given distance. I didn’t have to win by minutes. I only needed a second or two.
Let’s face it I am older today than yesterday. If I ran 5 km in 30 minutes yesterday and today I run it in 31 minutes, then it means the kid beat me and I won’t have it. I will run until I beat the kid. I will never be satisfied until I beat my younger self. Consequently, I am also running to defend my title against the old man, that is to say, against the future me. Can you see now how important it is for me to run? If I lose against the kid, it’s a shame. If I lose to the old man it is also a shame. So I have to beat the kid and then make it hard for the old man to win.
You need to find a way for yourself to stay motivated. The hardest part of any run, is to get into the starting line. Once you start running it is the matter of finishing that run. If you can’t motivate yourself, you will end up avoiding the starting line altogether. You need to find something that will push or drag you into the starting line.
Sometimes I feel the tingling on the top muscles of my thighs and like a junky in need of a fix, I start thinking about running. The body calls for it. This does not happen all the time but it does happen to me.
Once you get yourself into running, you’ll find that it is both painful and enjoyable at the same time. I really don’t know how to properly explain it. When I don’t run I feel like I am missing out. When I am running I sometimes feel great and sometimes I feel like I am going to die. It is always encouraging to have someone to run with you, especially, if it is someone close your heart like your spouse (…if you are married.)
Whatever it takes to get you motivated to run, (…as long as it is not smoking weed, taking drugs and becoming a Jehovah’s Witness) do it.
KEEP YOUR MIND IN THE RUN
Don’t worry, this is not a mind over matter session. While the Buddhist monks will tell you to empty your mind, I will personally discourage you from doing that during a running session. When you run, you need 100% of your mind to be alert and focused on that run. If you don’t pay attention to the run you are bound to make a lot of mistakes and probably injure yourself.
Let’s face it running is not easy. The self-motivation we talked about earlier, is not only needed when you want to start running. It is needed during the run and more of it is needed as you approach the finish line. If I had told you to empty your mind, you will probably not make it to the desired finish line.
- Run Smart
Running smart requires all of your mind to be focused. This means you have to plan your run before you even get to the starting line. You need to establish: What distance are you going to run? Where are you going to run? Is it on the road or on the track? How much time are you planning to spend doing this run? You need to keep these in mind as you run. Which brings us back to my point. You can’t run with an empty mind.
The reason I say you need to know how far you are going to run on a given run is that, each run is different. The way I would do a 5 km run will never be the same as the way I would do a 42 km run. With a long run, I spend much time running slow and then gradually increase the pace, easing in onto a steady comfortable pace which I may hold for the most part of the run.
When I do a 5km run, I start with a slower pace on the first kilometer and then I raise the pace and hold it for three kilometers but that is subject to where I am running. For the final kilometer I labour to either finish very strong and fast or just slow down by way of cooling down. This is determined by how my body feels. Sometimes, previous runs may affect the way I would run the next session.
It is very important to be cognizant of the route you are going to run. You need to know how many “up hills” you are going to face, how many “down hills,” and how many “flat roads” you are going to meet. In that way you will be able to use your energy efficiently and get to enjoy your running sessions a bit more.
- Rest While Running
This may sound like an oxymoron. Believe me, you can rest while you are running. Maybe the word “rest” is less appropriate. Let me put it this way, you can “recover” while you are running. More often when I am running uphill, I use a lot of energy and I get tired but when I get to the top I don’t stop running, I run slower for a minute or two recovering my breathing and my strength and then pick up the pace again.
It is important to listen to your body when running. Keeping your mind in the run also means to be aware of how your body feels at all times. When running a long distance your body will tell you when to back up a little. You should not get tired at the first 5k while you are in a 20k running session. If you get tired quickly it means you are running too fast and burning a lot of energy. Always pay attention to your body. As you run, focus your mind on your feet and legs, feel them and move up throughout your body. Be cognizant of your arm movements, your breathing and all of your body. You should always feel like you can run the whole distance which you have planned.
- Refuel and Rehydrate
It is important that you get hydrated. You should drink lots of water before running and it is wise to carry on you a re-hydration system when doing distances longer than 10 km. Your re-hydration pack should consist of water and mineral drinks. Sometimes you may need to carry salt tablets. Many people are not aware of that when one is running they don’t just lose water but they also lose salt, minerals and electrolytes. All these things must be replaced during and after a run.
After finishing the running session it is important to eat food. If you don’t eat, you may find it hard to gain energy to do your every duties. I remember in 2018, when I got serious about running, I use to fall asleep in class. One of my running friends said to me, “You should eat.” He told me that I need to refuel my body. Give your energy through the food you eat. Eat foods which are rich in protein and carbohydrates. Some people believe that carbohydrates will make you fat. I am not a doctor but I know that my body needs carbohydrates in order to manage a long run.
Try eating a banana about 30 minutes before running and also during a run. It is an amazing source of energy. I have proven it in my own runs. A banana is rich in carbohydrates and other things the body needs to stay fit in the course of the whole run.
USE THE RIGHT GEAR
It is important to use the right gear when running. When I say the right gear I am referring to any sporting gear that is comfortable for you. This mean, what you are wearing must not get in the way and keep you from running effectively. When I a running with a backpack for an example, I never choose a backpack that doesn’t have a way for me to strap it on my belly to ensure that doesn’t violently sway sideways and throw off my balance while I am running. A loose backpack can make you running ridiculously slow and will have you use a lot of energy than you would have if it was strapped to your body.
You need comfortable shoes when running. Make sure that your running shoes fit well and they are not hurting your toes, particularly your big toe. If your running shoes are too tight, they will cause your running session to be very uncomfortable and you might end up hurting your feet very badly. Your running shoes must allow blood to flow through your feet while you are running. Yes, your feet need to stay oxygenated throughout the run. Eliminate anything which will cause your body not to perform well in any given run.
Before I started running I only understood that a cap is for keeping the sun away from your face. When I got into running, my perception with regards the purpose of the cap changed. At first I ran without a cap and I would have trouble keeping the sweat away from my eyes. One day on the sunny afternoon, I ran with my cap on, so that I can keep the sun from hitting my face. I noticed that my sweat was not streaming down my face. It got trapped on the sweatband which is fitted on the inside of the cap. The sweat will then flow over the visor and drop off away from my face and eyes.
GPS Tracking Devices
I always run with my phone strapped to my arm. I do this for two purposes. First, to gain access to my impeccable playlist of my running music. Secondly, I bring my phone so that I can track myself while running and also get feedback from the Nike Running Club app regarding the distance, time and pace I am currently doing on a given running session. This helps to compare runs which are done of the same route for the same distance. I can know if I have broken my initial record time on each route and this give a good picture if need to improve my performance. Some people prefer to use smart watches instead of a smartphone to do the tracking for them.