This rather sweaty photo of me was taken after I completed my first 5km run. If you had have of told me at the beginning of last year that I would not only run, but enjoy running I would have slapped you (probably not, because I’m really not violent, but I would have thought about long and hard). You see, I was not a runner. Running was for other people. People who were fitter, faster, better, *insert any adjective you like here…
If you are someone who works in an office, hunched over a computer, writing, crunching numbers, whatever your poison may be, it can be really easy to think of your body as separate from your mind. Your body is the thing that carries you to work, it holds your head filled with all its great ideas. And that is that. It can be easy to neglect your body when your job is so focused on your mind. On top of that, it can be hard to find the time to look after your body. If you had of told me last year, “Hope, go for a run in your spare time.” I would have told you, “No thanks. I want to sit and watch T.V., read a book…” Anything but run. The clincher though, is that we need to look after our bodies just as much as our minds. And treating your body as second to your mind is not a good attitude to have.
So, if you get to a point in your life where you want to try to run. There are a few important things you need to remember.
1. You are going to suck for longer than you would like.
If you were to start learning the piano, no one would laugh at you for not being able to play Liszt after your first 30 minute lesson. Similarly, if you were to start flying lessons, no would scoff at your for not being able to fly a fighter jet after your introduction course. Yet, these are the exact standards that we hold to people who are starting to run. And it wasn’t just people around me, I did it to myself!
How much you suck and for how long will depend on your health and general fitness. When I first started to run, I ran in the forest near my house so no one would see me. I decided that I would run as far as I could (it wasn’t very far let me tell you), then I would walk and run again. It took me a few months before I could run 2km without wanting to vomit my lungs.
After a little over a year of running, I am preparing for my first ever race: 10km. When I tell people my plans, I often see the person that I used to be: someone who was intimidated by that kind of distance. Someone who thought they could never achieve that.
We take the act of running for granted because humans are born with an ability to move, to run. And I believe it is because of this inherent ability that we believe we should just be good at it. That we don’t need to learn how to run. We should just know already. When in fact, we do need to learn how to run. We need to practice. We need to learn how to pace ourselves. We need to learn how to take care of our bodies when we are running and when we finish running. We need to give ourselves time to build up speed and distance. Plain and simple.
2. Get good socks! In fact, get good gear!
Fitness fashion is overtaking the exercise world. To the point where I shop for sports clothes and wonder if this is even practical to run in?! Rather than talking about the fashion that dominates the fitness world, I want to talk about having the right stuff (and if it looks nice as an added bonus, kudos!).
Get good socks. I use a brand called PK. They have a padded heel, padded toes, and some arch support. I tortured my feet for years with ballet and they reward me with breaking out in blisters at the sight of a shoe. Good socks, comfy socks are important for running. You want to make sure that they are not causing you problems like blisters or making you sweat too much.
When I first started to run, I used to run in old clothes. I figured that exercising in my ripped 1999 Dead Kennedys shirt was fine. I sweated a lot more, had some nasty chaffing, and felt like a bit of a slob. Now, I’m not saying to go out and spend 1,000 monies on workout wear, but make sure that whatever you are in is comfortable and appropriate for the activity you are doing. You can often find a ‘running’ section at your local sports clothing store and that is a good place to look for your clothes. You want to make sure the pants are not going to chafe you, fall down, or give you a wedgy (no one wants to pick that out after a long run!) Similarly, you have a good bra, good shoes, and weather appropriate clothing.
3. Running until you feel ill helps no one.
Sometimes it can be easy to push yourself when you run. It stems from the first point I mentioned: the idea that we beat ourselves up for not being good at running after 5 minutes into our first run. In order to look after your body, you need to exercise and also make sure that you are not doing too much.
Rather than getting caught up in how many kilometres you’re running, train to time. If you run 10mins three times a week, that is flipping awesome. And you should totally be proud of that achievement. You can slowly increase the time and the frequency as you go. Running to time is great for two reasons: 1. you can fit it into your daily schedule; 2. you are not getting caught up in counting the distance you ran. Sometimes you cannot always run the same distances throughout the week and this can be because of stress, time constraints, that glass of red wine you had with dinner last night… What is more important is moving your body for a certain amount of time and making sure that you are not overdoing it.
4. Shake it up.
Don’t always run the same route. It can be easy to get into a routine, but try to shake it up. If you pick a few different tracks then you can get a bit of variety from your workout. Our minds and bodies get used to the same road if you run on it every week. So change the scenery every once in a while to add something different to your run.
5. You can do it. Maybe not today. But definitely in the future.
Being good at running takes time. When you start running, you can feel like you will never make it. And you know what… After one week of running, you probably won’t be able to do a marathon. But you could work towards it. And you could totally achieve it if you give yourself time to learn how to run.
I’m no specialist, medical doctor, or physiotherapist, but these are some lessons that I learned and taught myself through a lot of trial and error. Remember to look after your body and your mind. Us word nerds need our bodies to get us to and from the library after all!