Just Because You Never Have Doesn’t Mean You Can’t!

Remember the kids at the back of the running group at school? Well I couldn’t keep up with them!

Primary school, secondary school and beyond, I couldn’t even finish 90 minutes of football. Now I run 3 times a week, 10 miles per week and increasing. I’m aiming for 10k this summer and hoping to increase or at least maintain my fitness from there.

Here’s what worked for me.

Where to Start

Someone recommended a free audio running course called Couch to 5k. I’ve always been a patient, goal based learner and I knew that if I stuck this out, as long as it took, I’d manage this course. So I went for it. I must admit, having my wife do the course with me was a massive support. Two are better than one in some cases.

Do It Right, Without End in Sight

A fit, healthy 18 year old girl said to me recently; “I used to run but I can’t anymore because I got shin splints.” Call me a sceptic but certain questions come to mind;

  • Did she have gait analysis (professional advice after your running is recorded and reviewed by an expert)?
  • Did she buy running shoes with professional advice?
  • Did she overdo it? Did she have at least one rest day after each run?
  • Did she have a training plan or just have a run-to-fail approach?

For me, running is like learning a musical instrument or learning to drive; it includes doing your homework before getting stuck in. So I read around my subject (nerd!) but it pays off.

So we found out that we over-pronate, bought expensive Brooks trainers (in the sale of course), wicking running gear, even running socks with extra support. I think looking and feeling the part motivated me. After spending a wedge of dosh, there was no way I was quitting…

I found great info at;

  • DK Complete Running and Marathon Book
  • Runner’s World Magazine (Articles for all levels)
  • NHS C25K articles
  • Google and Youtube on any specifics e.g. Is running with a heavy back-pack a good thing?

The more you read, the more you start to hear the same things repeated – essential truths! Follow the advice and you’ll be running, progressively, safely and without a desire to stop!

Many Runners are Doing It Wrong

I’m no expert, but I’ve read a lot by experts. Here are some hum dingers I see all the time on the streets. This is not to look down on anyone, I’m against that, but if only more people knew more about running first – they would stop giving it a bad name as a sort of dangerous sport;

  • Carrying water bottles – You don’t need water if doing less than 60 mins, sip some before you go. In fact, gripping objects causes muscle tightness in your arms and bad running form. Keep your hands loose, don’t even clench your fists or your shoulders will tighten.
  • Arms flailing – If you read up on running form, you can spot poor form a mile off. Get it right and you’ll feel a good, solid, steady rhythm.
  • Jackets and jumpers tied around waist! What?! In summer as well? I see this all the time. Your body temp rises as you run. Set off a touch chilly and you’ll soon be toasty. Don’t carry stuff you don’t need.
  • Landing – Again, where should your foot land? Heel striking? toe? Middle? It pays to do your homework. No wonder so many people get injured.
  • Clothes – Wow. I see people dressed in all sorts of crazy stuff. Wicking running gear reduces sweat on your skin. It’s so worth it.
  • Trainers – it’s not a scam. Expensive running shoes are not for the naïve. Run in high street fashion trainers and you’re asking for a visit from Mr Pain.
  • Huffing and Puffing – Controlled breathing was a new technique for me. It didn’t even feel natural for a while. Once I cracked it though, I was living out scenes from Forrest Gump! A miracle for me.

Use Force of Habit for Your Good

According to a recent study it takes 66 days for a behaviour (such as running) to become unchangingly automatic. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2009/oct/10/change-your-life-habit-28-day-rule

That’s the same time for a small tomato plant to bear fruit! Two months, it’s not that long really – 3 times a week. Don’t conclude that a relapse is a permanent failure. Expect to face some setbacks as you work toward your goal. A great phrase I heard on the NHS C25K was “Even a bad run is good for you.

Putting your running gear by the front door or by your bed forces your good intentions. Making an appointment and sticking to it is best too. For me, 5:30pm is ideal, on an empty stomach, maybe a bit of water.

You Will Meet With Opposition and Bad Advice

Get your knees up!” “I thought you were supposed to be running!” and other dumb remarks I get from onlookers. I have a theory; these people can’t be runners. They must assume that running means sprinting. Even a respectable 6mph is not an all-out sprint. Some of my mates are good runners, and they don’t sprint for 10k or 20 miles plus. Anyway, jog on and pay no attention.

I’ve had it said “Running is bad for you it causes injury.” But 7 months and injury free; I feel the cautious approach is slow, but sure!

Your Personal Best is Personal

Never compare yourself with others. Never. You will haemorrhage morale. Anyway, there is always someone better than you at anything you try in life. But they could give up one day. So outrun your critics.

Manageable Goals

Goals are like blueprints—it takes work to turn them into reality.

Many health experts no longer subscribe to the “no pain, no gain” approach to exercise. So, to reduce the risk of injury and to avoid the burnout and discouragement that often lead to quitting, keep exercise at a comfortable level.

What’s Next?

For me, the discipline of 3 times a week has been good for the past 7 months. In August I’ve signed up to a 10k. So there’s no turning back. Even if my achievements are modest, they’re mine, they’re improving and I’ve no desire to stop.