On Running

This September (apart from my cat’s first birthday, according to his vet) marks another anniversary, personal this time: it’s been a year since the moment that I got tired of being full-time sedentary and started running1.

What’s in a year? 400 kilometres, or 30.000 calories, or 180 days out in the park, putting one foot in front of the other and trying to shake my previous lifestyle off my shoulders (and legs).

I’ve written this post to help people who are thinking about starting to run. It’s been one of the few habits that stuck with me and I really want more people to get up from their chairs and start moving, because it’s a life-changing decision.

I have to admit though, I’m not a pro athlete nor a doctor, so take my advice with a grain of salt.

Ready…

First things first: you’re gonna sweat. Don’t expect to look like a supermodel when running, and if you do, well, it’s not really working. I’ve got to terms with my looks while running. I call it “stroke chic”.

You’re not gonna lose weight just by running. You’re going to feel lighter and healthier, yes. You’re going to feel like you’re ready to conquer the world because of the whole endorphin rush. But you’re not losing your beer belly or muffin top without altering your eating habits. I know I didn’t get much slimmer (because I love good food).

Get good shoes. I’m a fan of the Asics GEL Kayano series, I have the 16 ladies model. Very sturdy shoe, perfect for all-around running. I’ve been wearing it for almost a year now and it shows no to very little damage.

Get good tunes. Sure, you can run while listening to Barry White, but why not opt for something more upbeat? My usual workout playlist is a crappy mainstream mix I’ve found on Spotify. It helps me keep my rhythm, and by now my brain is wired to go into running mode as soon as I start listening to it. If I’m not in the mood for mainstream music, I switch to my iTunes to listen to friskyPodcast for some proper mixes (thanks Graham for the recommendation).

Get coached. If you’re like me, you’re into RPGs and you love the quests and achievements mechanism. Both Adidas miCoach and Nike+ iPhone apps have coaching programmes you can use to set goals and motivate yourself. I started with Nike+ (they’ve got an excellent Walk to Run programme) and then I switched to miCoach, which offers perfect control over your training schedule.

Steady…

Be patient and build a solid base. Don’t expect to run a 5K just like that. At first you’re going to sweat blood – when I started, I could run non-stop for maybe 45 seconds before seeing black spots. Things get better though. Even if I sometimes stop running for 10 to 20 days when I’m busy, I know I can keep running for 25 to 30 minutes when I come back.

Find your rhythm. Don’t run for 45 minutes one day and 10 minutes the next one. Don’t start too fast, you’re gonna burn out. Keep a slow steady rhythm and only go faster when (if) your coaching programme says so. Don’t forget to rest between runs.

Run when you feel like to, but preferably early in the day or late in the afternoon. That’s especially aimed to beginners who live in warmer climates. If you keep running at noon under the scorching sun for days on end, things are going to get ugly. It’s dumb and it’s dangerous. Bonus: if you run in the morning, even if your day is crappy and unproductive, you will still have accomplished something. Keep that thought.

Go!

Don’t give up. Cliché? Maybe. Just DON’T GIVE UP. Even when you feel you’re going to throw up, when you’re sweating like a pig and feel you’re ready to faint, keep going. It’s years of sedentary life that scream in agony, not your body. Put one foot in front of the other and keep moving2.

After a while, it gets to you. I promise. I used to hate running, but nowadays, if I don’t run, I gaze longingly at the park I usually train every time I drive by. Really.

1 Well, running, fast shuffling, what’s the difference anyway?
2 That is, unless you have some heart condition or anything that could get worse with exercise. In that case, consult a doctor first.

My take on WordCamp Greece 2011
So long, Uncle Steve