5 Things I Wish I was Told About Running
Like the next bored and lonely soul itching for a slice of something during the coronavirus outbreak, I took up running. After a month of watching heads jig past my window, I knew I had to join this sweaty journey. No doubt it had something to do with being cooped-up in the house breathing in my own stink for weeks, but I ain’t complaining…at least not now.
I’d like to think I’m quite an athletic person, but let me tell you, running is in an entirely different bracket of fitness. On my first run, it felt nothing short of having a lung collapse and fall out of my ass. I ran with my partner who couldn’t quite believe how low my stamina was. I managed half a kilometre — that’s 0.31 miles, don’t laugh too hard — before I had to call it quits and walk the rest of the way home. I was frustrated and angry at myself. I’d finally come to terms with how out-of-shape I’d gotten with my cardio. Go figures for staying in the house for weeks on end (my only cardio had been walking to the fridge or running out to greet the postman).
Somehow I kept going and four months later, I’m debating on when to start my first half-marathon. I’m delighted that I remained persistent. But it could have been so much easier to throw my running shoes back into my closet and forget about it.
By no means am I at the level of a marathon runner — but that’s the goal. On average, I run between 6 – 7km every third day (not including the extra day I need after a few glasses of ‘existential-doom-we’re-all-gonna-die’ wine). I’ve picked up a few things along the way and will learn more the further the distance I run. I only wish I were told these things at the beginning.
Warming up is Key
Warming up is something I didn’t take seriously enough when I first started to run. I should know better of course. I would never jump into a martial arts competition without warming up. So why do so many of us jog-on without warming up first?
In my mind, the jog was the warm up. My logic was that if I ran slow at the beginning, my body was warmed up and ready to go for the next 5km. Pfft. How wrong was I? To the experienced runner, you’re reading this and nodding along at your first memory of running (or you were smart, never did this, and are grimacing instead). It’s a common mistake we make. Either from sheer laziness or unfortunate ignorance.
You must warm up before running — especially if you plan on long distance runs. If not, you’re asking for injuries like shin splints, pulling muscles, or twisting a joint. They don’t sound that intimidating on paper, but man oh man, if you’re unlucky enough to experience one of these, you’ll be back to sitting on your couch. You simply cannot run on an injury. Take it from me.
I talked about dislocating my knee during a stretch and how it destroyed my kickboxing career. Did I warm up? Not as much as I should have. Am I still paying for the damage six years later? Yup. When I run without warming up, my knee likes to scream pain up my leg as a gentle reminder.
The worst part of not warming up is the day after the run. Try to standing up and you may as well be admitted into hospital and leave with a set of crutches. For me, I couldn’t stretch my arms or legs without some sort of dull pain. My back would also seize up every now and again. I’m only 25, this old-age thing can’t be happening yet!
No, it isn’t old age, it’s inflammation; but not the good kind. The muscles will become inflamed after exercising, and this is normal. But when your body is so sore that you can’t walk for days, you’ve done something wrong. You can usually avoid this if you warm up for as little as 10 minutes before a run. You’ll notice how much more limber your body is and — the most surprising to me — how much further you can run. Runner’s World have a whole list of exercises you can try.
OK, you’ve warmed up and have started to get those legs moving. So why are you out of breath already? I struggled with this each time I went running with my partner. His cardio was much better than mine so I naturally tried to keep up with his pace.
This hardly ever worked to my advantage. Panting and struggling for air, I’d have to cut my run short. It bothered me because when I ran by myself I always saw my run to the end. I never stopped for walk breaks, but with my partner, I had to.
The reason for this was because I would drain my energy too soon. I went too hard, too fast. I soon realised that my partner was running twice my comfortable speed. I was setting myself up for failure by trying to keep up. Now, I make sure to open my chest with a few pre-jog stretches, start at a conversational speed, and work my way up. If my partner comes with me, he can jog-on (read that whichever way you like).
Invest in a Good Pair of Trainers
I don’t buy runners. I’ve had the same pair of ‘good’ trainers for at least three years. Everything in between has been thrown in the bin within two months. I’m heavy footed and a cheap skate. Of course, this led to problems when going on long runs.
After the fifth kilometre, my feet would start to ache. I’d start to feel the beginning of feeling numb. Because my feet ached so much, I would shift weight from foot to foot. This affected my knee badly. Eventually I narrowed it down to my rotten, stinkin’ runners. So, I forked out the big-bucks and spent a whopping £55 on a pair of black Under Armor trainers. They so sexy, they so smooth. It’s like being in a damn BMW instead of a Micra Nissan.
Run When You Feel Like it
This was a biggy for me. The lockdown had been in place for over 5 weeks at this point and I needed to get out of the house. It didn’t matter if it was the crack of dawn or 10pm at night, when I wanted to run, I did. Not for anyone else’s benefit, but because I simply had to get out of my own mind for those 30 – 50 minutes.
Don’t run if you don’t feel like it. You will stop before you’re even getting started. With running, it’s all mind over matter. If you’re not in the right mindset to run, you won’t get very far.
In saying that, even if you have just 10 percent will power, go! Do it! That little temptation will turn into an itch once you put your running gear on. You’ll be proud of yourself for getting up and doing it. Chasing that ‘runners high’ is like no other.
Create a Playlist That Won’t Bore You
When my favourite song comes on, I’m just about ready to take anything on. My body automatically runs to the beat. I’m having a lil dance in my head, really feeling myself. That’s when shuffle takes over and destroys your groove. You go from a high to a complete low listening to the soundtrack of the Titanic.
It can take a while, but creating a huge playlist dedicated to your runs will make it all that more enjoyable. I also appreciate slapping on a lengthy podcast. Sometimes I’m really into it, other times I haven’t listened to a single word. It really depends on my mood, and the same will go for you. You’ll know from the moment your foot hits the cement.