Day 312 – Jan 24th
I am back from the gym and have just nailed another 50 minute run on the treadmill, which works out to be about 5 miles. Today was much easier than the last time, and has given me a bit of confidence that I can continue to push this training closer to a half marathon distance.
Running isn’t for everyone, I get that, some people absolutely hate the thought, others think its dull as dishwater, while others just couldn’t find the energy. I was in a position a number of years back where my knees were preventing me from getting past 3-4 miles, the pain was unbearable. I found this extremely frustrating as I was enjoying the running right up to the point where my knees gave in, and couldn’t seem to get past this problem, no matter what I tried.
So I turned to the internet and googled the problem. There was no real definitive answer, but one point kept coming back to me. This point seemed to make sense very quickly, in that athletes and professional runners tend to run more on the ball of their feet, rather than landing on their heel (like I had been doing) with a straight leg, probably how most people tend to run. The problem with this way of running is that when the leg is straight and the knee is locked out, the only part of the body that cushions the impact of the run is the cartilage in your knee… a job it most certainly is not designed for! By running on the ball of your feet, the leg muscles suddenly take the impact of your running and the knee is nothing more than a pivot turning your leg into a spring, not dissimilar from the suspension on a car. At first, this method is torture on your calves, as these are working the hardest, but once you build them up it very quickly becomes second nature.
Once I had worked at running in this style I noticed I had got to 4 miles, 5 miles, 6 miles and eventually up to my first half marathon at 13.1 miles with no knee pain from stopping me.
Anyone can run if they want to, life is not a race, no-one is telling you to run flat out until your heart bursts or don’t run at all, its a personal thing, you have to be comfortable in doing it, and enjoy it enough to go back and do it a second time.
If you’re new to the idea of running, it doesn’t have to be 10 miles at an athletic sprint… just grab some shorts and a t-shirt, throw on some trainers, and put one foot in front of the other at a pace you find comfortable. If this pace is only slightly faster than walking… it doesn’t matter, its comfortable for you so keep doing it. Do NOT be put off by what others are doing and feel you have to match them, their goals are different, and so is their fitness level. If you aspire to be like them, then just remember that it took them many, many months of training and it does not happen overnight. Remember, the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step!
I am by no means a fitness trainer, or an expert in running, but I am a believer that anyone can run, and I have trained several of my friends to do 5k runs, 10k runs and even a half marathon.
You can run with a goal in mind, maybe a race or a distance you want to get to, or you can run with no goal other than the intention of getting fit and enjoying it. I have a few small tips I would like to offer to those who are thinking of getting into running and intend to get a number of miles under their belt while doing so.
1. Small steps
We all have to start somewhere, and if it was easy then everyone would be doing it. I recommend to start with nothing more than a mile, if you are not used to running. You may find that you can’t even get that far, thats fine, just slow down and walk if you have to, but keep moving, don’t stop until you get there!
Next time you go out, try and get a little further before you stop, and repeat this until you can get a mile done in one go without walking. You’ll feel good about yourself and be able to see progress, this is the first step to believing you can do it.
You may want to consider going further, but your body will not be ready for it yet, so make your next run just a little further than the last one, do it a couple of times and then add a little more distance. Eventually you’ll be doing two miles and feeling pretty pleased with yourself.
Just make sure each increase in distance is a small one, then a) each run will be achievable and b) you’ll avoid injuring yourself and having to take weeks out of your running to recover. Trust me, I learnt this from experience!!
“What the hell does Vaseline have to do with running?” I hear you ask. Nothing at all while you’re doing short distances, but once you get good at running and find yourself doing 45 minutes or more of running, you may find your groin starting to burn with all the friction and sweat going on, or even the skin on the back of your arm if you are running in a vest rather than a t-shirt, and it is rubbing against the side of your chest… you won’t even feel this until you stop and suddenly it feels like your arms are on fire! Suddenly vaseline is your best friend! I apply the stuff around the groin area every time I am running over 30 minutes. Again, this is one you learn from experience.
3. Run often
If you want to get good at anything, you have to practise, and do it regularly. Running once every two or three weeks is a pointless and futile task. You will lose the fitness you have gained before your next run and each time you go out it will feel like the first time. It won’t be long before you give up. As a minimum, aim for once a week.
4. Good music
Unless you are lucky to have a bunch of friends to run with, or even just a running partner, it is often a solo event, and yes, it can get a little boring at times, especially if, like me, you have decided to do any of your training on a treadmill, as there isn’t much scenery to look at in a gym. Having your favourite tunes pumping in your ears can be a great distraction to the pounding of your feet and can often push you on when you start to feel tired or your legs start to ache a little.
5. Drink plenty
Don’t take on a gallon of water before you set out running, it will just mean that you’ll have to break your stride and pause for a toilet break halfway through, and not necessarily just the once. The body is largely water, and like an unwatered plant, without enough fluids it will just start to wilt. Your runs will seem harder, you will seem more tired before you even start and your body will just feel like the whole event is a major challenge.
I always make sure I am well hydrated the day before if I am running in the morning, or well hydrated through out the day if I am running in the evening. Don’t forget to take a drink with you, and take sips along the way. If I am running for 45 minutes or more, I will be taking a gulp of water every 10 minutes, it helps the body to keep going. Don’t forget to have a good drink afterwards too, to replace lost fluids!
If you’re inspired… good luck!