I am a bit torn writing this. This summer has been a real down-turn in my running and it feels a bit disingenuous and preachy. But the Olympics are on and that makes everyone feel a little inspired, so I thought I would throw a log on the fire for anyone out there contemplating a bit of fitness.
So, let me present Running - the cheapest of sports!
I got into running at my doctor's suggestion and I'll start right there for my intro to you. You should probably get a bit of a check-up/ permission from your doc before you start. Legal disclaimer done. My doctor suggested it because he saw the ebb and flow of my physical activity (rec-league old man basketball in the winter, some weight training, little cardio activity in the summer).
My doctor's pitch made sense:
- We need 20 minutes of sustained physical exertion 3 times a week (a day ideally, but my doctor is a realist).
- As a parent of young kids, who works, that time can be hard to come by. Running is like a gym that is always open and starts right outside your front door. That part really struck home with me.
- It doesn't cost anything to try and you can start very small. This part also appealed.
I gave it the old college try, and found that it was OK. I'm here now to give you the 411 from my experience. There are lots of couch-to ___km things out there (Robin tells me), so I won't try to replace those - only give you some things to consider. My longest run to date is something like 13-14 km and it gave me blisters and sore calves. I am not a distance (or speed) machine. Having said that, I can knock out 5km (I did so on our recent vacation), even after several months of mostly off-again training so I do have a basic level of competence.
Here is how I roll (or run):
Start with a distance you could walk in 20 minutes.
- This will mean you will likely run some and walk some of it the first few times through. Once you can run it all, add a couple more blocks. Once you get through the burning lungs, side pain wall, you can start adding more distance in larger chunks. It really does build up.
Buy a decent pair of shoes.
- This is the only non-frugal part, but spend a hundred bucks or so and your body will thank you. It is the only money you'll ever spend on the sport (unless you start competing) so be OK with it.
Don't worry about what others think.
- When I first started, I felt that every person I ran by was thinking, "Who is that guy kidding, he isn't running very far or very fast". Actually, maybe 1% think that (they are jerks who make fun of everyone); but in reality, the non-runners you pass are thinking, "I wish I could get up the motivation to try running" and the runners are thinking, "I wish I could find time for a run today too". See - from day 1 of you trying running, you will be an inspiration to everyone you pass. Except for the jerks.
Running is more in your head than in your body.
- Once you get over the basic cardio and physical tune-up your body needs to run, say, 1 km without stopping, it is all shades of effort and mental determination. For me, just seeing other big (6 foot+, 200lbs+) guys out and having success was a mental hurdle that I needed. Prior to that, the only runners I had met all looked like they were a meal away from starvation. That is not my body type. Seeing that big dudes can run too broke the mental wall for me. Many more walls have fallen since then - 3km, 5km, 10 km...
Once you find yourself moving along the continuum of training a bit - some other stuff to keep motivated:
You'll be amazed at the freedom running gives you.
- After you kit 5km, you'll start thinking about places around where you live and wonder, "Can I run there?" and then you can. It is pretty cool to go somewhere on your feet when you've only ever traveled there by car.
Check out MapMyRun.
- It is a very cool website that allows you to plan routes around your area and search for other routes to run as well, like a social network for fitness. You can use it to track your performance as well. I only use the route planning feature, but there are piles of other parts to explore.
Get a decent MP3 player and put some running music or audio books or whatever you like on it.
- Like I said above, you'd be amazed at how much of running is mental vs. physical. I find that music takes your mind elsewhere and leaves your body to plod along without interruption.
Once you know you can get through a km or two - sign up for something charitable or challenging in the future.
- Like all fitness things, having an external goal can keep you motivated and honest. I am still trying to get up the courage to sign up for and run a local 15km. I'm pretty sure I can do it, but having it out there motivates me to keep training.
Speaking of which, I am going to stop typing and actually go out and do some of this fitness stuff I've heard so much about.
Damn you Olympics for inspiring and damn you blog for making me feel like a hypocrite. Time to get outside...