On Running

This Spring, I decided to get back into running. In high school and elementary school I did a lot of cross-country running, and even though I fiercely disliked race day I remember that I occasionally enjoyed running – or, at least, I enjoyed knowing I could run X number of kilometers. For the last few years, I’ve run maybe a handful of times, never really enjoying it, never really improving. In my first year of university I struggled with feeling insecure about running (seems funny now, but it was so real then) – I didn’t want to draw attention to myself, especially if I wasn’t very good or if I was slow. I went for maybe 2 runs that year. My second year wasn’t much better, since I never liked it and couldn’t come up with a good system to motivate me.

This year, it’s somehow different. I can’t say why exactly. Maybe it has something to do with coming out of a longterm relationship with a new perspective, and a new sense of individuality and autonomy – I’m focusing on myself more than ever. I am learning how to give myself permission to suck really badly or go really slowly. I’m trying my best to pay attention to my progress instead of worrying about how fast other runners are going or if civilians are watching me stumble along. Usually I just pretend they’re watching me run because they’re annoyed at themselves for not running lately! I’ve been reaching out to my running friends and getting advice and tips (thanks Patty + Kyle!) and slowly easing myself back into the running life.

I have to say, a lot of things are coming back to me and it is so much fun to watch myself slowly improve. I wanted to share a few things I’ve been doing to motivate myself to keep running.

  • Nike+ GPS app. I think this is the only paid app I have on my entire phone. It cost me $1.99, and at first I was loathe to spend the money (cause I didn’t think I “needed” it). But then, I realized: if tracking my runs using this app that I find cool and slick and awesome is going to motivate me to run, then that’s the best twoonie I’ll spend this year. I bought the app, and I love it, but of course there are other apps/sites that do the same thing. Map My Run and Daily Mile are free alternatives, and I’m sure there are others that I’ve never heard of. But I am happy with my choice, and I think that’s what’s important: finding what works for you.
  • Running the same route. This may not be something that works for everyone, since many people like a change of scenery! But as I’ve been easing into running, I’ve been doing the same loop almost every time. I like to see whether I improve at tricky areas (like the dratted hill!), and I enjoy knowing what’s coming up ahead. The predictability works for me. As I start to add distance, I think I’ll be just adding little loops off to the side of the route I currently follow. 
  • Learning about midfoot running. Ooh, child. I’m so into this right now. And what’s great about being excited about a new technique is that you’re ready to learn about it, read about it, watch videos…and then go out and try it out in your running shoes! It starts to feel more like a fun new project and less like a boring run. If you want to get obsessed like I am, check out this TED talk, his book (which I’m picking up at the library today!), these videos, this little animation and lastly this great little photo: Four Simple Steps to Good Form. Harvard University released an awesome website about midfoot running that would also be great to check out – those videos are super enlightening. *Disclaimer: I’m the furthest thing from an expert on this. I have heard over and over that you need to ease into this new style, especially with minimal shoes. You can suffer a lot of calf pain (I know this firsthand) or injure your Achilles tendon if you push it too hard. So if you try it out, I would urge you to listen to your body and take it easy.*
  • New shoes. I’d been running in old shoes. Very old. I do not recommend this, it is definitely not healthy. I am actually embarrassed to say how old my shoes were! So when I was home last weekend, my mother took pity on me and bought me new shoes. And I went all out, because I figured I might as well get the shoes I really want and ease into them instead of buying a “transition” kind of shoe. So I got these New Balance Minimus Road, zero-drop shoes. In turquoise. I love ’em, yet I’ve only run in them once so far, because I’m trying my very best to take it slowly. Both my running friends use Vibrams, so those also come highly recommended. *Note: both these shoes are minimal shoes, designed to encourage midfoot running, as mentioned above.*
  • Focusing on getting out the door. The other day, I felt like running (unprecedented! but exciting!), so I did! About ten minutes in, though, my calves were in a lot of pain – too much, in my opinion. I realize that sometimes you have to push through discomfort, but I felt that I might injure myself if I pushed too hard through this. So I just alternated light jogging (going back to some heel striking) and walking, all the way home. To my perfectionistic side, it was annoying because I wanted to keep training, keep improving, etc! But then I brought the focus back to just getting out the door, putting on my shoes, and trying. It didn’t matter if I walked the entire way – at least I got outside and moved my body! That’s the really important thing.
  • Not pushing too hard. A few weeks ago, I felt totally uninspired by running. Bleh. Ugh. Didn’t want to go. But when I really tried to figure out why I felt like that, I realized it was because a couple days before I had pushed myself to go some extra distance. Now, pushing yourself is obviously a good thing, it’s how you improve! But if you’re not ready, or if you start to act like going further and faster is the only thing that’s important, you might start to feel discouraged. I decided I wanted to be on my own side, pushing myself when I was ready but taking it easy when I wasn’t. This is a tricky lesson to learn, but I’ve been working on it ever since.
  • Making it fun! This can be achieved in many different ways. My friend Isabelle texted me yesterday saying she made it fun by running through a trail she’d never explored before. I make it fun by taking a photo of my feet in running shoes in different locations and putting it through Instagram. I can’t explain why I find it so satisfying, but I love it! I also make it fun with music – right now I’ve been listening to old playlists that have all these hilarious, up-beat songs on them. It’s also fun to smile at puppies when you run by them, people-watch, or just do little dances when there’s nobody around. Yep, I’m that girl.

Whew! Marathon post. Pun intended. I’m really excited about getting back into running, I’m really looking forward to signing up for a race with a friend sometime this summer! If you have any tips/tricks/videos/info/books to share, let me know! I’m always looking for more information and I’d love to hear about the wisdom you’ve gained. Let me know in the comments below. Happy Monday!