Running. As simple as lacing up your shoes and going out the door. For sport, for stress relief, and everything in between. We run because it feels good. We run because we can. We run because nothing feels as terrible as not running. What follows is a list of thoughts on running. Not rules or guidelines, just ideas to have in your mind the next time you lace up for a run.
1. Starting cold can be a big mistake. The importance of a good warm up cannot be understated. Make the most out of your workout, and take a step to avoid injury by taking 5-10 minutes to get in a solid warm up. Arm circles, leg swings, marching, high knees, skips…all will get the blood flowing and prepare the muscles for activity. Or go your own route and dance in the kitchen before you head out. Anything that warms the body and preps the systems to “go.” Save all the stretching for after the run, and go easy on tired muscles.
2. Pick up your feet off the ground. Be engaged with your body. Stand tall with a slight forward lean and relax the arms. Don’t look at your feet. Be light on the earth. Shorten your stride and quicken your turnover. Notice a difference in how you feel? Practice efficiency and quick feet. Over time it will become more and more natural. Pay attention to your entire kinetic chain. Is it engaged and working? Are your feet light, or slapping the ground? Are you proud as you run? Take control of your body and own it. Slow down if you need to. Or speed up if you need to. Be present in the experience and take ownership and control of your body.
3. Don’t stuff yourself with gels and sports drink. For short runs, you don’t need it. Metabolic efficiency is a topic for a different post. The short take away is this. Experiment and figure out what your body can tolerate. Everyone is different. There is no magic diet. Take into consideration the time of day that you run and find what works for you. Try the “less is more” approach and see how it feels. Pay attention to every system and fine tune your fueling. The more you pay attention to the relationship to intake and performance, the greater your chances of succeeding on race day.
4. Take a break from devices. Rate of perceived exertion (RPE) may be the single most important metric out there, and only you can detect it. No device can be as in touch with your own body as you can. By all means, heart rate train, use GPS, track cadence and power. Just make sure you are learning about yourself with every run, and making that knowledge work for you over time. Having fun is unquantifiable by machine, but nonetheless one of the most important metrics out there and one only you can decipher.
5. Let go of slow. No matter who you are, there is always someone with a faster pace than you and there is always someone with a slower pace than you. Let it go. You do yourself a disservice every time a run is qualified with “I’m slow” or “I run slow” or “I’m not a real runner.” No more of that talk. Running is an endless resource and there is plenty of it to go around. We all matter, and we all fit in here. No one is “less than” or “better than” anyone else in the tribe. We all are connected to running, we all put out effort relative to ourselves. We all meditate sometimes, we all push sometimes. We all have great runs, we all have cruddy runs. We all have our own relationship to running and it belongs only to ourselves. No qualifiers needed.