Sunday, 20 June 2010

Running - A beginners guide from newbie to newbie!

Once again, I find myself in a position where I am beginning to tell people that I have started running again. As stupid as this may sound, it is actually quite a common occurrence for me to start running, and then a few weeks/months down the line, give up the ghost and stop again. There are many reasons for this, some of them to do with my general level of fitness, others to do with my state of mind, and my expectation of what the exercise will bring me.
This time, as with every other time, I hope that my new found desire to pound the streets will last. I always hope it will last, right up until the point when I realise that it hasn’t lasted. The one thing that I am really bad at doing though (apart from actually carrying on!) is actually analysing what it is that has made me stop running, what makes it so difficult to get back out there in the afternoon and chase whatever realm of glory I am chasing.
And that, is the biggest thing that I have decided to change about my running habits this time round. I have begun to discover the sort of person that I am when it comes to exercise, and the flaws in my personality that stop me doing it, and I honestly believe that many of these things are the same for other people around me. For this reason, I would like to offer these pieces of advice to anybody who is considering starting running, or indeed, any other exercise.
Do not let other people tell you what you should be doing
This is probably the most important piece of advice that I could ever dispense. One of the biggest reasons that I give up running, and decide that it is a waste of my time is the reactions I get from other people when I tell them the distances and times that I spend running in an average week. We are, all of us, individuals, and we all have our own styles of running, and our bodies naturally progress to what people would term “full fitness” at different paces. I know that it sounds like an excuse, I know that it should not affect me as much as it does, and I know I should be stronger in my mind, if not in my body, but if somebody tells me that I am running at too slow a pace, I have a tendency to up the pace on the next run. Inevitably, my body decides to let me know in no uncertain terms that it is not ready to do it, and I become disheartened, my mind crashes, I lose concentration, and eventually, give up. So, the most important thing that I have decided to do is accept the fact that I am not at this time, and may never be, as fast as my peers. I may never be able to run the distances of which they speak. I will get there in my own time, in my own way, and just enjoy the ride.
Listen to your body
Your body, no matter what you think of it, is a wonderful machine, and needs to be treated as such. When you are running, as much as possible, try to be completely aware of how your body feels. If you feel a twinge, no matter how small, in your leg, or anywhere else, stop, have a feel around. Try walking on it for a few minutes to see if it still feels bad, and then start running again, but slowly. If it still feels bad, then walk back to where you started, sleep on it, and see how it feels tomorrow. Nobody will give you an award for bravery if you run on a bad leg, and the likelihood is that you will only make the situation worse.
Similarly, listen to what your stomach is telling you. Many people when they start running will notice that they begin to feel slightly sick, or appear to have acid indigestion after a little while. This is the bodies warning sign that it is dehydrated. Take this on board, and when you next go out for a run, make sure that you are hydrating yourself properly beforehand. Be aware though that just drinking four pints of water in the ten minutes before you actually start running is not going to hydrate you. It needs to be controlled over the course of the hours, or even days, before the run.
A further point I would like to add to this is to listen to your body more than you watch your body. We all have things within ourselves that we do not like, and if you keep up the running, this may well change over time. But it will take time. Crash diets do not, and have never worked, and are extremely unhealthy. Instead of weighing yourself every morning to see if you have lost that extra pound, notice the other things about your body. The things that we generally take for granted. Begin to notice how much easier it is to walk up the stairs to your office in the morning. Notice how the tone in your legs is slowly changing. Be aware of how much lower your heart rate is when you are sitting in front of the television. These are the inward signs of becoming fitter, and these things almost always change before any outward signs. And remember, most, if not all of the people around you like you just the way you are. Those who don’t, don’t deserve to be your friends!
Do not put your iPod/Generic MP3 player on shuffle
It’s rare these days that I actually run with an iPod, as I get frustrated when the headphones keep popping out of my ears, but if you are going to run with an iPod, one piece of advice is to not use the shuffle mode unless you are really sure that you want to listen to every song that it might land on. There are very few things that will break your concentration more than having to stop to change the track because you don’t like the song. Choose an album or a playlist that makes you feel good about yourself. Something that you find yourself tapping your feet to every time you hear it.
Don’t be too aware of what is going on around you
One of the traps that I often find myself falling into is that of being too aware of what is going on around me. For me, personally, this can include several things, such as adjusting my running style and speeding up when I see somebody coming towards me in the hope that they wont judge my speed. This counts especially in a gym environment. It is in the very nature of the human being to be competitive with those around us, and our entire body language and running style may change if we begin to take notice of those other people. Don’t. Running is your personal experience and changing your personal style may very well hinder you much more than it impresses anyone else.
Enjoy yourself
Last, but by no means least, enjoy yourself. You are about to embark on a personal journey that only you can direct. There is absolutely no point in continuing something like this if you don’t enjoy it. If you find yourself not enjoying it, try to think about why that is. Have you been pushing yourself too hard, or maybe not hard enough. If you get to the end of every run feeling absolutely exhausted and on the verge of collapse, then you are not going to want to get out and do it next time. There is no harm in taking a little time half way through to slow the pace down, even walk for a while. You will find that you cover the same distance feeling a lot better about yourself, and will have something of a desire to get back out there in a few days time, or whenever the mood takes you.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate the point that I am by no stretch of the imagination a professional runner. I consider myself barely into the newbie stage, perennial restarter. The advice that I give here should be taken as that. Everybody has their own running style, and their own way of gearing themselves up before a run, and relaxing afterwards. I do not claim to hold the key to success, although sometimes I wish I did!
Happy running J

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