Secret’s out: I love running. Morbid as it sounds, if I found out I was going to die tomorrow, I would still carve out an hour of my precious last twenty-four to get a run in. It is truly something I enjoy and plan to do my whole life long, including on such important events as my bachelorette party (Ragnar Relay Napa Valley, anyone?), my wedding day (get ready, girls!) and throughout my (future) pregnancy.
That said, I am often asked from either non-runners or exercisers who hate running how I do it – how I muster up the desire and passion to run day in and day out, year after year. I admit there are days that it’s hard and days that it’s blissful, and that they don’t always happen in even proportion. I’ve cried out on the road before, and I’ve had days where I feel like I could run forever. But there are certain things in my running life that are constant, and I want to share those things with you guys.
First of all, consider training for an event. Whether or not you actually do the event (I have friends that “train” for half marathons without ever registering for an event, just to see if they can train up to the distance) is irrelevant; what is important here is that you find a training plan, stick to the training plan, and test yourself to try a new challenge. Telling yourself “I’m just gonna go out and run this week” is so much less effective than saying “I’m going to run three times this week, for three to five miles apiece, at a certain pace, in order to complete a half marathon 12 weeks from now.”
That said, give yourself some wiggle room. If your training plan calls for a 3, 5, and 7 mile run, but you can only run twice that week – run twice. Don’t start skipping multiple runs because you can’t follow the plan to the letter, and realize that walking can be a really great tool for runners – if it gets you the mileage on your feet, it’s OK to walk sometimes. Not every run is going to be life-changing – sometimes you just get out there, push through the miles, and pat yourself on the back.
Once you’re in a training cycle, you might start to get overuse injuries – I’m a plantar fasciitis sufferer, and I have started getting some nagging hip pain in my “old” age. That said, take the time to address chronic issues before they worsen. I’ve seen people let plantar fasciitis into a full-on limp. There are runners younger than me that can barely get through a 5K because their ITBS is so bad. If you want the pleasure of running, you must do your best to manage the pain – which means stretching, yoga, massage, epsom salts baths, ice baths, and adequate sleep are musts. Non-negotiable. Do them.
Once you’ve got the motivation, structure, and stretching stuff down, there’s only one more thing I recommend to would-be runners – and that’s planning your nutrition. The cold, hard truth is that runners need carbs – but not to excess, and certainly not on non-running days. I have clients that never thought about what they ate in relation to their running, and found that mid-run fatigue could be easily cured with the simple addition of a banana an hour before the run, or that bowel issues were a thing of the past when combined with eliminating dairy prior to the run.
Think about what you are eating and when – are you a morning runner? You may not need to eat before a run of 30 minutes or less, but you do need to take down some carbs (30-40g, like a slice of bread with peanut butter and 1/2 banana) for a run of 45-75 minutes. Are you a midday runner? Make sure to have a snack 2 hours before the run and then use your protein-packed lunch meal to refuel post-run. Are you a night runner? Keep lunch light and have a carb snack 2 hours before the run, then have a protein-and-vegetable dinner within 30 minutes of returning home – and make sure to finish the run 2 hours before bedtime so that you’re not too amped to sleep.
I’m not saying everyone in the world is going to love running, but I contend that running is a natural human movement – and deep inside, all of us can awaken at least some basic tolerance for running if not a full-on passion for it.
Do you love – or hate – running? What do you do to make running fun/peaceful/meaningful to you?