Born to Run

I've been running for fitness since 8th grade, with a few gaps here and there (undergrad, marriage). Running makes me feel great--afterwards. But the tough part is making myself get up and running so that I can reach that satisfied "afterwards" zone. I just started running again after a hiatus of about 15 months and I'm remembering a lot of tips and tricks I've used over the years to KEEP MOVING. Here's what I do:

1. Getting started. I don't let myself talk me out of it. I am a huge "self-talker" and excuse-maker, so I have to handle myself like a reluctant toddler if I want any results. I trick myself into going out the door by saying, "OK, just get dressed and put your shoes on and we'll see what happens." After that, I promise "I'll just run for a while and if I get tired I can always stop." Soon enough I've finished my run without stopping (probably because my balkiness to start becomes stubborn-ness to finish).

2. Hills. If you run on a machine hills are no problem because you can just program them however you're inclined. (Ha!) But where I live there are real hills and they're not always where I want them. So to psych myself out:

  • I concentrate on my ankles. If I work on just flexing my ankles and pushing off smoothly from the toes over and over again at the back end of my stride (that is, when I'm picking up the back foot to put it in front), I find I can ignore what's going on at the front of my stride. So by doing just ankle work I can keep myself running without noticing (much).
  • I run with my arms. This is similar to the ankle thing. When I used to run track I noticed that if I worked on pumping my arms at a steady speed, my legs would pump along at the same rate. If you want to speed up, just pump your arms faster. Miraculous.
  • I shorten my stride. I picked this up reading about hiking the AT. When going up a steep slope I just take smaller steps. It may end up taking a bit more work to get to the top, but it may also even out because taking regular-length strides up hill is REALLY exhausting. It preserves strength to just kick little hobbit steps into the hill.
  • I shorten my goals. This is a variant of my "getting started" trick, which is that I promise myself I'll just get to the next tree or rock or mailbox or whatever. When I get there, I pick another thing and head for that. On steeper hills I pick things that are really close together--like only 3 yards apart--so I keep accomplishing things during the long haul up the hill.
  • On the other side, stretch out again. Some runner's mag clued me in to this one--when going DOWN hill, it doesn't take much more energy to take a long step than a short one. And because of the slope, you actually gain ground as you sort of let yourself fall down the hill. It's like the invisible bridge in Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade--put your foot out really far in front of you and then just let gravity carry it down, and you with it.

3. Keeping on. Maybe these are wierd hippie ideas, but on a dull stretch or when dealing with extreme temperatures I find a little visualization or mental distraction can help me avoid thinking about what I'm doing. For example, sometimes it's fun to pretend to be a running animal, like a goat or something, instead of a person. If the sun is really blazing I'll think about it entering my crown chakra and pouring down my body until it comes out my feet, leaving golden puddles in each of my footsteps. And my tried and true distracter is to count dwarves--by the time I remember the names of all the dwarves in The Hobbit, I'm usually pretty close to being done with my run.

To close, I do often enjoy running while I'm doing it, as well as afterwards. But since I'm inclined to be a bit lazy I need to keep my tricks about me as I may need to apply them at any time...

No comments: