I started to take running seriously when I turned 30. And while I have been an occasional runner since childhood I have learnt more about this sport in the past five years than in the rest of my life. So in this post I’ll try to put out what I know and also what I don’t. Hopefully this will help those of you who are starting on running.
My mentor in this sport is Harsh Mehta, whom I first met in Finland. He taught me a couple of things that are the core constitution of all I follow now.
If there is only thing you will ever carry away from this post, let it be the following: It is supposed to be fun and not hurtful at all.
Can’t emphasize this enough. Running need not be measured, compared or be goal-driven and sadly most of us just do that (am guilty too). But mostly when I run, my motion is fluid and my breathing is synchronized to my legs and my hands moving together. I don’t have a science to this motion but when I am in sync, I just know it. I rarely think about how my foot lands or where my heart rate levels are. It took me time, but now I just know the speed at which to set the treadmill so I reach my ‘zone’. I consider running as my personal time, when I try to meditate over stuff that I usually never get time to in a regular noisy day. I sometimes get lost in a Radiolab podcast and come out of it bodily and mentally enlightened. In short, I am pretty lost from my surroundings when I am running. This one time I ran for a little less than two hours and an overgrown nail tore through the toeskin and my socks were all bloody when I stopped. And it didn’t hurt a bit. That’s a runners high. My usual two day break after every run cured that minor bleed and I was back again like nothing happened. Yes, I still would like to maintain that running is fun 🙂
A good flow of a run is when there is least friction to your body, i.e. your feet don’t stomp the ground, your balance doesn’t tip on a side and your earphones falling off don’t distract you. Work to find your unique flow.
A good run for me is when I have more energy than I started out with.
Second, the process of reaching your peak has to be very patient.
When I started, Harsh told me to completely forget my speed and just focus on increasing the time for which I could sustain a little sprint. That way I was just walking for 40 minutes when I started out. After a week I started prancing a bit and slowly figured over the next month or so reached my top speed of about 10 kmph that I could sustain for an hour. All this has to be done while maintaining your heart rate in the aerobic zone. For those without those brastrap-like contraptions [here] that measure heart rate, just make sure that you are able to speak to your imaginary running companion.
I also made it a point to give my feet enough rest. So I always gave a day of break after every run. Sometimes two. That way I never got injured and running was finally a fun thing to do. By taking away the chase, it became enjoyable. I was only competing my myself. Harsh, thank you for this wonderful tip!
Third, goals and gadgets are useful for some people for some time.
I have bought a couple of watches (favourite being this one http://www.suunto.com/global/en/products/Heart-Rate-Monitors/Suunto-t3c/Suunto-t3c-Black-Arrow) and shoes of all kinds but they haven’t stuck around for long periods since the run has now become more important than the gadgets. And now I like it this way.
Measuring my performance helped me greatly in the first year though since I had something to improve on every day. The best surprise to me was that after about three months of this regime, I could already see changes in my body and mind. I started to wake up very energized even if I slept less and my calves built this sexy shape. Thats when I compared myself to others for the first time and found I really did better too. My best was 18km in about 90 minutes. I lost weight too but it wasn’t the goal – remember 🙂
Also here are some (personal) myths I found broken.
Running on roadsides/treadmills is super bad.
My verdict: bullshit. I feel that as long as one knows to listen to their body all is cool. Keeping it slow and gradually increasing it always covers you for such problems.
Running after a knee fracture is simply not possible.
My verdict along with a message to my original orthopaedic: bullshit.
Infact, every time I have gone to the doc with a foot pain (and I’ve had some bad ones), running has cured them. The doc has found nothing in the countless x-rays and my attitude then turned to a very sardar-like response: I simply ran the problem away.
Running is generally bad for knees and should be kept at minimum.
My verdict: no confirmable truth so far. It works for me and you should find what does for you. Don’t wanna claim something I can’t.
Barefoot running is a very careful art and the risk is not worth the reward.
This year, under the influence of my midlife crisis, I asked my buddy bros Bryan and Mike to get me a pair of Merrells. Their app suggested a 9 month time to fully move to running on to their shoes. Sissies. I moved to a 9k run after one day of practise in the park and boy, not had a single injury or knee pain since then. This is my personal truth.
Here is bonus personal truth and also a bit of a personal rant: Indians are stereotypically awful at running. Ofcourse this is merely a stereotype and Alok Mittal and Jaikant are there to prove this statement wrong. Still, not once in the gym have I found anyone run more than 20 minutes and they (instructors) often come by to me concerned when I clock more than an hour. I think they are merely ignorant and have themselves never even pushed themselves to run. Why would they when running does nothing showoff-able to your biceps and chest 🙂