Thanks to the convention so wisely presented by Pope Gregory XIII, we have arrived at this, our new year (2012). As is our custom, we've all promised ourselves (and perhaps others) to start the year anew, ready to declare [INSERT CURRENT YEAR HERE] as the 'Year of [You]'. If you've chosen to start running this year, I hope this can serve as a bit of a primer for what you can expect when running. (I also hope you spend some of your precious time here. We'd love to have you).
Making significant life changes takes patience, which isn't always the most exciting thing to hear when making a resolution for the new year. Perhaps, then, we should not look at things through the lens of 'I will run in 2k12' and instead through the perspective of a fresh start, of a modest change.
A goal to run should just be that: a goal to run today, or to run more often, or to run faster. I hope that your goal to run isn't an absolutist declaration with no room to fail – the reality of running is that it can be hellish at times, that runs get cut short or missed, and that at some point you'll likely have a foot that feels like a Yeti stomped on it or you'll step off a curb the wrong way and twist an ankle or that you'll trip and break your iPod.
The blunt truth is that running can be intimidating, difficult, and incredibly demoralizing.
These difficulties and lapses are normal; you'll soon forget them. What you won't forget is the feeling when you run for 30 minutes straight for the first time, or the day that you finally break the six-minute barrier for a mile, or the sense of accomplishment that you get with your first race medal.
The way to get running to really, finally take is to do some adjusting of your routine in order to give yourself the greatest probability of getting your ass out of the door. If you run in the morning, set your gear out the night before, and get your shoes on within a minute or two of getting out of bed. If you run after work, lay your clothes out on the bed before you leave for work – or leave your running shoes on the passenger seat of your car so that they give you the stink eye on the way home.
Make a training schedule. Better yet, pick a reasonable distance race for your current fitness (start with a 5k if you're brand new to running and aren't in good shape) and find an online training plan from Hal Higdon or Runners' World. Trust the plan (they're drafted by people who know what they're doing), and follow it. Print the plan and look at it every day. Take your biggest, most satisfying big-ass red marker and put a check mark through the runs after you finish them.
Do everything you can do enable running and everything that you can to dissuade yourself from taking the day off (unless the day calls for rest. Then you rest like a goddamn champ).
Drink some chocolate milk after a workout.
Find a running partner to keep you honest. This doesn't have to be someone that you actually physically train with – call your college roommate (or brother, or rabbi) and tell them you're trying something new and want someone to go through it with you. Join a site like Dailymile and find virtual training partners.
Go to a local store dedicated to running, get up on the treadmill with a store worker watching, and spend the little extra on buying your shoes there. By doing so you'll get advice and the best fit for you. Plus, by sinking a *little* extra into your kicks, you give yourself a real monetary incentive to stick with the running.
Most importantly, try to have fun. If running just seems like horribly taxing work, that's all it will be. As you work the habit into your routine it will suddenly become the thing that you do. Given time, you'll be looking forward to a run – as crazy as that sounds.
The Audience Involvement Part
As much as I'm writing as a sort of cathartic mental exercise, I also know that at their best blogs are a group experience. If you're training for any particular race, taking up running to lose some weight, or are setting out into uncharted waters and hoping to run for the first time this year, by all means tell us about it. If you've got a with your goal for the year, the month, or the day let's hear it. Leave a link to your Dailymile profile. Let's get to know one another – after all, we can make a pretty good support network if we want to. There's been some good discussion this far, but topics such as this are great places to enlighten others.
So: if you're new to running what steps have you taken to ensure that this year is finally the year that you take to running? If you've been around the block a few (thousand) times, what little things do you do that help you get out the door on a consistent basis?
1. I'm quite appreciative of a lot of the work that Merlin Mann does, especially his podcast with Dan Benjamin – you'll likely see references to an episode of their show popping up from time to time. If you're looking for something to listen to while out on your next few runs (and seriously, podcasts are great for listening to while running), check out B2W Episode 47.↩
2. I'll write more on this later. Briefly: I average about 120 miles a month when on a training plan and 40 miles per month without one. I haven't had a training plan for the past nine months. I slept in yesterday because I had nothing pushing me out the door. I printed out a training plan last night for an early June marathon. I hope that this will be enough to get me going again. We'll see. ↩
3. If you want to find me on the Dailymile, I'm right here. I could use a few people to keep me honest.↩
4. Also, by shopping at a local running shop you'll be supporting a small local business, which is always a good call. Don't go to Dick's Sports – almost any advice given to you there will be awful, and the stride observations at a local shop are free and totally worth it.↩