Consistency, like with most things in life, is the key.
You will continue to improve and limit the injuries you may encounter with consistency, in the activity itself and the things that support it. Most folks that are trying to get back into shape and lose weight, give up, just before they are able to have that big breakthrough. This is especially common with runners, because lets face it, the majority of humans don’t particularly enjoy running. Running is not always fun, even when you are in great shape, but once you get a rhythm, every run is not miserable. Believe me, that desperate, “I literally might die one second from now feeling” – not every run. I would not be running anymore and most certainly wouldn’t be spending time writing about running and trying to convince you to start, if that were the case. 🙂
If I were to pinpoint a single barrier, between most runners and their goals, it would be the way in which they go about their “EASY” effort runs. Runners of all experience levels, myself included, on average push too hard during the runs that aren’t intended on being “HARD.” The majority of your runs, 80% or more depending on your goals, should be run at a pace in which you can comfortably have a conversation. This can be particularly difficult for slower runners because there is a much smaller gap between a fast walk, and a pace too hard for speech, compared to that of faster runners. This takes us back to the run/ walk method, from the previous entry, as a way to limit intensity while simply getting the overall volume of running up. Increasing your weekly milage and time spent running will equal more fitness, as well as, increasing your “running skill” (more on that in a future entry). Cross training, is a great way to increase volume while limiting stress on your body in the process.
Mix running with cross training
Early on, running twice per week with a cross training day as your third workout, is a great idea. Swimming, cycling, ellipticals, fast walk, incline treadmill walk and rowers are great for supplementing. Cycling is a lot of fun for many reasons, as a break from running, but be conscious of how much time you have available. Personally I do not get on my bike much anymore because my schedule simply doesn’t allow it. A general rule for comparing time on the bike to time running is somewhere in the neighborhood of a 4:1 ratio. Meaning, ever 4 miles on the bike is roughly equivalent to 1 mile of running (or 4 mins to 1 min, etc). Obviously this can vary because of intensity but you get the point. However, for your one cross training day per week, why not? An ElliptiGo- @elliptigo_usa (outdoor elliptical/ bike) is another option. This is kind of a best of both worlds cross training tool for runners. You get the running specific movement without the pounding like an elliptical machine, but you are able to do it outdoors with changing scenery.
Brisk walking – You will be surprised what a steady paced walk will do for you between runs or the day after a particularly hard run. This is a great way to loosen up, boost cognitive response and reduce soreness. Many of the most intelligent people in history contribute their best work and ideas to movement such as walking. During activities like walking when the effort is easy enough for you to go on autopilot, you are able to unlock the subconscious in ways that are almost impossible when we are locked into purposeful thought. For now I’m going to remove myself from this topic and revisit it again sometime because I could go on and on.
Rest! Take days off
Even the seasoned runner takes complete days off, mixes cross training and strength work in. An experienced runner in the middle of a solid training block may even have a day off and a cross training only day each week. Some runners require more time off or cross training days in order to stay healthy. It is important to safely experiment with what works for you and your body. Everyone is different but it is of the utmost importance to avoid injuries by listening to the feedback your body is giving you. There is no “perfect” formula, that works perfectly for all of us. If you know someone who runs high milage and/or takes no days off, and remains injury free for long periods of time, they likely built up to this over a long period of time.
Mix it up – keep it fun
Cardio classes at a gym, CrossFit, OrangeTheory, Red Effect, spin class and bootcamp style classes are all excellent ways to supplement your running and healthy lifestyle. If you are struggling to create a concrete fitness routine and/or pushing yourself during a workout, run or race, try a class that provides high intensity efforts in a group setting! There is no denying the effects of group work and music for boosting performance, so why not give these a try?
Most guys might be too intimidated or self conscious showing up at a yoga studio, myself included. However, I realize I no longer have a valid excuse since, I do have a living room and you know, YouTube. Thats what I do at least. I’m sure the experience at a studio would be much more beneficial but if you must, give it a try at home first. I have found a few 10-20 minute, runner specific routines that are exactly what I am looking for. Nothing too crazy and short enough for my attention… look squirrel!
Track your progress
I have always enjoyed the ever improving tech side of running, well, everything tech. This is such an exciting time to be alive and have so many tools at our fingertips. Being born in the early 80s has allowed me to grow up as all of these gadgets have come about. We are now able to track, consolidate and monitor data about our fitness over long periods of time in ways that would put Ivan Drago’s (villain in Rocky IV) Soviet Fitness Center to shame! All of which can be viewed on our phones with a few small devices. I understand this may not interest everyone as much as it does me but there are easy ways to track many data points quickly and almost hassle free, allowing you to analyze every so often. If you ever find yourself using a coach or personal trainer, this feedback would be an invaluable tool for them to use in preparing your training.
Get wild and go deep
All day heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV), steps per day, Intensity Minutes, Stress Level, Sleep Tracking, Weight, V02 Max, Lactate Threshold, Training Effect and Training Status. Most of these features are offered with a Garmin wearable, all of which would be included on a high end model. I am not as familiar with the Apple Watch and Suunto models but I would expect them to offer comparable metrics. Using Apple Health and other applications can bring all of these together under one roof with a few clicks, and once it’s set up, most of the tracking requires no additional effort on your part. A good habit, post run, is to write a short entry about how the run went and how you felt. Sometimes this can be the most telling metric of all, your perceived effort.
For HRV tracking I use, @hrv4training. You can take your daily reading with your smartphone camera or a chest strap.
When I started running again 7-8 years ago after almost 10 years off, I got to experience first hand, and for the first time, what it is like to Start Running. It was awful. Of course I chose to start running again when my wife Meghan, was pregnant with our first child. It was May of 2012 and it was already scorching hot. The only thing that kept me going long enough to get over that “hump,” that seems to come in the second month of consistency, was the rain. It rained a lot that spring and summer, something I’ve always enjoyed running in. After enough consistency it just seemed to click.
From the start, implement as many of these tools as you can, and they will really pay off over time. Start the habit now, the “small things,” are the first to get skipped when you run out of time. Create the environment that best leads to successful choices, fosters consistency, and ultimately works WITH you to reach your goals. These strategies and tricks of the trade will go a long way in keeping you healthy and add to your overall enjoyment of running, and life.
I’m a Certified Personal Trainer and offer personalized coaching services to fit the needs of runners and athletes of all kinds and at all levels, both local and at-a-distance. Follow me on social media @adamsruns and visit my website for more info: www.adamsrunning.com.