d-minus 63: Why you don't run
I going to start this post by saying something you're likely to find controversial. "There's nothing stopping you running an ultramarathon."
That's right. Nothing. The only thing that's required is a willingness to listen to your body and the desire to get to the finish line. Admittedly, running an ultra may not be everyone's cup of tea so let me set you a more modest goal. "Give me a month and I can have you running 5km a day, injury free, with a smile on your face"
. Now that's not strictly true - there are people with previous injuries or biomechanical issues which would prevent that but those represent probably less than 0.1% of the population.
For once this post isn't about me. Though I find it a little bit humbling that people take my running mediocrity as something in any way out of the ordinary. For starters I'm too tall and too top heavy to be a runner. I have a history of back and knee problems. If I accepted the standard wisdom I wouldn't get off my sofa (which is an appealing thought). So, how am I able to even contemplate it? Let alone enjoy it.
The answer is one of perceptions and approach. First of all there are two main reasons that people don't go running.1. I don't enjoy running
For this I don't blame you. Running, when unfit, can be deeply unpleasant. Of course you're not going to enjoy it if you set off and are panting uncontrollably after 100 steps, legs reduced to jelly by the time you finish and unable to walk the next day. More to the point - most of us who've tried running have, at some point, picked up injuries. Guess what - if it's not fun then we won't find the motivation to go out and do it. More to the point running is something we do in public and our egos take over insisting that we go quickly. So, the first challenge is how to make running an enjoyable experience so we associate it with fun and look forwards to it. Which leads us nicely onto point 2.2. I'll get injured
Here's a sad fact. The majority of us run really badly. Our technique is dreadful. We thud heedlessly into the tarmac without a care for the stresses and strains we're subjecting our bodies too. And then, quel surprise, we get injured. The blame lies not within the running but within ourselves. We assume there's no skill in running well. Well, there is. And unless we learn it there's no point running. When I go running in the park I literally wince sometimes at what people are doing to themselves. I want to go up and hug them and make it all better.
So here's a simple plan for addressing it.1. Learn to run
Watch this video (Running Form: Correct technique and tips to run faster
). Go out and practice. Make the focus for every step to be as light and perfect as possible. The only thing you should care about is good technique. Without good technique you'll get injured.2. Go slowly
For the first month don't get out of breath. That's right. If you start breathing heavily then walk until you have your breath back. Your ego will scream at you but it is not your friend. By getting your breath back you achieve two things. Firstly, you can concentrate on good technique. Secondly, you give your body a rest and it can start to recover. Both will lessen injuries. Stop worrying about speed or the clock. Your only concern is to run well and without injury. Times will happen on their own and you'll be amazed how quickly you progress.3. Warm down properly (aka take better care of your body)
Flexibility makes a big difference. I'm a huge fan of Active Isolated Stretching (The Wharton Stretch Book is amazing). If you don't have much time then a great intro can be found at http://www.active.com/running/articles/3-must-do-active-isolated-flexibility-routines-for-runners
Lastly, if I'm around - invite me out for a run. Since I stopped caring about time I just enjoy being out there - I don't care how slow we go and if you're too fast for me I'll happily wave you on your way. Running can be a great social activity - assuming you're not killing yourself to do it.
Once the first month is out of the way - see how you feel. You never know - that first 10km or half marathon (or further) may not seem as crazy as you thought during the opening paragraph.
I'm running the Grand 2 Grand ultra in September to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. You can follow my journey here on Google+. If you'd like to donate please visithttp://www.justgiving.com/andz2grandhttp://www.g2gultra.com/ #grand2grand