Last night I got the kindest comment/e-mail from an old friend (that’s right, first boyfriend EVER from 8th grade…I am calling you out :) ) asking about running. After running through high school, his romance with running ended in favor of other sports like hiking, kayaking, etc. Now he is interested in getting motivated to start pounding the pavement again and needs some tips on how to get his running mojo back!
You can read the full comment here, but here is a snippet of it…
“So, long story short, what suggestions, if any, do you have for making running interesting again? I’m having to start slowly because of my ankles, but my body remembers the high-intensity workouts and cadence of at least a 6-min mile. I just don’t know where to go or how to cope when I can’t do what I used to do. It’s like a quarter-life crisis (I’m expecting to live to 112!)!”
Over the years, I’ve taken breaks, had times where I took the sport more seriously than others, or even faced the dreaded runner’s burnout (GASP!). Here are a few ideas (in no particular order) on rekindling that love of running or just getting started, in general.
Get good shoes. I know I have said this a million times over, but seriously, it is SO important. I am not going to say that the employees at those big box sporting goods stores don’t know what they are doing, but your best bet is to find a running specialty store in your area and get properly fitted. People who work at running specialty stores are more knowledgeable about the runner’s body and finding the right shoe for your gait and foot. Their goal is to help keep you injury-free and running happily!
Find a group. Again, I know I preach about the benefits of social running a lot, but it is because I believe in it. When you are at the point where you need motivation and support, there is no one that you can rely on more to keep you accountable than your running buddies. Plus, it is FUN! Seeing your friends each week (or a few times a week) puts me in a good mood and makes me WANT to run. They are always there to push me when I need it and watching us all meet our goals (whatever they are) keeps me going.
Be realistic about speed and pace. Just because you could run a 6-minute mile in high school does not mean you can (or should) be doing that now. For those of you who participated in track/cross-country in high school (I did NOT), those glory days were (at least) a decade ago. It is not realistic for you to be able to hit those same goals now, so many years later, after not having run in so long. That doesn’t mean you can’t get there, but you’ll just need to be patient with yourself and train properly. Set new, realistic goals and stay focused on those.
Get a good program and be consistent. Whether you are a new runner or someone trying to find the passion again, a good program can be a very valuable tool. If you haven’t done ANY running or any in a long time, I highly recommend the Couch to 5k program. This program is do-able, not overwhelming, and provides really amazing results. I have had friends, relatives, and even my husband complete the program with great success. For training for longer distances or even increasing speed, check out any of the programs by Hal Higdon. I have used his programs for increasing speed on my half marathon and for training for my full marathon. Just remember, like with any training program, consistency and commitment are the key. No one said every run has to be “great”…just keep doing them! Just keep trying!
If not using a program, dial up the distance and intensity slowly. Use the 10% rule. Want to do your best to stay injury-free? Then remind yourself that you are NOT Superman. If not using a specific program, remember to increase weekly training mileage by no more than 10% per week. Keep track of your mileage and be smart about adding distance. There are a lot of online tracking tools out there (DailyMile is a very popular one), but a notebook works just as well. Remember that just because your head is all gung-ho, does not mean your body is ready.
Keep kayaking, hiking, or whatever it is you like to do. Anyone who runs will tell you, running can be addictive. While running is fun, don’t get obsessive about it…unless you want to. If you are into kayaking, cycling, swimming, hiking, etc., still make time to do those things. No need to give up one thing just to incorporate another activity. Plus, doing a variety of activities will keep your body and skill level well-rounded. Or, if you are the outdoorsy type, give trail running a try! I would not suggest trail running in your road running shoes (check out Salomon or Brooks for awesome trail running kicks), but hitting the trail can be an awesome way to break up the monotony of road running.
Read running magazines and immerse yourself in running culture. The next time you are at the book store, pick up a copy of Runner’s World or any other running or triathlon magazine. Browse through the running books in the Sports section. On your next free Saturday, spend some time hanging out at the running store…asking questions, getting advice, meeting other runners, and checking out the gear. Better yet, go out to an event that you would like to run one day, and just watch. Being a spectator is fun and you get the chance to watch others and learn a lot. I know that when I am around other runners and cool gear, I always find some inner motivation and get jazzed up!
Sign up for a race. Last, but not least, pick a goal race, put it on your calendar, and put a big red circle around it! Knowing that you have an event that you have to be ready for will help keep you committed and focused. Take it a step further by sharing this goal with your family, friends, and new-found running buddies! Let them hold you accountable to stay focused on your goal. Keep your eyes on the prize!
So, there you go! Those are my go-to reminders when I feel myself needing that extra push on getting outside or staying focused on my training.
How do YOU recover from a running vacation? What advice would YOU give to someone trying to get their running mojo back?