We’ve all been runners at some point in our lives. Maybe you ran track or played basketball in high school. Maybe you haven’t really been athletic since you were a child. Whatever the case, at some point in your life, you got enjoyment from running.
I gave up on sports after high school. In my first year or two of university, I really wasn’t active at all. Sure, I went to a cardio kickboxing class at the gym once in a while, but I wasn’t active on a daily basis. It wasn’t until I met a few avid runners that I really got interested in running again. That was about 6 years ago. Since then, I’ve been a fair-weather runner. I’ve had phases where I really concentrated on improving my speed, endurance, and form, but I’d often fall off the wagon and not go running for weeks at a time. It’s only been in the last year that I’ve gotten into training and running to be a better runner, not just to be healthy. I’m definitely still in the beginning stages of my journey to be a better runner, but here are some things that have helped me to build a running routine in my life.
Use Mobile Apps
Some people probably think that using apps to record your runs can take the joy out of running. For me, it pushes me to run longer and encourages me to keep a steady pace. I use Strava to record my runs on my iPhone. It also allows me to follow friends, which encourages me to run more often. You can set it to update you every kilometre (or half kilometre) about your total distance, time, and pace.
Listen to Music or Podcasts
Lately, I’ve been leaning more towards listening to music on my runs. I feel like I run faster and have more willpower when listening to something upbeat. However, I used to exclusively listen to podcasts while running, and I feel that this gave me a good distraction while I was first getting into the habit. I do find I go a little slower when listening to podcasts. I’ve mentioned this many times on this blog, but Stuff You Should Know has been my favourite podcast for years. In terms of music, I’ve just thrown together a playlist of upbeat songs (in which Mother Mother are well represented).
My diet is very high carb in general. I don’t believe low-carb diets are healthy generally, but I really don’t believe that you should eat low carb if you are highly active. You need good fuel to perform at your best. In terms of meals, rice and potatoes are my staple starches. When it comes to snacks, bananas are always good before a run.
Concentrate on Endurance First
When I first started running 6 years ago, I began with a routine of two minutes of running and one minute of walking. I didn’t really pay attention to my overall speed and distance. Pretty quickly, I moved on to short runs without walking breaks, and now I can keep a pace that allows me to run longer distances without needing those breaks (though, my idea of a “longer distance” still isn’t that long — I’m working on it!).
My experience has been that when I worry about speed, I tire myself out and give up sooner, slowing down a lot towards the end. I’d rather learn to keep a steady pace that allows me to achieve a longer distance — that means still pushing yourself, just not to the point where you hit your limit. Of course, I’m no trainer and I’m no expert, but this is generally what has worked for me in terms of building a habit and a routine.
I’m bad at this, though I do notice I get less cramps if I try a few dynamic stretches before I head out, and I feel less sore the next day when I do some static stretches after my run. At a minimum, I try to do some walking lunges and side stretches before I start my run, then I’ll at least stretch out my quads, hamstrings, inner thighs, and calves when I finish (sometimes, I’ll just throw on a video like this one).
Treat it as a way to get Outside
Spring (in Canada at least) is a time when the weather can be beautiful, sunny, and warm one day, and freezing and snowing the next. When it’s nice out, I want to get outside, though I don’t necessarily have ideas for how to spend my time outdoors. On the other hand, I have to fight with myself to leave bed at times when the weather is not so great. In both of these scenarios, running is a good default way to spend time outdoors. I never have to think too hard about what to do to get outside, because running is just an easy excuse to get outdoors.
Plenty of travellers use running as a way to be active and to explore a new city or area. It’s a cool experience to run on a beach in Ecuador or through historic streets in Thailand. Just be sensible and stay safe wherever you are.
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Feature photo credit: Chanan Greenblatt