I hate running. There—I said it. I have never liked it. Maybe it goes back to the time I passed out in elementary school after attempting to run six hundred meters as part of a physical fitness test. Or maybe it is because I find it boring. Whatever the reasons are, I hate it. But… I do it anyway. Why? Because when it comes to fitness, you should always do more of what you dislike in order to get better at it. I hate pull-ups, deadlifts and overhead squats, but I do them because I know they are good for me. And that is why I run despite my extreme dislike for it.
A few years ago for reasons I am still not sure of, I decided to run a 5K for the very first time. I did not train for it one bit. I just wanted to see if I could do it. My goal was merely to finish the race without passing out or dying at the finish line. Well, I did it, but it was not pretty. I learned that you need to know how to run in order to tackle long distances (yes, 3.1 miles was long for me). While my cardiovascular endurance for the 36 plus minutes it took me to finish was fine, the side stitches that hit me after mile one did me in and slowed me down. So for the following year’s race, I did my homework and read about side stitches and breathing techniques. My time was better and what I learned worked.
This year I ran it again. I got my best time yet and completed it without one side stitch. After years of trying, I finally ran the entire 5K without having to stop, walk or take a break. A recent obstacle race had me running yet again for three miles, and I was okay. Do I like running now? Absolutely not. But, being more proficient at it has helped me dislike it a little less. Here are some tips that might help you run a little better or, at the very least, make you hate it a bit less too:
Take it slow. Running is not sprinting. If you are new to running, find a pace that is manageable for you and not what you see someone else doing. I began on a treadmill at four miles per hour and slowly worked my way up to quicker speeds.
Run in intervals. Running requires a lot of cardiovascular endurance because the goal is to be able to do it for a while. Try alternating between walking for a minute and then running for a minute. If a minute is too long to run, do it for thirty seconds and work up to longer intervals that have you running more and walking less.
Always wear running shoes: Not all sneakers are created for running. If you are wearing a pair that is not conducive for running, you run the risk of injury (no pun intended). The last thing you want to do is hurt yourself by not having good support or the right treads—especially if you are running outside. There is a reason they make sneakers specifically for running.
Watch your breathing: Interestingly enough, many people breathe to the pace of their feet when they run. This is what caused my dreaded side stitches—improper breathing. Breathe using regular breaths without going to the beat of your feet, so to speak. Periodically, take a deep breath in through your nose and a big exhale out of your mouth. This will help get your breathing under control.
Listen to your favorite music: I always find it better and more enjoyable to run while listening to music. It distracts me from the act of running and makes the time go by quicker. Sometimes, it even motivates me when one of my favorite songs comes on my iPod. Create a playlist that will keep you going.
Know when to stop: It is one thing to push yourself past your comfort zone to get to a set distance or time, but it is another to push yourself into pain or injury. If you begin experiencing any aches and pains, back off from your running. Shin splints, knee pain and chest pain are all signs that you need to take it easy—even if that means taking a break from running.
Sign up for a race. There is no better way to see how you have progressed than signing up for a local race. It can be a 5K or even just a one-mile run. This can be a gauge as to how you are doing in terms of your pace and how you feel while running. It also gives you a goal to focus on so that your running is for a purpose other than better health.
Even though I still despise running, I do it and find that I burn more calories when I do because my body is not accustomed to doing it all the time. It also improves my cardiovascular capacity since I tend to do short bursts of cardio rather than long bouts of it. When all is said and done, you do not have to like every exercise out there, but staying away from the ones you dread the most is limiting your potential and opportunity to be in the best shape of your life. You do not have to become a marathoner or even run every day, but it should be a part of your routine. Remember, you want to make sure that you have a well-rounded fitness program that focuses on strength, speed and stamina. And running can definitely help with that!