…about running! More specifically, the things I’ve learned in the past year, when I took on running as a full-time hobby. In no particular order, here they are:
– Your mind is your #1 frenemy. If you can harness it to work for you, awesome! But sometimes your brain will sabotage you every which way. I feel like the most valuable training runs have been those that have challenged me mentally/emotionally.
– Walk the thin line between listening to advice and giving in to “conventional wisdom”. No need to re-invent the wheel, but it’s good to occasionally challenge the status quo. Example: every sports nutritionist and running website out there recommends ~12-16 ounces of water per hour of running. Maybe my physiology is whack or maybe the Bay Area climate is cooler than most, but I drink 4-6 oz per hour, max. When I’ve tried to drink more, I get cramps.
– Related: differentiate between substance and hype. Things that work: foam rolling and cross-training. Jury is still out on: chocolate milk and fad diets. Be wary of product giveaways that suddenly appear all over the running blog-o-sphere with 100% positive reviews. Think to yourself: when was the last time I felt so enthusiastic about a pair of socks/fanny pack/granola bar? Moreover: do I trust this person’s opinion? Do they ever offer any criticisms?
– There will always be another run, another training cycle, and another race. Putting too much pressure on any one event (or set of events) will only work to suck the joy out of running.
– Warming up and cooling down are underrated. Back when I used to run 3 miles at a time, doing warm-ups and cool-downs seemed silly. But as I worked my way up to longer runs, I saw the benefits of running a bit slower on either end of a workout. I don’t always cool-down, but I usually start off with an easier mile these days. I also do some dynamic stretching while waiting for my Garmin to find the satellite.
– Everyone is different. What works for me may not work for anyone else, whether that’s stretching, running in minimalist shoes, or not eating before a run. It might take a while to find your running niche, but once you figure it out, it’s pretty cool.
– There’s no such thing as slow. OK, obviously, that’s not true in a literal sense, but for every super slow run I go on, I have to remember a few things. One, at least I can run! There have been times in my life where I couldn’t run due to injury, and there are many people with permanent disabilities that prevent them from running. Two, speed is relative. I was always the slowest runner in gym class and on my high school soccer team. I’m happy to say that I can run much faster now, even on my slowest days. Three, I think everyone should get a high-five for just getting out the door. Overcoming inertia is a big deal!
– You’ll never know unless you try. You just might surprise yourself. A year ago, I would’ve never predicted that I’d be able to run a 5K in under 27 minutes, that I’d come in first in my age group at a 10K, or that I’d run a marathon in the torrential rain and finish with a smile on my face. Racing is awesome that way… though the surprises may not always be so positive. Luckily, I haven’t had any truly unfortunate racing incidents yet (knock on wood!).
– When you gotta go, you gotta go. Two words: no shame. And I’ll leave it at that.
Those are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned in the past year, and I’m sure I still have plenty to learn in the road ahead. What lessons have you learned as a runner?