"Let’s start from the very beginning…"
When Julie Andrews sang those words in The Sound of Music 50 years ago, she must not have been referring to the approach that so many people adopt in the year 2015.
Put the phrase ‘instant gratification’ into Google and you will see plenty of articles that talk about the impact the online world has on our expectations. Our expectation to be able to receive, see and hear things at the click of a finger. Because of this ‘now culture’, we often place challenging demands on our bodies and minds when it comes to our fitness goals. We try to jam in so much far too quickly, harshly judge ourselves when we miss a training session, critique ourselves against others, and loose sight of the most empowering part – the process.
Ernest Hemingway said, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
I am not an angel when it comes to this. Like many runners, I am often impatient when it comes to having adequate recovery periods between hard training sessions and big races. When I put my mind toward wanting to achieve something, I am like a woman in front of a bar of chocolate – I want to eat the whole thing at once, without pausing between pieces.
Over time and through discovering the hard way, I have realised a smart sustained strategy is crucial when it comes to running. This applies to someone training for a 3km to a 160km run.
For this reason, I want to take you back to the fundamentals of running with five key take aways:
1. Create a goal for why you want to be running:
Everyone’s reason for starting their running journey is different. So whatever it is, I want you to first write that down - e.g. I want to complete a 5km parkrun
Some people will tell you that you need to be specific with your goal, such as have a time associated with it. For sure, if you have one write it down, but I don’t think it is crucial and we are not all wired to want to complete something within a time frame.
What is crucial in my opinion is identifying the feeling you hope to have by completing the goal. That feeling is the longterm motivator more than anything else. Simply ask yourself, what do you want to feel by completing that 5km run?
2. Put together a plan on how you want to get there
Beyond the idea of a goal is committing to a plan that moves you toward it. Following the KISS principle works best for me:
- Give yourself enough time
- Take into consideration the other priorities in your life (work, family, other hobbies, etc)
- Realistically consider your past experience and current fitness level
Although you may be pumped to quickly push towards your goal, it is ALWAYS best to gradually build up your mileage and intensity!
3. Keep yourself accountable
Things outside of our fitness goals sometimes impact the plan we have put together. Sometimes we just need to accept that we can’t fit everything in that we want; other times we need the assistance of others to keep us on track.
I am a big fan of training with other people! Most of my long weekend runs are with friends. Not only do I now consider these runs part of my social life, but also I rarely miss these sessions as I am committing to other people. Other ways of keeping accountable are having a coach, joining a running group or sharing your progress with your friends and online community.
4. Listen to your body
Be willing to deviate from your plan if you are genuinely feeling fatigued. Constantly pushing your body at all costs is not a great way of making physical and mental gains. Listening, responding and adjusting to what your body is saying is one of the greatest skills you can develop.
5. Variety and fun is the spice of life
Although running is my core focus, I have noticed I am happier, fitter and healthier when I also commit to my practice in yoga, strength & conditioning, and MTB training. Balance is crucial and the body appreciates the natural rests it receives when you work other muscles through different activity.
These are great principles to keep in mind when starting your running practice. Be on the lookout for Part 2 of my Beginner’s Guide to Running, where I’ll share more explicit details on reaching your running goals!