I love running. Wait, that’s a lie. I love running after I’ve finished my run. I also love it during those periods where I get my runner’s high, usually around the 30 minute mark, but often it happens multiple times after that point. I don’t love running when I’m contemplating going for a run. There are rare occasions where I’m just itching to go for a run, but usually I’m only able start a run by forcibly suppressing the compelling rationalizations that my brain develops. My brain is really good at finding reasons not to run. One trick that seems to work is to tell my brain that I have the right to turn around when I get to the mailbox at the end of the driveway. Of course, once I’ve done the mechanics of getting my shoes and starting, I never turn around. My brain is so gullible.
I also don’t love my run during the first 10 to 15 minutes. Those are always a struggle. Always. Stretching beforehand makes it less of a struggle, but I hate stretching, so I rarely do that. I have a few techniques to get myself through the beginnings of my runs.
- Count: Just count from 1 to 100. Once you get to a hundred, start over. This one works the best. That’s why it’s first!
- Mantra: Repeat a mantra to yourself. My favorites are: Keep covering ground (inspired by my favorite running book, Once a Runner) and Just keep swimming
- Food: Start thinking about what I’m going to eat after the run. OK, this rarely helps, but I can’t stop thinking about it.
- Slow: If I’m really feeling sluggish, then I force myself to slow down. As I’ve mentioned before, running slow is probably the most important running technique I have. It’s counter-intuitive, but it always work. Running slower than I think I should always makes the run go faster than I thought it would.
- Shorten: Shorten your stride. I aim to get 3 strides per second, which seems really quick to me. In order to do that I shorten my stride. I think most runners would benefit from a shorter stride. It automatically improves your form.
Basically, all of these are tricks to get your mind to focus on something else besides the pain of the run. One thing that also helps is to listen to music or podcasts. It works by the same principle of getting your mind off the pain, but I found that my best runs were always the ones where I left the iPod at home. It certainly makes the beginning of the run harder, but it frees my brain up to really listen to my body. I would otherwise find myself adjusting my pace to the beat of the music, rather than to the pace that my body naturally wanted to go. I also tend to have my deepest thoughts (don’t laugh!) when I’m running and having music pumped in would drown those out. I consider it my meditation practice, since I suck at real meditation. Finally, it’s a safety issue. When running in the woods, you never know what kind of creature will attack:
Take my advice for what it’s worth… running advice from a part-time runner who is slower than molasses. I’d love to hear any other running tricks you have!