Inspiration for Tomorrow

how to be a runner

Keep going

I call myself a runner. It’s part of who I am, and if I were to need to describe myself in a few words, I’d be sure to put running on the short list. That wasn’t always the case though. Years ago I was not a runner. Oh I went running, sometimes a lot, sometimes not so much, sometimes a long way and sometimes just for a short jaunt, but there was something different about it and about me. So what is it that changed. What was the switch that got flicked to turn me from regular joe into Joe the Runner. If you ask me I don’t think that there was one.

When I began, as is the case with many, I ran to exercise. I ran because I knew it was good for me and I wanted the benefits of running. I read articles about running online and I did research on the best time to run, the best shoes to wear and even the right music to listen too. I did so many things that I no longer do that you might wonder if I got things mixed up. The answer is no, there is no mix-up, even when I seemed most outwardly dedicated and informed, when running was the topic of conversation most of the time (usually because I brought it up) I don’t think I was really a runner, maybe that was the first step and maybe I thought at the time that it was the case but looking back I would disagree with that young whippersnapper who had all the facts.

The truth was that most of the time I didn’t even look forward to a run very much, sometimes I dreaded going out and sometimes I even skipped a run in favor of a couch and the TV, though I kept going back out and I think ultimately that is what led to my self awarded title: Persistence. As time went on running just became part of my life, part of the routine of the day not something I had to schedule and plan for but just something I did. Whereas in the early days I might have eaten half a banana and a protein shake before my run I no longer worry about the “scientifically perfect formula” for what to eat but I know what works for me and what doesn’t. I’m not worried about looking the part because I know that I’m living the role, living the life of someone who runs. So you might ask what does a runner wear? Well a runner wears whatever I wear, because I’m a runner, and I don’t need flashy shoes or special shorts to prove that to the world, maybe that’s what I’ll wear because I like it or maybe not, its not what matters.

So what about running to get/stay healthy, I must need to plan out my mileage for the week and make sure not to do 2 long, hard runs back to back right? That’s a negative. That’s a short term mindset of someone who has a goal to get healthy from running and then stop once they reach their goal. The mindset of a runner is to go out there and just let loose on the pavement. There is no hidden agenda, there is no ulterior motive and there is no end goal, there is just going and doing it because it’s what you do. And guess what? When you run just because you get healthy, you get fit, it just naturally happens. It’s just a whole lifestyle change and it sort of irons things out, even if you eat a gallon of ice cream one day that is just a drop in the bucket compared the the miles you are putting down each day. It all just sort of smooths out over time.

So how do you become a runner? Well you’ve got to run and you’ve got to keep doing it and not give up until it becomes a part of you. So the real question is how can you keep motivated and not give up on the running? That is a tough one, how do we stay motivated to do anything really? For me it was just being motivated at the start and then just being too lazy to change my routine I guess, even though it sounds silly. Maybe I was always meant to do it, probably not though, it is more likely that running is something I picked up and haven’t been able to drop. So once you find that motivation to run hang on to it and remember that if you hang on long enough it will eventually work out.

Run with the Rising Sun

morning running

Photo: flickr

For me, nothing beats a run in the early morning. The dawn just breaking over the horizon, the world still quiet from the night and just beginning to come back to life. It is a peaceful time for me with a steady pace and footfall after footfall creating a soothing rhythm for the soul. It clears my head, wakes me up and gives me some time to be at peace before another hectic day begins. If you haven’t tried a wake up run I’d highly recommend it.

Not a Morning Person

To be honest, I’ve never been a morning person. I hated getting up and often found that when my alarm rang I wanted nothing more than to stay snug in my bed and I still had time for my running on my days off or after work. As time went on though, I found that I got busier and had less time to do the things I liked. I cut running down to infrequent jogs a few times a month at the gym and the odd nice weekend. Eventually I started to miss the feeling and the energy that I had when I was running regularly and I decided to make a change. I myself had taken to the internet to read about how other people had reinvigorated their passion and what I thought would work was the morning run. It took a few changes for me however to make it work. I decided to start going to bed earlier so that I could actually have the willpower to leave my bed an hour earlier each morning and hit the bricks but it worked. I think that now that I start my day by getting my blood pumping and my body moving I am much more productive and happy. There is something about the fresh morning air, still cool and calm from the night that just puts me in the right mindset to begin the day. In addition to being alert in the morning, it also gets me hungry and I really find that I savor and enjoy my breakfast so much when I come back home after working up a sweat. I really never realized how difficult mornings used to be for me until I made the change. I simply dreaded that half awake haze that waking up left me in, even if I had gotten more than enough sleep the night before; it put a cloud over my whole morning which sometimes bled through to the rest of the day. For me it is now a new way of life, not just because I love to run, but because of how the running makes me feel and how that feeling colors my entire day now.

My 30 Day Morning Run Challenge

If you’re like the old me that I described, I challenge you to try moving your runs to the morning for a month and see how you feel after those 30 days. Start slow and find a pattern that works for you. When to sleep, what to eat and where to run make a difference, so experiment and find what is the best fit for you. I did and I love it and it’s my hope that I can encourage more people to make the same amazing change that helped me love life even more.

You Can’t Run From the Law

running helped felix get his dream job as a police officerThey call it the long arm of the law because it will find criminals wherever they are, but in the real world it is a bit more practical to be quick on your feet if you want to apprehend the bad guys, and it turns out that is what some people are training for.

I heard a story recently about a man who became a police officer. You might not know exactly what is involved in becoming a police officer but a strenuous fitness test including running  is an important part of it. Felix, the man in question, had always wanted to be involved in the criminal justice system since he was young and an officer came to speak at his school about all the activities police are responsible for every day, helping the community and keeping people safe, I’m sure it is a goal that we all strive for.

However, as a teen, Felix had never been very active. One day during career week, he spoke with a councilor about his dream of becoming a police officer one day and luckily they passed along the importance of being physically fit and healthy and being able to pass that fitness test. On a recommendation, he joined the track and field team and began running. At first, like most of us, he wasn’t great and had a pretty tough time getting tired, sore and winded; it wasn’t much fun. Thankfully he had a good coach who was able to help motivate him to keep with it and give instructions on how to push the limits and get better, but slowly over time so that he didn’t get burned out.

Over a few years of track he made big improvements and became more confident and found running more enjoyable. After graduation he applied to a police academy in his area and passed the physical fitness test with flying colors thanks to all that training. He has graduated just this week, and thanks to his great test scores was scouted by a police department and will be starting his new career. He is committed to staying fit, as required by the department, and plans on keeping up his running to meet the goal.

I love seeing stories like this about how running improves peoples lives because it really makes me smile and keeps me motivated. I know that running isn’t for everyone but I think that if you are looking for an activity to help you get or stay in shape that you should at least give running a try. First of all, just about anyone can do it, you don’t need a special field or equipment, just a pair of shoes and the outdoors and that means it is cheap too. Though for most it is an acquired taste, it is one that a lot of people find and become passionate about just because of the way it makes them feel, whether it is the freedom, the sense of accomplishment, the exhaustion and rest or some other personal feeling it really does a lot, and it may even help you land your dream job.

Congratulations Felix!

Stay Safe for Summer Running

the sunThere’s nothing better than a nice sunny day to head outside for a good run. Something about being outside in the sun, doing something I love really gets me in a good mood and makes me more productive.

Running and exposure to the sun are two things that can really boost your mood. It is well known that exercise releases endorphins which make us happy and healthy. Along with that sunlight has a similar effect. Especially for those of us who might not get outside as much as we like. If you’ve heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, you know that in the colder months, people often don’t get outside and if they do usually they are bundled up, not letting any cold reach them, but also stopping sunlight from reaching their skin. This leads to depression and has other nasty side effects.

Although running in the bright sunlight has definite bonuses there are some things you need to watch out for as well. As always with running, be sure to listen to your body. If you start to develop a pain, like a grinding in your joints or a sharp pain anywhere in your body, stop immediately. Pains like this can develop for lots of reasons like having taken a misstep and strained a muscle or having an awkward gait which puts pressure on your joints. If you stop as soon as you notice these pains and give yourself plenty of time to rest and recuperate before your next run you may get away with very little problem. However, if you try to push through the pain you’ll end up with a real injury which will stay with you for days or weeks, causing every day walking around to be very painful. It is important to learn to recognize these types of sharp pain or joint pain and be able to discern them from regular muscle soreness or fatigue caused by cardiovascular exercise. It is great to push your boundaries by running past your comfort zone but it isn’t good to ignore your body when it is telling your something is seriously wrong.

The next thing to think about is the sun. While I’ve just said that there are benefits to being out in the sun it is also important to remember that there are dangers which you must look out for. A lot of people recognize the importance of sun protection like sunscreen and glasses when they head to the beach, but a lot of people forget that going out for an hour long run in the bright sun will get you just as burnt as an hour sitting on the beach. It is important to remember to use sunscreen when running as well as proper eye protection. Depending where you run, glare from things like car windshields and the like can get very frustrating if you are without sunglasses. Another issue I run into is that I have eye floaters which really become a problem when I am looking at a clear blue sky on a sunny day. Eye floaters are little black or clear dots or squiggly lines that show up in your vision and seem to move about your eye and get in front of anything you try to look at, as seen on SeeingBlackSpots. They can get really annoying and as I said can get even worse than usual on a clear, sunny day. Wearing sunglasses helps but I still find them frustrating and annoying to deal with sometimes.

The winter weather may keep us inside but I’m looking forward to spring and the chance to get out and hit the pavement in shorts and let the sun shine down on me. I hope to see you out there too, having fun and being safe in the sun.

Running Meditation – Find Your Zen

zen running

Source – Flickr

So what are your thoughts on running? When I was a beginner, doing track in high school I wasn’t’t really too jazzed about it. I was good at it and I liked running well enough but I never really got into the competition aspect of things, however the structure of being on a team and regular practice did give me an appreciation that I hadn’t had before for the simple and pure enjoyment that can come from a good run. To me time spent running can be like meditation, while my legs run across the ground my mind runs free as well. Thoughts come and go, sometimes I think about nothing at all, and the only real thing I need to do is put one foot in front of the other. That peace and calmness that can be found, in the midst of such strenuous physical activity is quite remarkable.

I don’t always manage to find that state when I go out and hit the pavement, but there are something that I find help me along the way.

Run Somewhere Calm and Quiet

Finding a quiet path, a route taking side streets or an empty gym can help keep a clear head by avoiding distractions. It is not the same as daydreaming and it is important to watch where you are going as I’m sure those of us who run know from the experience of a rolled ankle or some other injury, but the calmer the surrounding the less there is to distract from the mind.

The Morning Run

As I wrote earlier, going out for an early run is a great way to start the day. The low light of the dawn is somehow more relaxing than any other time of day and things aren’t’t as busy. Also the daily distractions haven’t started to pop up and cloud your head. Whatever it is, the dawns light, the somehow clearer air or some magic spell left from the night, running in the morning helps me find that meditative state.

Refuse Distraction

Like traditional meditation, you choose a specific time to practice your art and put all other problems from your mind, taking some time for yourself to focus on finding a Zen state. Don’t let those thoughts of problems, deadlines or other issues invade your mind. Take time to de-stress and focus on yourself, after all any problems you have to deal with will still be there for you to think about when your run is finished and sometimes taking a break and coming back can help you find solutions.

Music: The Choice is Yours

Since the Walkman first came out, people have been listening to music while they run. If you’re looking to find a meditative state during your run, the choice of music will need to fit your tastes. Everyone has different tastes and different experiences with music. Find something that you can zone out to, with a good cadence for keeping your feet moving and that you will enjoy. If you prefer to not listen to anything that is fine too, however in a loud area like a city lots of distracting noises can really be a problem, but in a quieter location it can be a great choice.

At first you might not see how running and sweating could be a relaxing activity, especially if you start with the goal of losing weight and not with such a natural progression like I did being a natural runner from a young age. As you improve your technique and learn to enjoy running you can find the groove that will take you to that peaceful place where you can get in the zone and go for miles without a thought in your head.