4 Steps to Enjoy Running Again

I’m learn­ing a lot from my two daugh­ters, and not just because they share facts every day that I didn’t know (Did you know that the Cal­en­dula flower helps cuts heal faster?). I’m also learn­ing about life and run­ning by observ­ing them at play.

My girls are quite active. They can be seen most of the day run­ning through the back­yard and house. As I watched my three-year-old daugh­ter run and leap across the front lawn the other day, I was struck by her huge smile. She was hav­ing a com­plete blast. You’ve seen the same look on your own face in pho­tos from your child­hood. Remem­ber how good it felt to just let loose and run? There’s so much love for life spread across a child’s face when they run. It’s as if the mere act of run­ning is delight­ful. What a concept!

00000123780b4d61a9dbe1e4007f000000000001.Coralyne%20Running%20 %20Cropped%20Smaller 4 Steps to Enjoy Running AgainI real­ized that the emo­tions I too often expe­ri­ence while run­ning are closer to those that my daugh­ters have when they are asked to stop and do their chores. How could some­thing so enjoy­able turn into such a drudgery?

It wasn’t that long ago run­ning was play for me. I remem­ber some very fun runs in col­lege. One of the best expe­ri­ences came while I was study­ing abroad in France. While on a week­end visit to Zer­matt, Switzer­land, I spent an after­noon run­ning down the moun­tain­side below the Mat­ter­horn. I tore down the hill, launch­ing myself into the air like a moun­tain goat and dart­ing in between the trees like a deer. I must have had a smile on my face from ear to ear. So what happened?

Well, the pres­sures of life pulled me away from run­ning, or so the excuse goes. When I did run, I ran harder and fur­ther to make up for what I hadn’t done – a sure recipe for dis­as­ter. I’d overdo it and hate how I felt. It wasn’t long before I began to lament run­ning the same way I did get­ting a wis­dom tooth pulled. It was some­thing I had to do, but sure hurt like hell.

The good news is that I was able to fig­ure out how to regain some of that inner joy from run­ning. I thought I’d share some of my learn­ings that helped put a smile back on my face while I run.

  1. Inte­grate Fun: First and fore­most, focus on hav­ing fun. For many peo­ple this is accom­plished by train­ing with a friend. For oth­ers, it’s all about hav­ing a spiffy new out­fit. For me, it was the com­bi­na­tion of lis­ten­ing to new music, run­ning in nature, and fin­ish­ing each run with a deli­cious espresso. Take a moment and jot down the things you really enjoy and brain­storm how you can include some of them into your run­ning rou­tine.
    » Incor­po­rate plea­sur­able activities.
  2. Walk and Run: My mom was an active woman, but about as far from being a run­ner as you could get. I was shocked to learn that she had begun train­ing for the LA Marathon, and then went on to com­plete it. She did it through a com­bi­na­tion of run­ning and walk­ing. At first, I must admit, I thought this wasn’t really run­ning a marathon. After all, if you walk, you’re not run­ning, right? Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. Start­ing out with a walk/run plan enabled me to take it slowly enough for my body to regain the strength and agility it needed to run well. I began by keep­ing my heart rate between 65 and 85% of my max­i­u­mum heart rate. This kept me from over­do­ing it, which helped me con­tinue to have fun.
    » Focus on a long-term goal, swal­low­ing your ego for a bit.
  3. Make a Plan: Stud­ies have shown that peo­ple are more likely to com­plete a task when they out­line specif­i­cally what they need to do and when they are going to do it. I used the Smart­Coarch on Runner’s World’s web­site to cre­ate my own cus­tomized train­ing plan based on my cur­rent speed plus the date and dis­tance of my next race. How­ever you cre­ate your plan, make sure to inte­grate it into your daily cal­en­dar and print it out so you can check off what you accom­plish each day.
    » Plan for success.
  4. Track Your Progress: When you’re out there sev­eral days a week, it can be hard to notice your improve­ments. You need to track and log your progress so you can look back and see how much you’ve improved over the weeks and months. There are a num­ber of ways you can get data on your run. I used a Garmin GPS watch and heart-rate mon­i­tor. That way I was could see that my heart rate slowly went down over the weeks while my dis­tance increased. You can use low-tech tech­niques as well. Sim­ply use a local track or run along the same route and use your watch to see how far you go in a set amount of time. The main thing is to cap­ture some data so you can see your improve­ment over time.
    » Use met­rics to mon­i­tor and moti­vate yourself.

These are four of the things that helped me enjoy run­ning once again. Give them a try and see if they work for you as well.

Keep in mind that too much pres­sure can lead to stress and kill the fun. So check back in with your­self from time to time. If you haven’t been smil­ing on a run recently,  it’s time to switch things up. You may just need to ditch every­thing you’ve been told and lis­ten to your inner child.

What do you think?

  • When was the last time you found your­self smil­ing on a run?
  • What have you found works to bring the joy back to running?
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  • http://www.heroicdestiny.com David Cran­dall

    I thought these were really good tips. You would think that it was obvi­ous that I was doing num­ber 4 actively, but all I’ve really done is com­pared cur­rent to my mem­ory of the last few runs.

    I’m curi­ous as to what watch you use. Pros/cons?

  • http://twitter.com/davidcrandall David Cran­dall

    I thought these were really good tips. You would think that it was obvi­ous that I was doing num­ber 4 actively, but all I’ve really done is com­pared cur­rent to my mem­ory of the last few runs.

    I’m curi­ous as to what watch you use. Pros/cons?

  • Clyn­ton

    Hi David, It nice to get spe­cific data on runs, as it helps me see that I’m mak­ing progress when I didn’t think I was. My sis­ter bought me the Garmin 305 and I love it. There are some newer mod­els out there that aren’t as klunky and look nicer, but the 305 gives me alti­tude, heart rate, dis­tance, every­thing that I would want. Nice to be able to upload onto Google Maps and Earth, too.

    My friend has Polar and likes it. And I know folks who use an app on their iphone to track dis­tance. They lack the heart rate info, though. I haven’t tried any­thing other than the Garmin, so can’t really talk about pros and cons other than the 305 works just fine for me.

  • Clyn­ton

    Hi David, It nice to get spe­cific data on runs, as it helps me see that I’m mak­ing progress when I didn’t think I was. My sis­ter bought me the Garmin 305 and I love it. There are some newer mod­els out there that aren’t as klunky and look nicer, but the 305 gives me alti­tude, heart rate, dis­tance, every­thing that I would want. Nice to be able to upload onto Google Maps and Earth, too.

    My friend has Polar and likes it. And I know folks who use an app on their iphone to track dis­tance. They lack the heart rate info, though. I haven’t tried any­thing other than the Garmin, so can’t really talk about pros and cons other than the 305 works just fine for me.

  • Vida

    I just received my heart rate mon­i­tor in the mail today! Now my ques­tion is where should I keep my heart rate when I exercise?

  • http://www.runningquest.net Clyn­ton

    Great! Now go to the Mayo Clinic’s web­site (http://bit.ly/dAFIOi) — link also in #2 above — and enter your age. It will tell you your tar­get heart rate range. You can then set your HRM to beep when you hit the high end of the range so you know when to slow down and walk, and then set it to beep for the low end of the range, so you know when to start run­ning again. Good luck! The main thing is to be patient and lis­ten to your body (and the HRM).

  • http://www.runningquest.net Clyn­ton

    Great! Now go to the Mayo Clinic’s web­site (http://bit.ly/dAFIOi) — link also in #2 above — and enter your age. It will tell you your tar­get heart rate range. You can then set your HRM to beep when you hit the high end of the range so you know when to slow down and walk, and then set it to beep for the low end of the range, so you know when to start run­ning again. Good luck! The main thing is to be patient and lis­ten to your body (and the HRM).

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