I should clarify a couple of things.
I am training for a 5k, However, I don’t have any plans to run in an actual race. But, who knows.
That leads to the second important piece of information; for most of my life I have had a love|hate relationship with running.
Okay, that is a lie. Let me try again.
For all my life I have had a hate|hate relationship with running.
It began in primary school. They held an end of the year track meet for some of the grades in our school. In both fourth and fifth grade my event in these meets, was the third leg of the ‘slow relay.’ This was the days before political correctness and they actually called it that. At least they didn’t call it the “fat kids who can’t run relay.”
Since then, when I’ve run, it has been because I have to. For example, in high school I was rehabbing my ankle; on our first trip to Ireland, I wanted to be able to drink Guinness without gaining weight.
Otherwise, I’ve avoided jogging as much as possible.
Now cycling, I love.
Last November I was able to buy my first bike in Ireland, and began cycling again. Several month in, I began noticing two things.
First, I wasn’t losing weight regardless of the fact that I was biking several hours per week. Also, I felt like I’d plateaued a bit. I was going faster or further.
While thinking about this, a couple of months ago, I saw an article on the New York Times website that heralded the benefits of running 5 minutes per day. It stated, “the benefits of even small amounts of vigorous exercise may be much greater than experts had assumed.”
So I figured as much as I hate running, I can do 5 minutes per day. And I could use some health benefits. So I started.
Here are the top 5 (in no apparent order):
1) The importance of doing something…
Start small…but start.
Although I could cycle 40 K, with moderate effort, on day one of running, I could not run 5 minutes without stopping.
At the end of one week I was running 10 minutes without stopping. Now it’s around 20. I had no intention about going beyond 5 minutes when I began, but the impact of running that short amount encouraged me to do more.
Waiting until I could run 5 minutes consecutively before starting would have been ridiculous.
The start was not all that exciting, but it was something to build upon.
2) Don’t be in a hurry.
My efforts to exercise have been frustrated by injuries. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realised that many of those injuries were caused by attempting to do too much, too soon. That lead to strains, and sprains, both of which kept me from building on what I’d begun. That kept me from exercising for a period of time, and when I felt better, the momentum was gone and it became easy to push it off into the future. (“I haven’t run for 4 weeks…what’s one more day?”)
This time, when I’d finish a run and realise, “I think I can do more.” I decided to not risk pushing myself to the point where I could do too much, and two months in, no injuries.
Just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean it will have a long term benefit. Be willing to forgo small, quick success in exchange for the long view is important.
3) I need someone or something to push me.
In the first month I went from not being able to run 5 consecutive minutes to running 20 minutes non-stop.
A month after that, I still was running 20 minutes…or sometimes only 15.
I do not know enough about running to figure out how to get to the next level. So I decided to train for a 5K race. I have no interest in actually running one but I believed the process of having a goal would be helpful. (I know for some people, unless there is a definite goal “I am actually running a 5K,” the process becomes more difficult to follow through on. For me, once I commit to the process I feel a sense of responsibility to finish it.)
I use a fitness app I use on my phone called Runkeeper. One of its features is that it has outlined various programs to accomplish specific goals. So I signed up for the “Run a 5K” program.
I’m still only on week two (of nine), but when I look ahead at the distance I am supposed to be running in about 3 weeks from now it seems unrealistic. And I am certain that I would have never gone there on my own.
Now it is a goal I’ve committed to, so I’m going to try.
In doing something I haven’t done before, I don’t really know where the next steps are. So, having someone with knowledge of the process is necessary to move forward..
4) Attacking a problem head on is not always the best way to beat it.
During the first month of running, I barely rode my bike at all. I just ran.
The training program I’m going through now includes cross training activities, which for me has been cycling. As you’d might guess, after 4 weeks of running, I’m cycling faster with less effort. This morning I cycled to the Howth summit and did it faster, and in a higher gear than I’d ever done (I even passed several other cyclists which felt really good:-)
This has been a good reminder that sometimes the best way to improve in one area is not to simply keep doing it over and over. But rather find something that will bring improvement in a related area.
5) Specific Goals are important to move forward.
While a 5 K is not an actually goal of mine, working towards it is helping with a goal I do have.
I turn 50 in less than 2 years. My goal has been to cycle across Ireland (Dublin to Galway) on my birthday that year. (Okay, probably over 2 days). Two months ago that seemed unreachable. Now, next summer seems pretty realistic.
Anyone up for a trip across Ireland next summer?
(The main image is a picture of Howth from our neighbourhood. The second is of Dublin from Howth.)