Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Running and Breathing; Getting Started in Running

Over the weekend a friend of mine who just started running asked me why he has so much trouble getting past the two mile mark. He explained that more than anything else it was his breathing that was holding him back. Naturally, I began to offer some advice and also, naturally, I started going off on running related tangents left and right! So I quickly ended the discussion by telling him that I would send him an email with tips, links, etc ...He readily accepted because he realized that I could have gone on and on and on! This post is a sketch of an introduction to running...

I was a beginner runner about 8 years ago. Before I started running, I was 30 lbs heavier, smoked quite a bit, drank my fair share of alcohol and did not care to much about eating healthy. I should disclose that I was in college at that point so all that "partying" was in some sort of context. I never ran track or ran with a running group or club so I have had no formal running training or any source of motivation besides myself. I played baseball and soccer through high school and my Dad has been a runner since before I was born. My Mom used to own and operate a Diet Center and she has always been into maintaining a relatively healthy diet. My parents instilled a health conscious mindset in me which I did not know was there until my early twenties... I thank them dearly for it!  In 2002 my grandfather was suffering from strokes which eventually ended his life in 2003. I started to become more health conscious. I watched what I ate, drank and smoked. I started running... Probably not in the healthiest way (I would sometimes smoke weed and then go for a run!), but I started out by logging about 2-3 miles along the Potomac River trail in Washington DC (just below Georgetown). I would throw on my headphones and just cruise along the path with no concern of my pace or really how far I was going. After a couple of months, my curiosity started to kick in and I wanted to see how much farther down (or is it up?) the Potomac River I could make it.

My Dad provided me with the only two pieces of running advice I had prior to beginning to run and they turned out to be the two most crucial pieces of running advice I can offer. The first is pace yourself and the second is breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. To me these two rules are the foundation of becoming a successful runner. As you run more and more you will learn how to build on those two elements.

As you are working through your first month of running I would focus on things other than the running itself. After all, running is a natural thing! It is part of human evolution! You have all of the equipment you need... your body! There has been quite a bit of discussion about barefoot and/or minimalist-shoe running lately in the running community (check out this ARTICLE from RUNNING TIMES). If you're just starting out, it would serve you well to read up on some of the research and discussions that have been going on. So now that, you're ready to step out for your first run, focus on the fact that just by moving your body you are covering some significant distance. The human body is an amazing machine and the resilience of your own body will amaze you. Focus on the nature around you, focus on moving with whatever music you're listening to or listen to your body move. This focus will help you find your natural desire to run.

To me, the most rewarding thing about running is overcoming a challenge. This doesn't mean that running is always a struggle... far from it! Challenges are the beauty of running and this will translate to all areas of your life. I always remind myself to "love the struggle". When you embrace your challenges you will overcome them. "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."

As you work your way through your first month, SLOWLY build on your runs. Try a hilly-er route or try to doing a short sprint. The key to improving your running is to vary your runs. Check out this exceptional BEGINNERS RUNNING GUIDE from the training plan master, Hal Higdon.

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