3 Ways to Happier Running
In setting out to share my “rules for running,” my first thought was, “there are no rules!” But, let me explain. I think there are as many ways to get from A to B (literally, figuratively) as there are people on this planet. What works for me, might not work for you—and vice versa.
That said, here are some basic tenets I have found to be true-ish for me as I’ve tried to balance a full-time job, training, and the ever-important social life.
No Plan? No Problem
We’ve all had those days; a run turns to a jog, turns to a shuffle, turns to a walk, turns to a stop and stretch, turns to a “well, this isn’t what I had planned!” I’ve learned to embrace those days. And it’s one reason I take training day by day. Some days, I’m too exhausted by COB to attempt that hard workout I had in mind. Other days, adrenaline unexpectedly spikes as I’m leaving the office and I feel like I could break a world record (or, at least a PB—you know the feeling).
Capitalizing on these ebbs and flows is critical for me as I balance full-time work and high-volume training. It helps stave off fatigue, my worst enemy—and keeps each day exciting. It also gives me flexibility to make game-time decisions about how to spend limited free-time; e.g., delay or forgo an evening run in favor of a last-minute happy hour or finishing up something at work.
Minutes over Miles
Full schedules often mean we might have 30 minutes here or there to squeeze in a run. Depending on the day, the actual distance covered in 30 minutes can vary greatly. Measuring runs in minutes instead of miles is a practical solution in the face of time constraints. It also helps shift the focus off pace, and more onto how we feel.
In High School, I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I ran as fast as I could for as long as I could, until I needed to slow down or stop. This actually laid the groundwork for a future in running by feel. My collegiate coach, the Legendary Gary Wilson, used “perceived exertion” as the metric; we ran by feel and modified on the fly. With the acclaimed Dennis Barker, the intended training effect is paramount, and how you achieve that is personal.
For me, pace and mileage are secondary to Time-on-Feet. The important thing is to get out the door, spend time on my feet, and move at whatever pace feels right for my mind and body on that day.
Think Outside the (shoe)box
I think we all agree that running is the best sport (hold the hate mail, please). That said, being creative with exercise helps prevent burn-out and injury—and gives us options under extreme weather conditions (not that we get any of that here in Minne). It can even add motivation and purpose to running (think: suddenly, you want to be fit for ski season, or that 14k summit!).
Indeed, most of us probably came to running through other sports. Revisit those, and try new ones. For example, I don’t like weight lifting at a gym. Instead, I rock climb and take fitness classes. Not a member of gym? There are a number of donation-based studios in the metro where you pay by the session, any amount you choose.
We can also be creative in where and why we run. Every so often, run in new places, on new terrain, try a new race or distance—heck, sometimes I even run to the grocery store or climbing gym (or, much to the amusement of my co-workers, happy hour).
So, in running, I am all about that one quote/adage:
“Do what makes you happy—and do more of that.”
Chances are, if you’re happy while you’re training, you will keep doing it. If you keep doing it, you will likely improve. The best part? You make the rules; “how” you do is up to you.
What are your “rules” for staying happy while you train?