Friday, February 1, 2013

How to Run Farther

Note I am not a doctor, and I’m not suggesting that you should run beyond your abilities.  I’m going to get that out there up front.  No, what I’m really talking is how to keep yourself motivated on longer runs. 

For about the past five years, I have been a treadmill runner.  Until last year running with Brandon Satrom and a few other folks at That Conference, I had never run outside with people (with the exception of outdoor races).  That experience opened my eyes to running outside, and through the summer and fall, I ran outside and loved it.

A brief history of running outside makes running on the treadmill boring.  I don’t even look around when I’m running outside, so  I figured I’d never have that issue.  But I do now.  This winter has really ramped down the temperature, and I haven’t been able to run outside for a couple months.  I've had trouble since 2013 started with even running my typical 5k.

I’ve had to really push myself in the past few weeks, and wanted to summarize what helps keep me running, even when early morning tiredness has me wanting to stop.  Or I just feel tired.  Or my feet kinda hurt.   Here are my top tips for running through it: 

Throw yourself at the treadmill and miss

Get distracted.  This is my number one strategy for running farther.  If for any reason I start thinking about running, the act of running, my body aches while running or anything in any way related to how far I've gone and how far I need to go, I get tired.  Even when trying to motivate myself with distances or speeds.  If I want to run a longer distance, I need to get distracted.  

This comes from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, where all you had to do to fly was "throw yourself at the ground, and miss."  The key to missing the ground was to get distracted just before impact, and your body would just hover there.  Getting distracted and keeping your mind off your run can allow you to run longer than you'd expect.

Use the smaller lap indicator on the treadmill

This is equivalent to the “set smaller goals” method of goal achievement.  Don’t focus on the two and a half miles you have left to run.  Focus on that little treadmill animation that marks off tenths of a mile, or quarters of a mile.  If you’re running around 6 miles an hour, each quarter mile only takes 2.5-3 minutes, and having smaller, shorter goals can really help keep you on track.  One other neat thing to do is to run each of those units at a different speed.  Run at 6.2 miles per hour, then slow down to 5.8 miles per hour to “rest”.  Varying the speed can provide distraction.  See "Throw yourself at the treadmill" above.

Don’t let your body get you down

You may feel something pulling or hurting and this may have you wanting to stop.  I’ve had a lot of mornings like this.  My calf isn’t feeling so good, I think.  It’s going to cramp later.  My tush hurts.  Often this is just me looking for an excuse to stop.  The way that I get through this is to try to find distraction anywhere to take my mind off the little complaints.  If things persist, I will stop, but I know myself, and I can often go well past where I feel small discomforts.  This is again where I have to claim not to be a doctor.  Only you can draw the line for yourself what feels like real pain and what feels like you can push through.  Distraction is key.

Make sure your random music tracks are on point. 

If, like me, you listen to music as you run, this may be important.  I don’t listen to the same set of songs every day, or even the same artist.  I have music that I like and that motivates me saved up in a playlist of “running songs”.  I usually randomize those so that each run is different.  Because each song can be 3-9 minutes long (Master of Puppets, I’m looking at you!), one random song that you don’t like will tank a half mile of enthusiasm, and that can tank your run.  Solution: pare down your playlist to those songs that really get you.  When you find one that doesn’t work for you, remove it with prejudice.  What you want are your most distracting motivational songs.  Only. 

Slow down

If you’re really tired and feel like you can’t keep running, slow down.  Some days you just can’t keep the pace you want.  Some days you start out feeling like the rabbit, but you wear out quickly.  Even better to start out running slower than you think you need to and ramp up the speed.  Remember, if you can’t run one day at your target pace, it’s not as if you’re not running at all.  You’re still running more than the average person.

Don’t stop

Last thing you want to do is stop and walk.  I see this in a lot of 5k races.  I’ve had to do it in 5k races myself.  If you’re committed to finishing the 5k because you’ve started, you’ve got a fixed distance to go, and if you keep running, you’ll get there faster.  Most likely you won’t feel any better walking, and it’s so difficult to get running again after you stop.  See "Slow down" above.

Check your output levels

I don’t know if this happens to everyone, but I thought I’d share.  Sometimes once the cardio system wakes up, the digestive system wants in on the party.  If this happens to you, consider warming up and ensuring you won’t have any … interruptions.

Well, that's my tips.  Feel free to share yours!

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