The running community is a lot like a cult, and that’s not just because its members wear unusual clothing and drink strangely colored beverages. The spiteful non-running majority just doesn’t seem willing embrace our pastime. This does not make them bad people, however, just ignorant ones. Anyone can enjoy running; it’s just a matter of motivation and attitude. Whether you’re getting started or just looking to improve your experience, here are some insider tips:
1. Do an actual workout
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be training for the Olympics to throw a few workouts into your training schedule. Too often folks just decide to simply go out and run. Not only is this a boring option, but it also an inefficient way to build your speed and stamina. Much like your stock portfolio, your running plan should be a diversified investment. Include some hill repeats, tempo runs, fartleks (not as dirty as it sounds), or speedwork in your schedule, and you feel more motivated and ambitious as you train.
2. Listen to music
If you honestly haven’t thought of this yet, I applaud your efforts to read this far into the article. Still, it is a great option. Studies show that music blurs out internal signals of fatigue in the brain during a run, reducing perceived effort by roughly 10% (thanks, Runner’s World). I find that it can also set up a good rhythm for your pace on longer runs. Look to play catchy, upbeat songs—80’s hair metal is always a favorite. Just don’t try to pull this off during a group run, though. Very rude.
3. Find a training partner
No (wo)man is an island. Running is a lonely sport by nature, but that doesn’t mean you have to run it alone. Potential candidates are easy to find—you can easily ask a friend or join a local running club. What’s most important, however, is compatibility. You will want to find a motivated individual with a similar fitness level. It also helps if the person is both a decent conversationalist and comfortable with long periods of silence.
4. Play games
This doesn’t mean you should be bringing out Connect Four on your next morning run. Instead, make up your own simple games to keep your interest in the moment. Be creative. See that oncoming car up ahead? Race it to that telephone pole. Alternatively, a perennial favorite with my high school team was the Good Morning Game. It consists solely of wishing every passerby, “Good Morning,” which yields points if they respond in a similar manner. Extra points for strange encounters and weird physical appearances.
5. Enter a Race
Think you can beat me in a race, fatty? If so, then well done, but that’s not really the point. Many runners are averse to competition due to a fear of losing, but what they don’t realize is that the race isn’t about the other participants. It’s about the clock—stretching the limits of your own body and striving to overcome weakness. So find a race to motivate yourself for the next couple months. Don’t worry too much about losing to anyone else. And if you do, who cares? It’s more likely a 5k through your city park than a Saharan ultramarathon or nationally televised meet. Besides, there will always be another race. Learn from your shortcomings and push ahead to the next opportunity. Until then, run smart and run hard. And try to enjoy some of it along the way.