I’ve never enjoyed running.
I’ve always found it a chore and a painful way to work out. I’ve attempted running routines a few times in the past, but they have just never stuck around longer than a week or two at most. I also only ever used the treadmill as I always ended up with a bad knee after trying to run anything longer than a couple of miles outdoors. This has always been much to the chagrin of my Dad who has been an on and off runner for the last 35 years and has always tried to get me to go out with him.
Then back at the beginning of January this year (2016) I started bouldering. I instantly fell in love with this hobby and decided I wanted to get better at it, and fast. As well as upping the amount of times I was climbing each week, I decided that a drop in body weight could only do me some good. I’d been leading a pretty sedentary lifestyle for the 2 years prior and was currently sitting at around 200 lbs (I’m 6ft tall).
Jump forward a couple of weeks and I had signed up to a local gym and had written up my own workout routine which involved doing some form of cardio 3 times a week. I started off on the treadmills using a run/walk combination for 30 minutes. There was probably more walking than running in the first few days until I got used to actually doing exercise again. Unfortunately, at the time I was too embarrassed to track these workouts on Strava so I don’t have a record of them for comparison. Herein lies my first piece of advice: No matter how poor you think you’re doing, ALWAYS record these early runs. I would love to be able to see mine as a way of comparing how much I’ve improved. Even mark them as private if you’re not wanting to share these with others just yet.
Anyway, where was I?… Treadmills! Treadmills sure are dull. Never has time moved so slowly or a distance been quite as far as it is on a treadmill. Watching the TV’s or listening to music was never enough of a distraction to the monotony either. However, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve always ended up with a bad knee after a couple of outdoor runs and this wasn’t happening with the treadmill as long as I took a days rest between runs. At this point (mid February) I was reliable scraping 5k in each of my 30 minute sessions and was doing so without any walking or knee pain!
I continued using the treadmill for quite a while longer out of fear of my knee pain returning. I was reasonably convinced that 3 days a week over the last month and a half on the belt would have conditioned my knee by now, but I just didn’t want to injure myself. The weight was starting to drop off (I was also calorie counting at this point too) and a damaged knee would seriously impact my bouldering. What eventually forced me out onto the roads was a visit to see my parents. I’d been talking to my Dad about my running and he suggested a nice easy 5km(ish) loop around the country roads where they lived. The weather was beautiful and my legs felt good so I decided to take the plunge.
We set off down the road in beautiful sunshine. I soon realised that I wasn’t particularly great at pacing myself as I hadn’t ever actively needed to do so on a treadmill. Luckily my Dad is, so I trundled alongside him and his suggested pace, which felt fine. It turns out this was much quicker than what I had been limiting myself to on the treadmill and, when attempting the new pace indoors, I really struggled. I blame the boredom factor.
About half way round the loop, a storm hit and within a couple of minutes we were being pelted with the worst wind and rain of the year. I could hardly open my eyes and the rain was so cold it felt like each droplet was a tiny icicle stabbing me all over my torso. It was, by far, the most enjoyable run I had had all year. The loop turned out to be 5.8km (longer than I would normally run). I ran it quicker than I had previously been running 5k’s indoors. It also felt way less. Having other things to keep your mind distracted plays a huge part on how enjoyable the run is as well as having someone else along with you.
I think that run may have been the turning point for me. Up until then my indoor sessions had still felt monotonous and chore-like. I was only keeping them up to aid with the weight-loss and fitness. I don’t think I actually enjoyed any of those runs. I certainly don’t remember any of them in detail. The run with my Dad though, I remember almost every part; the initial chat about how nice the weather was, the abundance of slugs on the path along the return stretch, and the “oh God I can’t feel my face” conversation during the storm. To me, that’s the measure of a good run. It doesn’t have to be fast, it doesn’t have to be ultra-long, as long as it’s a memorable one.
Since then I have been slowly increasing my mileages and taking part in organised events including my local ParkRun. I’ve joined a running club and I’ve also been trying to push my 5k and 10k times a little lower. I’ve still got a HUGE way to go (I’ve only been running 7 months) but, for once, I’m running because I want to run rather than because I feel like I have to.