I am not a runner. In fact, I am a hater of all things running-related. However, a few months ago, I stupidly signed up for a Tough Mudder with Gina and a friend/coworker.
Fear not, loyal readers. It’s a half-length Tough Mudder, which means I will most likely survive with minimal lasting injuries (except for my pride), as opposed to the unavoidable death which would no doubt await me if I attempted the full event.
With this race rapidly approaching, I – your friendly, neighborhood out-of-shape wellness expert – have compiled a few tips to help running suck a little less.
1. Get an app – To prepare for this and other running events I have done in the past, I find that it is easiest to use an app like Couch to 5k. It is overwhelming and exhausting to both your body and your mind to try to run 3+ miles after a lifetime of running 0+ miles. Couch to 5k and programs like it provide audible instruction, alternating between running and walking – progressing weekly until ultimately, it’s all run, no walk.
2. Get an audiobook – I like music as much as the next person who kinda likes music… but sometimes I feel like there is no song on earth that can distract me from the physical torture that is running. No rock, rap, death metal or Mariah Carey can drown out the voice inside my head telling me to go home because this really really sucks. I had a theory that this was because it wasn’t mentally engaging enough. I figured if my office plays music while we work, it probably isn’t a big enough distraction to prevent us from crunching numbers. There is a reason that offices have radios and not TVs – because TV shows have story lines and story lines are much more distracting than a song could ever be. So, I put my theory to the test and tried listening to an audiobook (Gone with the Wind, if you were wondering) while I ran and found that I was able to run further and longer because I was less focused on the burning in my legs and the boredom of running past the same houses for the 3rd time that week. After all, your brain usually quits long before your body physically has to.
3. Get outside! – Related to my last point, running can be boring AF. Don’t make it any more monotonous than it needs to be. Get off the treadmill and run outside! Running in a nice area on a beautiful day is almost cathartic. There is nothing better to help you decompress after a stressful day at work than gasping for air. Also, if you’re training for a race, running in conditions similar to the conditions of the actual event is extremely important. I made this mistake once before – I trained for an early spring event all winter by running on a treadmill inside my nice, warm gym. The actual run was held outside on a 45 degree morning with whipping wind. Needless to say, I did not do well. My lungs burned for a week. Seriously.
4. Get a foam roller – This is seriously the best thing I ever did. The first time I tried to get into running, I ultimately quit because of terrible shin splints. I did everything I could think of – ice, stretching, different sneakers, changing my running form, changing what surface I was running on – and still, I could not get rid of the tearing sensation in my shins with every step I took… whether during a run or in the days that followed a run. Until I bought my foam roller. I ended up buying a fairly expensive and bumpy one, but at the time, they weren’t as common as they are now, so I didn’t have much selection. However, I have noticed them recently in Target for much cheaper and with varying degrees of bumpiness. For anyone who has no idea what I’m talking about, a foam roller is a tube that you roll on your muscles, kind of like a deep tissue massage, to break up areas of tension. Since I started rolling and intensely stretching after every run, my recovery is much quicker, and my shin splints are non-existent. Trust me, it’s worth it.
I hope my cynical comments about gasping for air, running sucking, etc. didn’t discourage anyone from adding running into their lives. What I should have said is that running is challenging. Because it is – mentally and physically. However, I also think it’s worth it. There’s no better feeling than running past the place you had to stop [to pass out] yesterday. It’s kind of like cardio, lower-body toning, and therapy all in one.