After an entire life spent with professional laziness and no sport activity whatsoever, a little more than one year ago I began running. When my friends discovered what happened they were shocked. It happened while I was in Brazil. Weather, mood and nature in Rio De Janeiro invite you to open air lifestyle and when you see… you know… people running on the beach all the time you end up wanting to try yourself.
A few months before that trip, my boss and half of the top management – all entering their 40s – had just run the New York Marathon. I remember I was impressed by how quickly some of them got fit for the challenge and how excited they were after successfully running all of the 42 kilometers. My boss had told me that running would make your brain produce endorphin and that would make you happy and become addictive, and this of course also factored in.
I would have never expected the running experience to be so easy and satisfactory. Yes, at the beginning it’s damn tiring: you run just five minutes and your heart feels like it would explode, to say nothing about the pain you feel coming from your ankles, calfs and spleen. And the next day your legs hurt like they were beaten but you get that feeling that your brain can win against your body, that you can push yourself beyond your physical limits.
If you try and persist you’ll find in a couple weeks it’s going to be much better, to the point it does not hurt anymore. Your body will quickly adapt: your lungs will extract more oxygen from the same air flow, your heart will pump more blood every single beat and your muscles will be more efficient at burning some chemicals to create motion.
At the end of the day you’re making your body more efficient. And healthier. In 18 months I lost more than 15Kg and now I feel much better. I also suffered high cholesterol and now that’s gone. Yay! Nowadays I usually run 35Km every week and I’m trying to run faster. I have no plan to run a marathon, but then who knows.
Along the way I learnt a few tricks to make my running experience better and I want to share those with you.
- Running in a group can make you perform much better, just because natural competition is a good motivation factor, but this is only true when you are already trained. If you’re left behind you’d be totally frustrated. At the beginning be sure to run alone.
- Music helps: you think to something else and ignore the anxiety and self-suggestion that comes when listening to your heavy breathing. If you think to something else (ideally to nothing) your body will work much better. Music also helps to set your running rhythm but be careful with songs too fast.
- Running is one of the least expensive sports so don’t try to save money when you buy shoes. Believe it or not, if you wear the wrong shoe you can hurt yourself and damage your knees. There’s a good shoe for everybody so ask to a competent clerk and they’ll help you find the one that’s right for you. After some bad experience with Nike and Reebok I bought two pairs of Mizuno X10 and now I’m very happy about them.
- Run early in the morning if you can, before going to work. The running experience is going to boost your day and make you more productive. If you run late at night you’ll find a hard time getting asleep because running makes your body active and is much better than coffee and keeping you awake. Running in the morning – before breakfast – is also better in case you want to lose weight because your body has no sources of fresh energy to consume and therefore it is forced to burn fat.
- A running watch with hearth rate monitor and speed meter can prove very useful to optimize your run but probably you only need this when you can regularly run a couple hours a week. I bought a Polar s625x but nowadays Garmin also has good products.
- You can ignore most of the pain signals that your body sends to the brain. That’s the way your body tells you that you’re going past the limit of what it’s prepared to do, but that’s not necessarily dangerous. If you ignore the signal, your brain will quickly produce endorphin stopping the pain and that will allow you to push beyond the limits, basically moving those limits to some farther point. None the less, be careful!