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Top Ten Ways to Enjoy Running More
By Rick Morris
Do you always enjoy running? Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to set a new PR, beating a competitor to the finish line, losing an extra 5 pounds or burning off that second piece of chocolate cake that we forget the most important rule of running – it’s supposed to be fun. Sure, running is great way to lose weight, get fit and improve our health. Running provides us with a doorway to meeting goals and changing our lives. Running is also a sport that gives us the opportunity to compete against ourselves and other runners. But, most of all, running is a fun activity that allows us to relax and enjoy ourselves. Is there enough fun in your running? Here are ten tips to help you have more fun with your running.
Run For Yourself
Why do you run? There are many reasons that we run. Some of those reasons are external and others are internal. Researchers even have a theory called “Self Determination Theory” that explains those reasons. If you run for a purely external reason such as being forced to by job or school requirements you are on the controlled end of the spectrum. If you run for an internal reason such as the pure joy of running you are on the autonomous end. To truly enjoy your running you should run for internal reasons. Run for yourself, not for anyone or anything else. Run for the pure joy of running.
Change It Up
Boredom is one of the surest ways to have a miserable time running. Don’t perform the same workout or run the same route every time. Change up your workout. Mix up your daily easy run with some speed sessions, hill running, long runs and tempo runs. Try some fartlek runs in which you change your pace frequently.
Don’t run the same route each time you head out the door. Try some new trails. See some new parts of your neighborhood. Even try the treadmill once in a while. Don’t forget the old saying – “Variety is the spice of life”. That also holds true for running.
The Need for Speed
Those nice easy paced runs are very enjoyable. They give you a great opportunity to relax and relieve the stress of your day, but sprinting can provide even more fun and stress relief. It feels good to “let it all hang out” and run as fast as you can. A good way to add high speed running to your routine is to do strides or pick ups. The next time you’re at the track finish your workout by running a few 100 meter strides on the infield. Start running at a moderate pace and smoothly accelerate to your full sprint speed by about 80 meters. Then “coast” the final 20 meters.
Learn to Fly
I can’t think of anything that would give me a greater sense of freedom than to be able to spread my wings and soar like an eagle. I have a major problem in that I wasn’t blessed with wings. So, I can’t fly; but running can provide a nice substitute. The next time you go for a run, practice your flying skills. No, you can’t soar with the birds above the ground, but you can fly over it. When you run, practice gliding, coasting, or “soaring” forward using your forward momentum. Just rotate your legs under your body to provide support. Let yourself go and imagine you are gliding smoothly forward. It may take some practice but once you learn to “fly” across the ground instead of running you will not only have more fun but will run faster, with less effort.
No, I don’t mean you should go streaking. You should probably keep your clothes on to avoid some nasty stares from your neighbors and even nastier consequences from your local law enforcement. I mean you should let your feet get naked. Barefoot running provides a sense of freedom that you can never experience with shod running. It’s like letting your dogs out of jail. Many athletes that are experienced barefoot runners have problems going back to running with shoes. It’s just not as much fun as barefoot running or as efficient. A good place to start with barefoot running is on the nice, soft artificial turf of an area football field. Begin with one lap around the perimeter of the football field. As your feet get stronger you can begin to extend your barefoot distance and even start doing some barefoot strides. Barefoot running not only feels great, but it’s also an excellent way to improve your lower leg strength, running economy, running stride and injury prevention.
Do Progressive Runs
A mistake made by many runners is starting a training run too fast. Your muscles need some time to warm up before you begin to run at faster paces. When you head right out at a fast pace your aerobic system hasn’t been able to get into full gear. Your anaerobic system takes up the slack and you feel instantly fatigued. Not the most enjoyable way to start a training run. Instead of starting at a fast pace, try beginning your run at a slow to moderate pace and gradually increase your pace though out your training run. You will feel more comfortable and have more fun during your run, even when you build up your speed to faster paces.
Lose the Watch
Many competitive runners and even some recreational runners tend to become slaves to their running watches. Every phase of their running from interval training to long runs, tempo runs and even easy runs are ruled by an exact training pace and the digits on their running watch. Of course, there are many times when you need to pay close attention to pace, but give yourself and your watch a break once in a while. Leave your watch at home and just run by feel and effort level. You will begin to enjoy your runs more and will also learn how to judge pace by feel, a valuable skill that will improve your race performance.
Racing and competition are a big part of many runners’ lives. Racing and competing against your fellow runners is motivating, exciting and when done in moderation is very enjoyable. But, if your running life revolves around competing and how well you do you may begin to suffer from race phobia. No, that’s not really a word; I made it up. But the syndrome behind race phobia is very real.
Some highly competitive runners become so obsessed with their race performance that if they fail to meet the high and strict standards they set for themselves they become frustrated. Eventually this can lead to an apprehension or fear of upcoming races. In a sense, race phobia is a fear of failure. You can see that developing race phobia leads to a lessened sense of satisfaction or enjoyment of running. The cure to race phobia is easy in theory, but hard in practice. You need to learn to run for the joy of running and place less emphasis on winning. The first step is to decrease your number of races. Do more fun running and less competing. Eventually, as you regain the joy of running, you can start to compete more because you will be racing for the thrill and competition while worrying less about winning.
Do a Doggy Dash
There is just no way you can go for a run with your canine companion and not have fun. The ecstatic look of joy on your dogs face when he or she accompanies you on your daily run will rub off on you. You may even get that same happy look on your face. At the very least you will enjoy the benefit of the slobbery kisses of thanks you get from your furry best friend.
Distance running is mostly thought of as a somewhat lonely, solitary sport. But it doesn’t need to be that way. Running can also be a social event. Try joining a local running club. The weekly long runs and track sessions are a fun way to make new friends. How about giving back to the sport that has given so much to you? Consider volunteering as a coach for a local youth running club or Special Olympics team. There is a great sense of gratification in seeing young people learn to run and improve their running skills thanks to your efforts.
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