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So I started running again last week.

I’d note this has less to do with it being the New Year than the fact that I had two weeks off work and so had the time and was rested enough to start again.

I am, at best, a decent runner.

Generally, I’m a sporadic runner.

At worst, I’m an aspirational runner.

When I’m on my game, I sign up and compete in 10Ks to motivate me to keep my fitness levels up.

When I’m less on my game, I struggle through the odd 5k, really wish I hadn’t signed up for that 10k, and aspire to do better.

When I’m off my game, I wax poetic about running while focussing on my annual reading goal.

But I’ve used running many times in the past 15 years to boost my fitness and it remains one of my go-to exercises when I want to focus on getting a bit more active.

So I thought I’d share here what I do to get back in running shape, in case some of you were either interested or had tips to share to make my journey back more interesting.

First, a bit more back-story on me as a “runner”:

I’m a former competitive swimmer and former certified swim coach. When I decided to start running in my twenties, after a few years treadmilling in the privacy of my basement, I joined the Running Room, did a clinic and completed my one and only half-marathon. So while I am in no way an expert in running, I understand training principles.

While we’re being honest, I’d really prefer to be swimming, but I’ve yet to find a program out there, or at least a 25m pool, that has some sort of child-minding while I do that.

However, my gym has treadmills and a play care program that will entertain my kids while I run.

So I’m currently a treadmill runner. Because fitness at this life stage has to be as simple to make work for me as possible.

Where my running fitness level was at prior to re-starting:

Run_Ottawa

Me, Ottawa Race Weekend 2016

So, the last time I was in any sort of good running shape was three-years ago.

This spring, I made it through a 10K as part of Ottawa Race Weekend and trained just enough to survive.

Following that? Some, but not much running.

Last week was my first run in about 3 months.

My first get back in basic shape goal:

I always aim for the same preliminary benchmark when I’m getting back in shape.

This will vary for everyone because everyone’s running and fitness backgrounds are different.

Me? I aim to be able to get back to being able to run 10K in an hour.

When I can do that, I generally feel pretty good all round. My eating improves. My sleeping improves. It’s like my gateway into a nice health-virtuous sort of cycle.

I use a treadmill that measures in miles, not kilometres, so I aim to build up to 6 miles. I know that isn’t exact (1 miles = 1600 metres) but for my purposes it’s close enough.

Goal for my first work out:

slow-tortoise

Image from here.

My goal was to run for 30 minutes.

No required distance. No required pace.

Just keep moving for 30 minutes.

Breaks are allowed.

That said, I know the pace I can keep for an hour when I am in good shape (6.3 miles/hr). And I know the pace I can keep when I am in moderate shape (6 miles/hr).

So I set the machine at 5.8 miles/hr and gave it a go.

The pace worked. I took a one-minute break around the half-way mark. And I pushed myself to run for 3 miles (which took a bit longer than 30 minutes).

Goal for my second work out:

My goal was to run a bit faster and a bit longer.

I did this run the day after my first. I was very mildly sore, but otherwise fine. So I knew I could push it a bit harder.

So I ran at a pace of 5.9 miles/hr and ran 4.5 miles and then walked to 5 miles. With the walking, I was almost at an hour.

But all told, that felt good.

I was sore the next day, so I took a few days off.

Goal for my third work out:

My goal was to run 3 miles in 30 minutes.

Given I include a slightly slower run at the very beginning, this required running above pace for about 12 minutes to be able to make 3 miles in 30 minutes.

So for the last ten minutes I was running at a pace of 6.2 miles/hr.

That was hard. But that was the point. I’d made it fine through two comfortably paced runs, so I wanted to push a bit and see how I fared.

That was today, so I’ll see how I feel tomorrow. I ended up running 3.25 miles at pace and then walking to 4 miles.

Moving forward from here:

My next run will either be:

  • a slower and longer one to try to actually run to 6 miles, or
  • seeing if I can last until 4 miles at pace to make 6 miles in an hour.

It will depend how I’m feeling. And basically I’ll move between these two types of runs until I hit my goal.

After I meet my goal?

Well, if I get there and keep on running, I just might do a follow-up post.

By then, I usually start playing with and building up inclines and playing more with different speeds within the run in order to give myself a better workout once I know I’m in good enough shape to handle it.

A last note on dealing with the “utter boredom” of treadmill running

I’m asked about this a lot when I tell people I enjoy treadmill running.

I do three things that help battle this:

  1. Progressive fitness goals that keep me focussed on what I’m doing.
  2. A mix of running music I enjoy that motivates me to run. I listed some of my favourites from my running track here and I’m a creature of habit, so they’re still on there.
  3. I watch the news while running so I can catch up on current events/distract myself when it gets harder by forcing myself to pay attention to that rather than the running.

What about you? Do you run for fitness? Any tips or suggestions for me? I’d love to hear them!