Keep running, running… small steps to small successes

I have been running for about a week now, on most days and already I’m pleased to say I’m getting better. I stress immediately that I’m not good: I’m not even bad, I’m worse than that. I’m just better than I was when I started, compared to me. That probably isn’t too much to ask, really: I started as absolutely dreadful. But now I’m just horribly terrible and that’s happened in just over a week.

I am an averagely fit person, no more than that (I do cycle a bit and that helps). So, if you’re thinking of running then it might lift you to think that if I can get a few small victories, then you might too. Here’s how it happened to me.

There is a circuit around our the back of our home, through the high street and back again which I eloquently describe as ’round the block’. It’s around 2.25 kilometres. We walk it fairly often. It’s part jeep track, part road, part pavement. It’s not ideal for running, nor is it terrible. It has the advantage of being not too short but not too long, either.

The first time I tried to run this loop I had to stop after about five minutes or so. I walked for a bit and then ran again when my heart rate returned to a reasonable rate. Now here’s something I do feel is useful for those beginning: a heart rate monitor. I’ve put in all my details and when I enter the red zone, my heart is beating too fast to sustain over time. So, I slow down and stop. On my first run, this happened around the five minute mark.

When I returned home on the first day my legs ached. They ached the day after too. That’s ok. I stretched them a bit and then a bit more and had a rest day on the third day. That helped enormously. I noticed, too, that my running ‘style’ was a little irregular – not quite legs and arms flailing but not well balanced – so I tried to be more uniform and measured, a little more controlled. That helped too I think.

Once I had gotten the measure of my comptency, or otherwise, at running like this, I set myself small goals. The first was just to get around the block and return in one piece without the need for an ambulance. The second was to run the entire loop (I hesitate to call it a route, lest it inflate its significance) without stopping to walk. To my joy, I did this on the third attempt. Conveniently, running the entire thing took me around 16 minutes on the first successful attempt so it occurred to me that running the loop in under 15 minutes would be a clear goal. I did that today for the first time and as I write I’m buoyed both by this mini success and by those lovely endorphins that keep me from feeling, temporarily, the pain in my calves. You can see some of the detail of that run below.

I am amazed at the progress: in just over six or so runs I can not only complete the loop but I have improved my speed. And that’s just the ‘stats’: I feel better, I ache less when I’m done and I carry around the satisfied look of someone who started their day with energy-supplying, healthy exercise. It’s not comparable to any even half-decent runner but it’s a sign that I’ve got better, at least so far.

My next goal is to run for half an hour and then to run 5k, hopefully within half an hour. I think 5k would be a landmark. It’s one of those numbers. I can’t tell you what, if anything, I’ll do after that – I’m not looking that far ahead. I think it’s probably one of those things when the early goals are more easily achieved than the moderate ones. Ho hum.

So, far from being a guide on how to run as a beginner, this is just my experience. It might not work for you. You’ll have you own things to contend with, your own way of approaching it. But I’m amazed at how quickly I have achieved my small goals and it’s made me want to keep running running (and stopping and aching)…

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2 thoughts on “Keep running, running… small steps to small successes

  1. Well done! Congratulations on achieving your goals, and setting new and realistic ones. Running is a wonderful activity, although I tend to feel this generous after the fact – while running I have learnt to put aside that inner voice that gasps “I hate this, I hate this, so very very much”. The other voice telling me how great my stride length is (I’m short, I care about my stride length), and how smooth and easy my breathing is today is the one I prefer to hear.

    Btw, Ever noticed how smooth, fast and non-wheezy/gaspy one’s running becomes when running past others? Yeah, that’s normal too.

    • Thanks Natasha. Your mantra ‘I hate this…’ rings true for me, too. The key is that we keep on running! Running reminds me of starting cycling around here. Nowadays, far from being an accomplished cyclist, I’m more experienced on a bike. I don’t hear the damning inner voice so often. So, starting running as a complete beginner (with, I recognise, incredibly modest goals – just running for 15 minutes without stopping at a slow pace is difficult for me) reminds me of how tough sport can be and takes me right out of my comfort zone. Oddly, I’m enjoying that. I must be a glutton for punishment. But really – I’m only doing it for the cool shoes you runners wear…

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