This is the second article in a series of blog posts on the subject of running. In Part I of this series, I covered the benefits of running and the kinds of people that running might appeal to. In this post, I will cover what you need to know in order to get started.
When to run
You can run year round. You might find that you need to make adjustments according to the climate of your country. In Auckland, I find I have to start my run no later than 6am during summer, otherwise it becomes unbearably hot. In winter, I can still run outdoors but wear long tights and a light running jacket. When I lived overseas, I couldn’t run outside for part of the European winter due to the snow, so I trained on the treadmill instead.
Where to run
You have several options:
o Using a treadmill at the gym or at home
o Running in a park
o Running on the pavement or along a promenade
o Running off-road ie trail running
Each has corresponding advantages and disadvantages. Personally, I find running on a treadmill artificial and rather boring. Your strides are different to running on the ground. Time passes very slowly, even if you listen to music while you’re running. In saying that, it can be useful if conditions make it unsafe to run outdoors, such as darkness and snow.
Training in a park or along a promenade is incredibly pleasant. While I was a university student, I spent a lot of time in the city. As discussed in Part I of this series of posts on running, I used to run in the Auckland Domain. I also used to train along the Auckland Waterfront, a lovely promenade linking the Eastern seaside suburbs of Okahu Bay, Mission Bay, Kohimarama and St Heliers with Auckland City. Nowadays, training at the Auckland Domain and along the Waterfront isn’t the most convenient option for me. At the moment, my training consists of 10k runs which take place on the pavement from home to Botany Junction (a suburb in East Auckland) and back simply due to time constraints. I don’t need to factor travel time into my run and allow for getting to and from the starting point. While it isn’t the most scenic route (the other downside is that the course is completely flat so it doesn’t allow for hill work), it’s easy to fit an hour long training session into a fairly hectic day. Over the years, I’ve learnt that you have to make exercise convenient otherwise you’ll never be able to fit it into your schedule.
If you’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to run overseas, there are some wonderful parks to explore while out running. While I lived in London, I used to run in Greenwich Park and Hyde Park. While working in Paris, I ran regularly in the Bois de Boulogne. When I visited New York, I simply had to go for a run in Central Park because that is simply the place to run.
If scenery is really important and you don’t mind the travel time getting to and from your running destination, then off-road or trail running might be for you. Bear in mind that off-road is be more challenging technically than road running, so don’t be surprised if your times are slower than road events. In order to become a good trail runner, you really need to train off-road. You can get shoes designed for trail running, which I highly recommend as the impact on your feet is different to road running.
I did the Carter Holt Harvey Half Marathon at Woodhill Forest with a team from the law firm I summer clerked at while I was at university. The terrain was very challenging – 21k of running through a forest over branches and logs, not to mention up and down an enormous sand dune. While it was an enjoyable experience, it wasn’t really for me and I haven’t done any trail running since then. I’ve noticed that most runners tend to fall into one category. You’re either a road runner like me, or an off-road or trail runner. There’s nothing wrong with trying both to see which one you prefer, as I have done.
What you’ll need
The most important thing you’ll need is a decent pair of running shoes. It’s worth investing in shoes which offer good support. As discussed in Part I of this series of posts on running, for every stride you take while running, you’re carrying two or three times your body weight.
There are so many different brands and models on the market that finding the right pair of shoes can be a rather daunting and confusing experience. Something that I did when I first started running at the age of 20 was to go to a sports shoe shop in Auckland called Shoe Science, where they measure your feet, get you to try on different shoes and videotape your feet as you run. They analysed the footage and identified some potential issues. Based on this, they made some suggestions as to suitable shoes. I ended up with Aasics Gel Cumulus. It’s a perfect fit for me and I’ve stuck with the same model over the 15 year period that I’ve been running. The fact that this line is still in existence really says something. It’s obviously still a very popular model and for good reason. The only change that I have made was to switch to the men’s version of this model. Why did I do this? About three months ago, I noticed that I started developing callouses on my toes, which were becoming rather painful. As a diabetic, I have to take good care of my feet. I became concerned about this, so I went and saw my doctor. He commented that I have quite broad feet and would be better off using the men’s version as they’re broader than the women’s model. Since switching to the men’s model, I feel so much more comfortable when running. There is so much more space in the front part of the shoe so my toes aren’t cramped. If you suffer from the same problem, this might be worth considering. Sure men’s shoes don’t come in the pretty feminine colours like pale pink and blue but at the end of the day, comfort comes first. That’s always been my motto when it comes to footwear, but it’s especially the case for running shoes due to the impact on your feet.
In my opinion, the quality of the clothing you wear for running is less important than shoes. When I was a student, I didn’t wear fancy gear when exercising as I simply couldn’t afford it. These days, I do wear some nice gear, which I can justify. Exercise is something I do regularly. It forms a very important part of my life. I also have a habit of wearing active wear casually, especially now that I am self-employed and can wear whatever I want. I don’t spend a lot on work clothes like I used to in the past when I was a lawyer. My ensemble for my gardening business consists of a business t-shirt and old running shorts which I’ve turned into gardening gear. For running, dri-fit clothing is definitely more comfortable because you should get hot and sweaty if you push yourself hard enough. I’d only ever wear Aasics running shoes, but when it comes to clothing, I’ve found that Nike is the best brand for me as the clothing fits me perfectly. The quality is also good. While it’s not exactly cheap, it will last a long time. If you get dri-fit, you’ll find it dries quickly after you wash your clothing so you won’t need lots of sets of exercise gear.
You may wish to listen to music on your phone or Ipod while you run. I tend not to, as I find I’m more alert to hazards such as cars reversing in driveways and oncoming traffic.
You might also find a device such as a Fitbit useful to monitor the distance you cover. While I don’t use one of these myself, members from previous gyms I belonged to have reported that they found them helpful for motivation and to track their movement during the day.
In my next blog post in this series on the subject of running, I’ll help you discover which distance is right for you and offer a few training tips.
This is the first article in a series of blog posts on the subject of running. In this post, I will cover the benefits of running. Drawing from my personal experiences as a runner of 15 years, I will explain why I continue to be a firm advocate of this form of exercise.
Despite the popularity of new fitness trends, running remains a very popular form of exercise. It is a great form of cardio-vascular fitness because it’s high intensity. Running is one of the fastest ways to get your heart rate up. Running gives you the maximum bang for your buck which is great if you’re time poor like me and want to gain as much as you can in as little time as possible. If you start and finish your run from home like I do these days, you’ll save yourself a lot of time travelling to and from the gym. Don’t forget that travel time, getting changed into your exercise attire, talking to people at the gym, having a shower afterwards and getting changed back into your clothes doesn’t count as exercise time! One of the best things about running is that it can pretty much be done anywhere and doesn’t require a lot of bulky equipment, unlike other sports. If you’re always on the road for business and personal travel, running is a good option as all you’ll need is your running shoes, shorts and a top.
Running is one of the most effective ways to lose and maintain body weight. Every time you take a stride, you carry two or three times your body weight. It’s for this reason that running burns so many kilojoules. I’ve tried a lot of different types of exercise over the years, including a variety of fitness classes, boot camp, boxing and cross fit. Yet, I always find myself returning to running. In conjunction with a healthy diet, I’ve found that it is the most effective way for me to maintain a healthy body weight and a decent level of fitness year round. This became even more important for me when I developed Type 2 diabetes two years ago. Running helps me maintain healthy blood sugar levels. I am able to control my condition naturally, without medication.
Running can also help improve your performance with many sports. Netball, hockey, tennis, rugby and soccer are just a few examples of sports that require some degree of running. I played hockey throughout school and for a local club while I was a student at university. I found that running regularly enhanced my performance because it improved my overall level of fitness and ability to move more quickly on the field.
I started running when I was 20 year old. At the time, I was a university student with very little money. I could only afford a membership at the university gym which was fairly basic. Unlike upmarket gyms such as Les Mills, there were no exercise classes so I used to run on the treadmill. One day, one of the fitness instructors came over to talk to me. He encouraged me to consider running outdoors and recommended the Auckland Domain, a large sports ground near the university. I followed his advice and that became my regular training ground over the next four years until I graduated from university.
I’m now 37. I have been a regular runner for around 15 years. I have gained so much from running over this period. It has done me the world of good. When I started running outdoors back at university, it honestly changed my life. There are the obvious benefits in terms of health and fitness, which I have described briefly above. Running also makes me incredibly happy. I find that I’m better able to cope with stress. It helps me to achieve greater clarity in my thinking, which helps to resolve personal problems. I sometimes start a run feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders but by the end, I feel that I can cope with life again. Running gives me an amazing sense of freedom. The feeling of being completely free is hard to achieve and is simply priceless in a chaotic world like the one we inhabit.
I have also benefitted from running during my studies and career. As a law student, I found that I just couldn’t get my head around the theories of Hart and Dworkin while studying at the law library. Running became a separate arena which gave me the time and space to reflect on what I learnt in the classroom. While out on my runs, I found my own ideas starting to coalesce. This was the case when it came to writing my Honours Dissertation in the final year of my law degree. I found that my best ideas came to me during my runs. I used to scribble all my thoughts in a notebook afterwards so I could incorporate them into my research paper.
Running has helped me develop as a person. When I started running, I noticed that it improved my confidence and made me believe that I could achieve anything. This helped me to develop a positive attitude which spilled over into my studies and later on, to my career as a lawyer.
As discussed in a previous post on Instagram, running is also associated with many wonderful memories, which takes me back to happier times. Whenever I run in the Auckland Domain, I am reminded of my many runs in that park as a university student. While the present may seem bleak at times, being reminded of prior happiness in that place at a different time in my life brings me so much inner peace and fills me with hope for the future.
Runners have a nice camaraderie with one another. Whenever you’re out on a run, other runners will always smile and say hi to you, even if they don’t know you. It’s like you belong to an exclusive club where members are connected by a common passion. Indeed, my love for running isn’t understood by the outside world. Running makes you hot, sweaty and tired. A lot of family members and friends of mine just don’t understand why I spend my spare time on such a strenuous and unglamorous activity, much less actually enjoy it. The same can also be said for gardening, my other passion.
I have formed some fantastic friendships with other runners over the years. Not only do we share a common passion for running, but we’ve also found that we have a lot of other things in common as well. While I was at university, I used to train with a girl called Julia, a fellow law student who now lives in Wellington and works for the council. We trained towards a half marathon together and enjoyed our Sunday runs, which gave us the opportunity to catch up on our lives and what we got up to on Saturday night!
Running can even have a profound impact on your career, creating job opportunities and helping to forge lasting professional relationships. When I was in my penultimate year of my degree, I spent the summer clerking at a large New Zealand commercial law firm. One of my rotations was in the firm’s corporate department. I was placed in one team within the department, but one of the other partners started talking to me one day in the kitchen. He mentioned he often saw me running in the Auckland Domain. It turned out that he was an avid runner himself. He started giving me work and ended up being a referee when I applied to start my career with a large commercial law firm in London as he had also worked there during his career. When I returned to New Zealand, I found myself back in his team, even though I had specialised in contentious rather than transactional matters while working overseas. Since then, we have both left the firm to move on to different ventures but remain very good friends.
Another good reason to run is that you tend to improve with age. As I entered my 30s, I found that my technique and speed are much better than during my 20s. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve actually been able to achieve better times in races. The more you do something, the better you become. That’s not to say that once you start running, you should stick with it forever. That was the case for me because I found something that I was deeply passionate about. However, many people move onto other forms of exercise and this is perfectly fine. Take my previous boss for example, who I mentioned in the paragraph above. In the time I had left the firm and moved overseas, he moved into mountain biking, which he discovered he loved even more than running.
One of the downfalls of running is that it’s hard on the joints. As a consequence, it can leave you injury prone. I’ve found that the best way to counteract this is to cross-train. In other words, I mix running with other forms of exercise which are lower in impact to minimise the risk of injuries to the lower body. At the moment, it’s summer in New Zealand so I’m making the most of the warm weather by training outdoors. I run 10k every second day, which takes me about an hour. On the days I don’t run, I swim 2k (40 laps of a 50 metre outdoor pool), which also takes me about an hour. You can try running on grass, which is lower impact than running on the road or pavement. Be warned though that it’s harder and isn’t as much fun.
Running is also off-putting to a lot of people because it isn’t an easy form of exercise. As mentioned above, with each stride you take, you’re carrying two to three times your body weight. It’s therefore much easier to walk, cycle or swim. However, if you’re prepared to put the effort in, you’ll find running can be incredibly rewarding in terms of your overall well-being.
Who should run?
Just about anyone! In saying that, it’s definitely not for everyone, as much as I love running myself. But give it a go anyway. You might find that you really enjoy it! You don’t have much to lose in any event.
Running suits people like me that are competitive against themselves. I like bettering myself, both as a runner and in other areas of my life. I’m always striving to improve on my previous times. I’m not really fussed if I’m faster or slower than other runners. Entering into races introduces an element of competition against others. Racing can be motivating. No matter how difficult the course or tired you are, when you’re surrounded by lots of other runners you’ll find the motivation to carry on. Some people enjoy the competitive aspect of races. However, I personally find greater satisfaction in bettering my own times rather than comparing my performance with others, because everyone is at a different fitness level. We all have different goals and running plays a different role in everyone’s life.
A lot of people complain that running is too solitary a form of exercise and that they prefer exercising with other people for company and support. As mentioned above, I used to have a training partner while I was a university student. If you’re keen on running but want companionship, partner up with a like-minded individual. These days, I prefer exercising alone as it’s hard to co-ordinate training times with someone else. I also enjoy being alone as it gives me some personal time and space outside of home and work. If you prefer running in the company of others, you could also consider joining a running club. There’s a running club in downtown Auckland that meets outside the Nike Britomart store. During the summer, the YMCA Marathon club hosts a 10k running series every Thursday evening at the Auckland Domain. For the remainder of the summer, I’m going to make an effort to attend these races for extra motivation and support with my running.
Hopefully, this post has given you something to think about. Who knows, you might find yourself inspired to go for a run, even if it’s something you never considered doing before. In my next blog post in this series, I will cover everything you need to know to get started.