My first half marathon isn’t until July 31, and I’m starting a 12-week training program on May 8. Since running is already a part of my fitness routine, I decided to get a bit of a head start the past two weeks. This included researching training plans, testing four different running apps (more on that in a separate post), starting to up my mileage and paying more attention to things like my pace and target heart rate.
The point is to get used to a regular routine and keep my endurance up, so that when I start training for real it won’t be a big shock. But I’ve had a few unexpected insights after just two weeks of just a bit more focus:
Progress can come FAST
This is by far the most encouraging thing I’ve noticed. I’ve never been a particularly fast runner, and I usually get bored after 3 or 4 miles. But after just two weeks of 2-3 shorter runs and one long run, I’ve already noticed progress with my pace, form and mental state. 3 mile runs are all of a sudden feeling super short (so nice!), and my tricks to combat boredom are starting to work. Seeing such tangible progress so quickly gives me confidence that I’ll not only be able to run a half marathon in July, but that I’ll actually enjoy it.
Form matters but it’s hard to learn it from books
I’ve always been interested in body mechanics and form in fitness. Maybe it’s from my figure skating days, where a shoulder that’s tipped a half an inch too low can mean a big fall instead of a beautiful landing. So when I started taking my running more seriously, I read up on proper form. And wow. From the proper foot strike to the best stride length, there’s a lot of advice out there.
What’s worked for me is to learn about best practice, apply it and pay very close attention to my body. What feels good/natural versus forced/painful? What small adjustments increase my pace without sacrificing efficiency? I’ll even experiment a little … what happens when I run with my elbows more or less bent, move my shoulders further over my hips, dip my chin a bit, or engage my core? It’s interesting to see the noticeable results (both good and bad) that small adjustments can drive. And focusing on form helps with boredom, which leads me to …
The (mental) struggle is real
I knew that running more than a few miles would be more mental than physical for me. But I didn’t realize how much so. On my first “long” run the other week (just 6 miles), I had to do some serious bargaining with myself. I got really restless and impatient. It didn’t help that it was hot outside and I was uncomfortably warm (I know, boo-hoo).
If someone said they’d pay me a million dollars to run 13.1 miles tomorrow, I’m pretty sure I’d get ‘er done. But I’d probably be miserable and get hurt. So I’m going to train, but I definitely need a mental strategy. I’m still refining it, but so far tactics that are working are: audio books, intervals, checking my mileage and time less, running with friends, and the lure of the elusive runner’s high. Until recently, I haven’t experienced the euphoric feeling that so many runners describe. But when I finally did, I understood why so many runners run. It’s a totally powerful feeling to feel like you could go forever. You feel so strong, fast, light and free.
So far, I’m feeling excited to start training and encouraged by what I’ve experienced in just a short time. Next up, I’ll share my thoughts on the running apps I tested.