Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Guest Post - Can Running Be Fun?

I "met" Brandon a while back. He is the founder of a FAN-FREAKIN'-TASTIC Twitter chat I am a part of (and am even an ambassador for) - #VegRunChat. He is a fountain of knowledge for all things running, nutrition, and the plant-based lifestyle. Not only is he an awesome runner, he is a great encourager as well. I am lucky to have him cheering me on in all that I do (even if it is from across the county... but I swear one day I'll get him over to California for a run or two :) ). 

Can Running Be Fun?

Let me preface this post by saying that I haven’t always enjoyed running. In fact, when I first started, I flat out despised running. I began like many others - I simply wanted to lose a little weight, get in shape, and feel better about myself. No, I wasn’t in it for the medals or a ginormous plaque of race bibs. It was just another case of “I need to get in shape quick and with minimal effort.” I had no idea that such a daunting task could actually be enjoyable.

Things have changed a lot since I ran my first mile. I still don’t run for the medals, although I enjoy competing in races from time-to-time. But I can tell you with 100% certainty that running is no longer a chore and I look forward to every chance I get to strap on my shoes and hit up my favorite route. It’s what frees me from the monotony of life. It connects me with the earth in a way that our internet-crazed world doesn’t naturally provide. Put simply, it’s what I do, and I absolutely love it!

How Can You Make Running Fun?

I know what some of you are probably thinking - running for fun? Yeah right! If you’re just beginning to run on a regular basis, then chances are you’re still having trouble putting the words “running” and “fun” into the same sentence; that’s completely understandable. But believe me when I tell you that it’s totally possible. And I want to help get you there.

There’s no magic solution or miracle pill to boost excitement when your feet touch the pavement. This is a situation where even the magical Dr. Oz can’t help (too soon?). But there are a few pointers I can give you that will transition you from an, “I’ve gotta run” runner, to an “I get to run” runner. So let’s jump right into each one!

1. Forget Goals

Goals are great for pushing yourself to new limits, and they’re absolutely necessary if you plan on competing in any races. However, running doesn’t require running at a specific pace over a set distance. In fact, you can go as slow and as short as you want and still call yourself a runner. You don’t even need a fancy pair of shoes or GPS watch (although they’re pretty nice to have) to be a runner.

If you’re burned out on running because you don’t feel that you’re improving, ditch the technology and training plans. Running isn’t supposed to be a cumbersome task. Running is the most basic human function that we do. So don’t over complicate it!

If 30 minutes is too long, cut back to 20 minutes at a time. If you feel you can’t keep a 9:30 pace, then slow it down to where you feel comfortable. Over pushing yourself is probably the number one reason people quit running altogether. So take it easy, and give yourself a break. Make enjoyment your number one priority.

2. Pump the Tunes

Music is everywhere, and it gets you through all of your daily chores: driving, homework, cleaning, working, hanging out with friends, etc. So why not use it during your run? Not only does running with music boost overall morale, but it has been proven to boost speed as well.

So grab your earbuds next time you head out. If you have a smartphone, download the Pandora app and find your favorite artist’s channel. Or you could even download a podcast like the Rich Roll Podcast or No Meat Athlete Radio. Learning and running at the same time? Total win-win!

3. Get a Running Partner

Personally, I’m a huge fan of running alone. I like going at my pace and at my distance. But many runners prefer having a running partner (or group) with whom they can train and share the experience.

The great news is that the amount of runners in the Unites States is on the rise - big time. Check out the following graphic I grabbed from Running USA’s Race Trends.

Now, if you’re like me when I first started, you probably don’t know a single runner. So where are all of these runners hanging out?

There are a number or resources for finding runners and running groups. Visit your local YMCA/YWCA and ask if they offer training groups. See if your city has a local running community that puts on races and running meets. Some shoe stores (like Fleet Feet) are excellent for meeting other athletes.

If all else fails, head to your computer and check out Daily Mile which is a complete social network for runners of all ethnicities, performance levels, and age groups. You can upload your activities, chat with other runners, and see who would be a great match to meet up with in person. Who knows? You may even meet your next girlfriend/boyfriend. Just be careful and use some common sense before meeting someone.

4. Switch Routes

Nothing will burst your “motivation bubble” faster than running the same route day after day. I know, you’ve found the perfect route with the least amount of traffic and maybe even a few water stops along the way. But don’t let that keep you from exploring new territories.

If you run mostly on streets, switch to off-road paths once or twice a week. Find a trail that inspires you with the beauty and peacefulness of nature. It’s not only easy on the eyes, but good for the soul.

If you’re short on options, at the very least, run your regular route backwards. At least you’ll be seeing things a little differently, and won’t feel like you’re trapped in a hamster wheel. Let’s face it, you may as well be at the gym if you’re seeing the same old houses and road signs each day.

Just remember that we have been blessed with a sport that isn’t limited to a field, course, arena, stadium, or rink. We have the freedom to run wherever we like, and we should take full advantage of it.

5. Run Races

This is one of the best tips for making running more enjoyable (and I KNOW Carlee would agree because she’s run more races this year than pretty much anyone that I know). The excitement of running a race is hard to beat. From the time you line up at the start, to the moment you cross the finish line is pure adrenaline. I’m not saying that finishing a race is necessarily easy, but it can be a lot of fun.

I know that I’m contradicting myself from tip #1 because signing up for a race is pretty much setting a goal. But it doesn’t mean you have to finish at the top of the pack. In fact, if you’re just beginning to run, don’t worry about your time. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to set PRs (personal records) on down the road. Think of your first race as setting the bar for yourself. You don’t want to set it too high, do you?

Take one or two of these tips and begin using them right away. Running shouldn’t feel like a burden. It should be the part of the day you look forward to most. Stop thinking of running as exercise, and get out there and just enjoy yourself! Part of being a successful runner is being one who truly loves the sport.

About the Author

Brandon Frye is a vegan distance runner from Winston-Salem, NC. He is also the founder of vegrunchat.com - an online community for plant-based runners that has Twitter chats every Sunday night at 9 ET. When he’s not out running, he enjoys talking to athletes about the benefits of using plant-based foods to promote performance.

Follow Brandon on Twitter.

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