Running is the sport that requires minimum preparations for maximum results. All you really need is a pair of running shoes (well okay, some proper running clothes as well) and you’re good to go, anytime, anyplace. Perhaps that down-to-earth simplicity is what has made running arguably the most popular sport on the market today. Well that, plus the unmistakable fact that running comes with a host of benefits, ranging from physical fitness to overall well-being and happiness. Research has shown that people who uphold a regular running practice tend to be more cheerful and optimistic and also more patient than those who don’t run. Here’s five tips on how to keep churning out the miles – and the smiles – on a regular basis:
1. Choose a goal
Running becomes more enjoyable and exciting when you work towards reaching a goal. The goal can be as simple as being able to run non-stop for half an hour (for complete beginners), or as far reaching as finishing a marathon (for advanced only). And of course anything in between. Once you have a goal you’re really keen to reach, your motivation to tie on those running shoes several times a week gets a powerful boost, because each of your runs becomes a significant building block to reach that goal. One of the greatest feelings in running is the sense of making progress and becoming fitter. Having a goal you almost forces you to make progress and improve your fitness. In this way running becomes much more satisfying than when it’s just the standard lap or two around the park.
2. Don’t always do the same thing!
People sometimes complain of running being monotonous and boring. Granted, if you always do the same loop at the same time of day, at the same speed, that really is boring! Instead, try something new once in a while. Variety is one of the most important ingredients in keeping a healthy and enjoyable running practice. You can play around with the distance, the speed, the course, the time of day and the company you keep while running, so that each run is its own unique combination of all these factors. Some short repetitions on the track, a long run through a part of town you’ve never seen before or a pleasant, enjoyable afternoon jog with a bunch of friends – each run can and should be different to enjoy your running practice to the max and make it last.
3. Shift gears
Have you ever seen a little child jog? Hmm, probably not. When children run, they always go full blast. Kids know that nothing is as fun and exhilarating as running fast. Sure, you get tired, but you also feel great! To connect to the raw, original joy of running try to get your breath wheezing, your heart hammering and your adrenaline pumping from time to time. Incorporate some fast laps on the track or some fartlek (literally ‘speed-play’, a workout where you run fast for certain spontaneously chosen sections of your running course) into your training runs each week. You may be a bit sore and stiff in the beginning, but when you shift gears once in a while your running acquires a new level of enjoyment. Oh, and you’ll also boost your fitness in an amazing way.
4. Join a club or community
‘Pain shared is minimized. Joy shared is maximized,’ spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy used to say. This piece of wisdom definitely applies to running. Going for a jog or a run with others is not only a great social activity, but also a physical stimulus. The energy of a group carries you through the miles and you’ll find yourself less troubled by fatigue and monotony. And working towards a goal together – like finishing a 10K race – gives you much more joy and motivation than fighting your battles all alone. So whether it’s a track workout or a Sunday long run, try to find some birds of a feather to flock together. Join a running club in your city, or find a running community. And if not available, create your own! Hang up a note in your local supermarket or running store and make some new friends.
5. Dress to the nines
Would you wear an old pair of jeans to the prom? By the same rationel, neither should you run in worn slacks, a faded cotton shirt and tennis shoes. Of course you’re not running to make a fashion statement, but the right clothes can help to give your motivation that extra little push. When you’re decked out in the right running outfit, you’ll feel more eager to go and burn some rubber. Your run will feel so much more smooth in good quality running gear. Proper running shoes not only feel and look better when you run, they also help to prevent injuries. So invest in some quality running material. It may cost a few bob, but it’s worth the effort.