How much do you know by now? You know how to start running, you know what shoes to use, you know how to run most efficiently, you know how to dress for every season. It is likely that you have been running for a few months now, so you may have encountered one of the stumbling blocks that everyone encounters: the desire to get out and run.
It’s easier in the beginning: you see steady improvements, you easily increase speed and endurance, you generally feel better. Then something insidious takes over: boredom, combined with a lack of stimulation. Each workout feels the same as the last, and then you don’t see yourself improving so conspicuously.
You have reached one of the (several, needless to hide it) stages when the risk of quitting intensifies. The good news is that there are several solutions to overcome them.
1. Tell someone you’re running
It seems pointless, and yet telling someone-a friend, partner or companion, uncle, grandmother-means making a commitment. And all commitments must be fulfilled. You could also do it between you and youself but with another person it’s different: you have a witness who can state that it’s true, on such and such a day you swore to him that you would keep running even if the motivation failed a little bit. You have no excuse: you must keep your commitment.
2. Running with others
This is a broader type of engagement. It’s about finding a company of people running and making commitments for such a day at such a time. Nothing could be simpler or more effective. With them, too, a pact is made to be present at the appointed time and never to miss it, barring any force of force majeure.
The benefits of group running don’t stop there: sharing the difficulties and uncertainties or even the enthusiasms over achievements with those who are on the same path as you is an invaluable resource.
As Alex Supertramp said, “Happiness is authentic only if it is shared.” Join a group, crew or sports club and find who to run with. Rejoicing together makes happiness more powerful and the afflictions of difficulties more easily to overcome.
3. Get a coach
Reaching a certain level, especially when you feel you can no longer progress based on your own strengths alone means only one thing: you need a professional to guide you.
The coach is a central figure, another person with whom-yet again-you make a commitment. However, this is a somewhat different kind of person than the friend or running mate: he is a technician, he has expertise, he is an authority figure you would never want to disappoint.
Do not overlook also a not minor psychological effect of being coached: the transfer of responsibility. Not that you don’t have any (you are still the center of the action), but now you follow his directions without asking whether they are right or wrong: you trust him.
You entrust to him or her the security you individually cannot give yourself. You just have to run.
And don’t let him down, ever.
4. Motivational quotes
Thinking of a particularly inspiring quote has incredible power because it allows you to focus like a laser beam on one thing. You choose your own phrase (here are a few) but it must become your mantra. It must be the only phrase you think of when the urge is latent. I often think of a phrase that is not even a quote: it is “You’ll be better later.” It is a bit like promising a prize to a child (I guess the psychological mechanism is very similar): the idea of doing something to get a reward motivates any human being.
5. Do something you enjoy, which is not running
“Hey, wait: are you telling me that I should convince myself to run by not thinking about running?“. Yes, something like that. For example, I really enjoy listening to music while running. Or podcasts (including, of course, our Fuorisoglia or Il Lungo). When you run, your concentration is maximum: you can only run or … listen to something. At that moment your predisposition to listen is at its peak and you are not distracted by anything else. I also experience it as a very intimate time dedicated just to me: I learn listening to interesting podcasts or I relax by listening to my favorite music.
It is, again, a reward that you give yourself for doing something that maybe you didn’t feel like doing that day.
Running is also an effective way to reconnect with your boyhood past. How much did you used to run? Doing it in adulthood manages to give you the same lightheartedness, and one way to do it even more effectively is to challenge yourself to pass small tests, like running as hard as you can to that road sign or trying to outrun that runner just ahead of you. Few can resist a healthy challenge, and besides, it’s a game!
The brain is a wonderful machine, you know it. What you may not know is that you can also fool it. Like smiling when fatigue would make you think of doing anything else. Why is it important to do so? For at least two reasons: the first is that smiling induces a relaxed state that reduces the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which has a positive effect on heart rate and muscle tension. In short: you feel less fatigue and your brain becomes convinced that everything is under control and, indeed, everything is beautiful. And the second reason is more aesthetic: those who run smiling are beautiful. Just like running is beautiful.
Until the next installment!
THE GUIDE TO START RUNNING
Seven tips for always wanting to run