Rethinking Running

February 17, 2011

Time to be honest:  I’m starting to dislike running.  I want to like running, because I’m getting better at it, and I can do it anywhere, at pretty much any time (especially being a resident of southern California), but lately the thought of running hasn’t been exciting me.

I’m relatively new to running, having started at the end of August of last year, when my friend Tavi showed me some running basics, and off we went on my first-ever run.  I made it farther than I thought I would – 2 miles – and in the next two weeks, I went running 5 more times.  While running around my neighborhood, I began noticing how many strip clubs are nearby – there are six, within walking distance of my place (don’t you wish you lived in my neighborhood!), and that led to the creation of my running goal – to run past all six, in a continuous loop, without stopping.  The route is 6.4 miles, which is slightly more than a 10k.

It was around that time that I began charting my runs, so I could track my progress and see my improvement.  I’ll share the chart later in the post.  It was nice to see that as I kept running, I was able to run for longer amounts of time, and get faster, too – once, I was able to jog for 60 minutes straight, and went 5.1 miles!

I didn’t run at all in December – because I spent a majority of it in Michigan, where it was too cold to hit the streets, and only twice in January, which also had a 10-day trip back to Michigan, and I’ve been struggling to get back into the swing of things since then.  So far, my two runs in February have been awful: the first one simply felt terrible, and I ended up giving in early and walking home, and I nearly died on the second one (perhaps a slight exaggeration).

Because my two most recent runs were so dreadful, I wasn’t looking forward to this week’s run.  “Just do it, and get it over with,” I told myself, “you’ll hate it, but once it’s done you can go a whole week without running again.”  But I knew that I wouldn’t have what I would consider a successful run with that attitude, so yesterday I sat down (literally, on my couch), and figured out how I could rethink this whole running thing.  I’m not ready to throw in the towel altogether – mainly because I can’t bear to admit that I’d be giving up on my strip-club-based goal – but I really needed to shift my thinking.  I can’t hate running, or I’ll never reach my goal.  So I came up with a two-pronged plan of action to help adjust my attitude.  Here it is:

1) Change of Scenery. I hate to admit it, but my neighborhood is kinda ugly.  It’s full of strip clubs, as you already know, but there’s also lots of auto parts stores, boring brown cookie-cutter apartment buildings, and not much open space.  Sometimes I run at night, and many streets are poorly lit, or not at all, and sidewalks start and stop randomly, often mid-block, or are buckled and pitched and therefore unsafe (leading to my near-death last week).  But I can run anywhere, really, so it’s time to get in my car and start driving, even just a few miles, to explore new neighborhoods on foot.  I drive 30 minutes to get to Richard Simmons’ classes in Beverly Hills, so surely I can drive 10 minutes to run someplace new.

2) Take the Pressure Off. I’ve realized that I’ve been putting an incredible amount of pressure on myself to complete successful runs.  The pressure is a result of two thought patterns:  1) “This is my workout for today, and I like to exercise for at least 45 minutes, so I have to run at least that much or this workout is gonna suck.”  and 2) “I’m never gonna reach my goal unless I continue to improve.  I haven’t run 5 miles since November – I should run 5 miles today, at least, or I won’t get any closer to my goal.”  The undue pressure, I think, is weighing me down.  But how to alleviate it?  For starters, I’ve decided a run no longer has to constitute my entire workout for the day.  It’s that simple.  I’ll go running, and if I feel great and pound the pavement for a long time, than fantastic.  If not, then I’ll stop, and I’ll refuse to feel bad or consider the run a failure, and move on.  I can easily augment a not-so-lengthy run with additional cardio.  It’s not the end of the world.  As for the second thought pattern, I’ve decided to just not focus so much on the goal.  I’m going to put it on the back burner for now.  Instead, I’ll just focus on each run on its own, and see how I do.  The strip clubs aren’t going anywhere (I presume), so I’ll get to them when I get to them.

Time to put the plan in action.  On my to-do list yesterday was getting the oil changed in my car, and I know an oil-change place right next to the Chandler Bikeway in Burbank.  The Chandler Bikeway is a 2-mile long bike path that the city built along a former railroad route that opened about 5 years ago.  It’s very nice – there are three lanes: two for bikers (one in each direction), and one for pedestrians, and it’s well landscaped and maintained:

I dropped my car off at the oil change place, was told it’d be ready in about 30 minutes, and hit the bikeway.  I didn’t tell myself I had to run a certain distance or amount of time, I just starting playing my favorite songs on my iPod, and I ran.  And you know what, I felt great!  I didn’t push myself extraordinarily, I just tried to keep up a good pace.  I ended up running most of the length of the bikeway and back – a total of 2.9 miles, in 33 minutes.  My route (I went from B to A and back):

Time to update the chart:

  • 9/21/10: Distance: 3.1 miles.  Time: 41 minutes.  MPH: 4.53
  • 9/27/10: Distance: 3.3 miles.  Time: 45 minutes.  MPH: 4.4
  • 10/5/10: Distance: 3.2 miles.  Time: 40 minutes.  MPH: 4.8
  • 10/12/10: Distance: 3.8 miles.  Forgot to note time and MPH
  • 10/16/10: Distance: 2.9 miles.  Forgot to note time and MPH
  • 11/1/10: Distance: 3.1 miles.  Time: 36 minutes.  MPH: 5.16
  • 11/6/10: Distance: 5.1 miles. Time: 60 minutes.  MPH: 5.1
  • 11/14/10: Distance: 3.9 miles. Time: 45 minutes.  MPH: 5.2
  • 11/28/10: Distance: 4.2 miles. Time: 46 minutes.  MPH: 5.47
  • 1/4/11: Distance: 3.0 miles. Time: 34 minutes.  MPH: 5.3
  • 1/24/11: Distance: 4.4 miles.  Time: 45 minutes.  MPH: 5.86
  • 2/1/11: Distance: 1.9 miles.  Time: 20 minutes.  MPH: 5.7
  • 2/9/11: Distance: 3.5 miles.  Time: 38 minutes.  MPH: 5.52
  • 2/16/11: Distance: 2.9 miles.  Time: 33 minutes.  MPH: 5.28

It was my slowest run since the beginning of November, but with my new no-pressure attitude, I’m not going to dwell on such things.  After I picked up my car, I swung by my gym, about a mile up the road, and rode 27 minutes on a bike to augment my daily workout.  In total, I spent 60 minutes working out.  What’s even more exciting than that is that for the first time in a while, I’m looking forward to my next run!

Keep it up, David!