Running for Fitness
Last month, I received an email that marks a little milestone in my running life. It’s an email from “MapMyRun” congratulating me on my 40th workout since July 14th, 2013. Running apps are truly a blessing to runners like me. In a Digital Age, a running app can keep me company through all my workouts. Although I have supportive friends who run with me and follow social media running accounts, I don’t have anything other than this running app that keeps track of all my runs statistically.
Besides this running app, I am also grateful for Running 101: Essentials for Success written by Joe Henderson, a lifelong runner and former columnist and editor at Runner’s World magazine. Running 101 contains 101 lessons for people who run for fitness, racing, and recreation. I’ve learned so much from this book that I now plan, control, and enjoy every run predominantly based on Henderson’s experience for over fifty years.
The Exerciser, The Racer, and The Lifer
Running 101 divides runners into three groups: Exercisers run for fitness; racers run for racing; lifers run for recreation. There is a tendency that exercisers, after achieving fitness, will aim for racing. Going one step further, retired racers become lifers; for them, regular runs are as natural and enjoyable as having a cup of coffee.
I am currently running for fitness. Running 101 advises runners like me to run no more than 15 miles (25km) per week, as overwork increases the likelihood of injuries. I was a little surprised but happily took the advice. After all, I’ve lifted my weight about 1,500 times and burned 100 calories for running just one mile. If I’m sore when I run, every running step will put three times my body weight on a sore spot—overworking myself is not innocuous.
Another piece of advice that I love is about the power of running language. Rather than thinking “how far did you run today,” Running 101 suggests another question: “How long did you run today?” Running by time enables me to make friends with time. I no longer feel impatient when I have to slow down behind dog walkers or experience anxiety asking myself if I can finish this mile as fast as I did last time. Instead, I tell myself: Well, I am going to run only 20 minutes today. Let me enjoy every second of it.
What to Wear
Running 101 compares the human body to a furnace. When I run on chilly October evenings, I wore exactly the same as I did in August. Once I tried long yoga pants and after only one mile I was sweating bullets. Running warms me up faster than my heater does.
One change I made after reading the book is switching to flimsy light shoes. When I run, I remember to “glide over the surface, brush it quickly and quietly.”A pair of light shoes surely helps me “run lightly and proudly.”
Running 101 considers a lot of new running gear unnecessary. It recommends only a few: heart rate monitors, bottle belts, reflective vests, and ID bracelets. I’m interested in the bottle belt. I think I’ll get one when I become a racer.
How to Run
I adore the beautiful language used by Henderson to describe the good running posture. “Good running is straight-backed, tall running” with “no slap slip scrape shuffle.” Imagine a runner on the road, back straight, eyes forward, his or her face with little expression, as if he or she were meditating in action…
Not only your running posture matters, but also the time of day you run. Do you run in the morning for clean air, during the lunch break for a change of pace, or in the evening for a vigorous end of the day? It’s up to you. Henderson runs at 7 in the morning every day, but I don’t think morning runs are a good idea for Angelenos for two reasons: First, according to Reuters, LA has the worst smog and traffic in the United States; second, according to a UCLA study, density of pollutants is higher in the morning – even higher than during peak traffic hours, because low wind speed picks up with sun exposure.
Last but not least, check your body time, Running 101 reminds. Henderson included many of his interesting column essays in the book. One essay was about how an African runner who got up in the morning, ran for a while, and then went back to sleep. The idea is that you might not know how your body really feels until you hit the road. I tried this a few times. Before I went out, I felt tired and thought I would be able to run only one mile, but after running for a few minutes, I checked the MapMyRun, and said to myself, “Ha! I want to keep going and see if I can break my record today!”
I truly enjoyed Running 101. This book is not just for beginners, but for runners of all levels. While this post focuses on the first stage of running—running for fitness, you racers (no matter if you are training for a 5K, a 10K, or a marathon)—you will find detailed instructions. Check it out from your public library or get a new copy, and start reaping the benefits of a running life!