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ARTICLES: NEW RUNNER


RUNNING AIN'T EASY: DON'T MAKE THINGS HARDER THAN THEY HAVE TO BE

by Dave Milner

I freely admit that I'm a fan of humorous bumper stickers and slogan t-shirts. If my wife would still allow herself to be seen in public with me, I wuld wear slogan t-shirts almost every day. Anything to give folks a laugh, or at least make them stop and think for a while.

I once saw a t-shirt that read 'If running was easy, it would be your mom.' It's the kind of tenth grade humor that has - probably as a by-product of coaching high schoolers - grown on me! Whilst I don't know your mom, and I'm sure she is (or was) a fine upstanding woman with sound morals, I can say, with some authority and assuredness, that running is not easy.

It may be easy to start, to make good on a new year's resolution, perhaps, or in an effort to win a bet borne out of beer-indiced bravado. But sticking at it, progressing, adhering to a well-thought-out training plan; these things are far from easy.

Whilst I am no newbie (2006 marks my 25th year of competitive running), I currently, as I write this, find myself, after my worst year of running to date, essentially restarting from ground zero.

I don't like not being in shape. I don't particularly enjoy seeing my friends and cohorts blazing a trail at local races whil emy running is stuck in neutral gear. But I'll get back to where I was, and will, all being well, get to where I've always wanted to be. But there are some basic tenets to which I must adhere if I am to avoid setting myself up for disappointment, discomfort and distress. And the same principles that apply to me also apply to you, the beginning runner. Think of them as your nine commandments.

1. SET REALISTIC, BUT ATTAINABLE GOALS

Sit down with either a coach, or the fruits of your Google research, and establish short-term, intermediate, and long-term goals for your running. For example, you might want to, by the end of the month, be able to make it all the way from your house to the greenway and back without stopping to walk. Make longer-term, more challenging plans, but don't focus on the next goal until the current one has been realized. Think Baby Steps!

2. MAKE A PLAN AND PUBLICIZE IT

After establishing your goals, create a training plan an then publicize it. Make yourself accountable. Print out your training schedule and put it on your refridgerator where everyone in the house can see it. You'll be surprised how supportive your spouse or significant ther can be if they are kept in the loop. Or, just committing to meet someone for runs can make it a lot easier to lace up and get out of the door.

3. GET THE RIGHT GEAR

Especially during the winter, having quality running apparel can be the difference between having a blissful hour to yourself in a winter wonderland and a miserable 60-minute slog with you being on the business end of mother nature's foot!

Getting the right shoes and replacing them on a timely basis will not only reduce your risk of injury, but make your run that much more enjoyable. Go to a specialty running store and get kitted out.

4. EASY RUNS SHOULD BE EASY

The most common mistake I see among beginning (and somewhat experienced) runners that I have coached is that they do the bulk of their running way too fast, with their being little difference between the pace they run their Wednesday post-work 5-miler and the pace at which they try to race a 5K the next Saturday.

Running your aerobic (i.e. with oxygen; that means NOT in oxygen debt) runs at a comortable pace is key to increasing your mileage without unnecessary injury risk. A good gauge: If you're too out of breath to chat with your running partner, or accompany whoever is wailing on your iPod, you are running too fast.

5. AVOID HILLS IF YOU'RE TIRED

Much of Tennessee is pretty hilly, and you may be hard pressed to avod hills where you live. But if you're dragging somewhat, your Achilles tendon is tight, or maybe your knee doesn't feel like it is firing on all cylinders, then consider looking for a flatter route, even if that means driving somewhere to run. Hills have thir place, and can help you build strength, but when you're below par, they can just erode the enjoyment you'll derive from your run.

6. GET A TRAINING PARTNER

Most people are pleasantly surprised at how much more enjoyable and improved their running is when they have company. Training partners may come in both human and canine forms. You may find loyal, supportive companins from both species. Check the web for running clubs or post on the tnrunning.com message board announcing that you're looking for a training partner.

7. MIX UP YOUR VENUES

Running the same loop, or variations on it, over and over again are unlikely to do much for your pre-run excitement levels. Try to run somewhere new at least once a month, and look for places that have soft running surfaces with good footing.

8. AVOID THE DARK

Whenever possible, run during daylight. Not only is it safer, but you have the option of getting off the asphalt and running on scenic trails that wil be kinder to your joints. If, in the winter, you leave for work before daylight and return after the sun has gone down, consider running at lunchtime. If that's not an option, running right after work (perhaps from the office), or before you leave for work in the morning, is often easier than running after you return home in the evening when your couch is giving you those come-hither eyes.

9. PIN ON A NUMBER

Sometimes, rolling out of bed to log your 6-miler is hard. Rolling out of bed to do your 6-miler with 200 other folks is usually a lot easier. Don't be afraid or embarrassed to go to a race.

Yes, there will be well-chiseled ectomorphs that look like they were genetically hard-wired to getfrom A to B with other-worldly speed. But there will also be folks just like you, and you will outnumver those speedsters by far. Running in a large group is fun. You will feed of each others' energy and that of the event itself, and you will, doubtless, make new friends (and find potential training partners). You don't have to race. Consider using your local 5K or 10K as a training run; where you're not just running with Bob, or Mary, or even Fido, or U2, but 200 other folks who've made the same commitment as you.

DAVE MILNER is the editor and publisher of TR and has been running since the age of eleven. A USATF-certified coach, he currently serves ast the assistant croos-country and track coach at Belmont University. In his first ever race, a 2.5-mile cross-country run in southern England, he was so far behind the leaders, he was convinced that he had taken a wrong turn.

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