I’m taking a “learn to run” course at the Running Room these days. It seems silly, yes. After all, I have been running – off and on – most of my life. And most humans – if they’re able – learn to run pretty early in life. But there is, actually, an awful lot to learn.
Lately (like in the last five or so years) every time I’ve started running again, I’ve headed out hard, run four or five times, injured myself then given up in frustration. But running has a lot of appeal. As exercise, it’s a lot more efficient than cycling. It requires fewer gadgets. And I’ve just never liked admitting defeat, so this time I thought “get help.”
I’d heard about the Running Room’s clinics a number of times from people who’ve taken them. Mostly I’d heard about the methods they use to get people to work their way up to running: a mixture of walking then running to build up endurance and tolerance for all those aggressive footfalls etc. But that’s not the half of it.
An example. Lactic acid.
I am a tad embarrassed to admit this but I had always thought that you feel stiff the day after running or doing some other exercise because you didn’t stretch enough. In fact, no. The stiffness is from lactic acid which builds up in your muscles and your bloodstream because your body cannot create energy as fast as you use it.
If you keep your heart rate down, you won’t get that stiffness because your body will be able to produce the energy it needs without relying excessively on the anaerobic metabolic processes (conversion of oxygen and food into energy) that produce lactic acid.
I now know that the reason for my chronic failures to run sustainably is me going too hard.
See, my normal running regimen is to get out there and run. 5km, around Dow’s Lake. Since the advent of the iPhone, I know that my default pace is around 5 minutes per kilometre. I did that in late October, to see where my fitness levels were at in advance of this clinic. And was stiff for about a week afterward.
But the thing is to build endurance you don’t actually have to work your heart so hard you’re stiff for days afterward. In fact it’s best you don’t. So they teach you about how to monitor that. And they don’t work you too hard.
One of the first principles they teach is consistency. You can’t do some sort of epic binge run every two weeks and expect to see any improvements. So instead they propose three walk/run activities per week. The intervals are different depending on whether you’re entering at the learn-to-run state or the 10km state, but they generally involve about 20 minutes of activity at the outset.
So that’s what I’ve been doing. I do the regimen with the Learn To Run people on Mondays, and the 10km course regimen Wednesdays and Sundays.
And because I’m keeping the intensity low, I’m good to go again the next day. I look forward to the next run. I don’t get stressed about the time committment and I don’t dread the pavement pounding. It’s a whole new sport for me now.