6 years of running – what I learned

Exactly 6 years ago I went for a run for the first time in my grownup life. I probably don’t need to tell you – but it was a terrible, excruciating experience. I managed to do one round in the nearest park, all together 4,42 km. My average pace was 07:29 min/km. I didn’t wear a heart rate monitor, but I’m pretty sure my heart rate was at about 170 bmp or something like this.

After this run I was exhausted and frustrated. But it didn’t make me quit. Just the opposite was true. I didn’t have any marathons or triathlons in mind (I thought people doing it were crazy) – I just wanted to be able to run for an hour and not be miserable 😉

I didn’t really have a plan. I had no idea why I should use a heart rate monitor – so I didn’t, never heard of heart rate zones, had old worn-up shoes (I’m not sure if they were even proper running shoes) and obviously I didn’t have any coach or not even a training plan. Long story short – that’s definitely not the optimal way to start running, if you don’t want to quit right away 😉 But I didn’t quit. My strategy was to run a little longer every time. 2,5 months later I ran 10 kilometers for the first time in my life and 4 months after that, the first 10 kilometers within an hour

The biggest challenge for me came in April, just about a month after I did my first run. I had to go to Brussels for a consulting project – which meant 3-4 nights a week in a hotel, for several months. Goodbye healthy routines, goodbye good habits.

Wait, but why actually? Does Brussels not have streets and parks? Are there no hotels with a gym? Does running gear really takes so much space in the suitcase, that I really cannot take it with me? Of course it’s more difficult to keep the training routine, when you’re not in your regular environment – but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible (check out my post “Triathlete on business trip”. 

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Running in Brussels

Ein Beitrag geteilt von Agnieszka Walorska (@agamw) am

I kept my running routine and at some point I really started enjoying it so much, that I decided to sign up for my first olympic distance triathlon in 2014 and shortly after for the first middle distance. But it wasn’t until I hired a coach to help me with preparation for my first IronMan distance, that I actually started training properly.

But what does it actually mean to train properly?

  • Many beginners guides recommend to pick a race date or to even sign up for a race. I personally don’t think it’s necessary. My goal was to be able to run for an hour without dying ;). Racing is not everyones “thing”. The important thing is to set realistic goals. If you never ran, signing up for a marathon that takes place in 3 months is a bad idea 😉
  • Get yourself a HR monitor and proper shoes. I didn’t have either and I consider it a mistake. I ran all my runs to the point of total exhaustion and it resulted in pain and frustration. It’s better and more sustainable to get used to it slowly. When it comes to shoes – it doesn’t mean that you need to spend a fortune. But it’s important that they give you the support you need and that you actually enjoy wearing them 🙂 My first proper shoes were the ASICS Gel Noosa Tri, but they are discontinued now. Currently I run ASICS DynaFlyte, Saucony Ride 10 and Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19
  • Ladies only, especially these with large bust. You will need a proper sports bra, otherwise it can get pretty uncomfortable (so I heard).
  • Get a training plan. It doesn’t mean that you need a personal trainer. Meanwhile there are so many apps that will give you a beginners training plan. Runtastic has nice, easy to follow training plans from beginners to marathon (and you can perfectly combine them with Runtastic Results for some bodyweight training). There are also a couple “Coach to 5K” apps, and you can find tons of training plans online. It’s important to have one for many reasons: it helps you with the discipline but also makes the training more variable. Running all out all the time is just not the good strategy. Most of the beginners need to start with alternating walking and running. That seams boring and unproductive at the beginning but it makes perfect sense.
  • About boring – the first thing my coach did was to lower the intensity of my training. Doing runs in zone 2 (check out what training zones mean), that are the basis for endurance training is necessary but it is not very exciting, especially if you repeatedly run on the same route. Some people enjoy them, focusing on themselves, some listen to music. I use the time to listen to podcasts and audiobooks. My favorite podcasts: NPR Hidden Brain ,TED Radio Hour, HBR IdeaCast, More or Less: Behind The Stats, WSJ’s The Future of Everything.
  • Find a training partner who is about as fast as you are, so you can motivate each other. I don’t enjoy running with other people 😉 but somehow most of us do. Do whatever you need to enjoy the experience as much you can.
  • Hydrate – I always have something to drink when I run for an hour or longer
  • Be disciplined, but don’t set yourself under too much of pressure. Don’t forget that you’re doing it to feel better, not to impress anyone. If you are slower today then you were yesterday – don’t worry, maybe you’re tired, maybe you didn’t sleep well, didn’t eat enough or ate too much, the weather is shitty. But don’t stop just because you think you’re not progressing fast enough.
  • Smile – if you’re having fun, it’s easy. But try to smile even if the fun factor is not at it’s highest – you’ll see that it will help you to feel better!

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