As you may or may not have noticed from a previous post of mine, I have very recently taken up fun running. Yes, I know it’s an oxymoron, I couldn’t agree more. The act of running long distances is not fun. The best part is the end. No, not the sprint for the finish line (I don’t do that), the part when you cross the mat and can walk again with your dignity intact.
I learned to run earlier this year. Up until then, the longest I could run for without stopping was 1 minute. In February I took on the Michelle Bridges 12WBT with the goal of learning to run 5km. The program was fantastic! Such a sensible way to learn to run. On Mondays there was interval training with the running times increasing by 30-60secs each week. Tuesdays and Thursdays were all about strengthening the muscles we use whilst running. Wednesdays was when we tested ourselves on how long we could run for without stopping. Fridays were for stretching, Saturdays were a mix of everything with the goal of burning 1000 calories and Sunday was the traditional day of rest.
I can’t say I followed the program to the letter. Although I was pretty close to the mark with the training, the food was another story. The suggested daily caloric intake for women was 1200cals. I had a dexa scan done and found out that my resting metabolic rate was close to 1800cals/day. I probably consumed close to double the recommended dose of calories but I still managed to lose 8kgs and, much more importantly, I learned to run 5km.
So, why did I want to learn to run if I find it to be such a chore? Firstly it was about challenging myself. I’d always told myself (and others) that I am not a runner, running is bad for your joints, I’m not athletic enough, my boobs are too big, etc. I wanted to challenge my self perception and break down those silly barriers. I believed that if I could learn to run long distances, anything was possible.
I suppose I should point out that I wasn’t overweight or terribly unfit at the start of the challenge but I was continually amazed by how much I was improving every week. Every Wednesday, I’d turn to my training partner and say, “that’s the longest we’ve ever run!”. I was just so proud of us and that’s what makes running fun. That amazing sense of achievement at the end of the run. Achieving something you truly didn’t believe you could is really quite euphoric.
I believe fun running is the ultimate fitness regime because it takes the focus away from superficial things like dress sizes, numbers on the scales and having a bikini body by summer. When you’re training for a fun run, you’re much more interested in the numbers on your stop watch and they’re a much better indicator of your health and fitness. Those other numbers will come down if they need to but there’s just no sense in setting a goal of looking like Jessica Biel or weighing what you did as a teenager.
I guess what I’m trying to say is we need to start setting ourselves goals that revolve around achievements, not weights and measures. Running isn’t for everybody, cycling is a great low impact alternative, and a good long walk is not to be underestimated. Just set yourself an achievable exercise challenge and throw away the stupid, fluctuating scales.