For a House Officer in UPTH, work is a tedious, soul sucking and time zapping affair. And it’s pretty easy to lose yourself in the daily grind of tending to the numerous needs of patients. But once or twice a week I must find time to lace my shoes and hit the road. In fact it’s pertinent I do.
“Where do you get the time?” Someone asked.
“I and running have come a long way.” I replied.
“We are faithful to each other.”
I’m not here to talk about the benefits of running; the benefits are compounded, impressive and of course ridiculously cheap. But here’s the catch. You will never know the body sculpting, posture correcting, age defying (and when you have run long enough), carb permissive benefits of running until you get out there constantly. Not just on weekends, or to flaunt on social media, or because of an incentive, but constantly – come rain, sun or harmattan.
So no, this article is not a pep talk to become a runner. This article is to show you how to love running enough to stay with it till death do you part.
Forget what your Body Looks Like
I’ve worked with a couple of newbies to know the ones who will stick around long enough or quit. I call it the Litmus Test of Newbies.
Newbies who talked about how fat they were and how they wanted to lose weight ASAP quit quickly. Newbies who were interested in making running an easy habit succeeded in doing so.
I had to shift focus from what my body looked like. I quit weighing myself, pinching my sides, feeling my face and obsessively counting the calories I burnt on my last run and won’t that ice cream set me back by 100 calories?
Most of the girls I’ve worked with were obsessed with losing weight fast.
Barely two weeks of running and
They complain that I’m coaching them slowly.
They want to run with waist trainers.
They heard workouts at the gym work faster.
They heard keto diet works wonders.
Why do people skip processes for quick fixes that aren’t sustainable? Fruit diet, keto diet, slimming teas, waist trainers, gym till you drop dead, intermittent fasting?
Then there is the group of people who are ashamed to come outside for a morning run, because people will see them. One time I ran with a girl who was particular with running with a face cap. Her reason? She didn’t want people to notice her. It was funny. She was more concerned about people’s opinion of her than the face cap that was obscuring her view and messing up her running form.
I pointed to the guards manning UPTH gate.
“Two years ago the guards there used to call me big aunty each time I came out to run. Now they hail me every chance they get. Human opinions are most times fickle.”
I believe I made an impression.
Focus on What your Body Can Do
You want the toned body of a runner? Be a runner. It’s simple. But for the life of me I don’t understand how people want to have strong lean bodies when they run only on weekends.
A runner’s body is a product of time, but folks start running and all of a sudden expect their bodies to efficiently convert fat to energy. They expect their cells to excrete lactic acid like an elite runner. They expect their muscle mass to increase.
It’s so easy to pick out the newbies. Newbies start off with so much ginger they barely run for a sustained 10 minutes.
They seem to think it’s by how fast they run. They strike the ground with their heels, tense up their necks, shoulders, wrists and spend more energy bobbing up and down instead of moving forward.
Yet they wonder why they tire out so easily.
It’s always an honor to watch athletes run. In my early days I made friends with one of UNIPORT’s athlete runners.
Apart from his incredibly hot body (lol), he was a graceful runner. His running form and carriage were so effortless you would think his runs were easy. Till you joined him in it.
Rather than conclude running isn’t for you take time to learn and practice the dynamics of efficient running.
A few tips could be to:
• Watch YouTube videos.
• Get hands on training from athlete runners. They will be so glad to help.
• Join forums. A favorite of mine is Runtastic.
• Don’t run without a sense of time. Run with a stop watch.
• Be conscious of your body movement.
• Replace weight loss goals with running goals. For example rather than aim to lose so and so kilos in so and so months, aim to run for so and so minutes without stopping.
Treat your Body with Respect
As much as I can, I try to make runs as easy as possible for newbies. I aim to give them a feel of the road and prepare them for a life time commitment. On the first day I make them brisk walk, then over a course of weeks, I ease them into walk stops then to light jogs then sustained runs.
Most are very impatient with my schedule. For them, it’s too easy. Of course it’s supposed to be easy. Why do Africans have a weird fondness for pain? If it’s not painful it’s not working?
Pay attention to your body. It isn’t possible to run down all the fat in a single day of intense workout. I’m proud to say I’ve never had an injury. The reason is that I listen to my body a lot. An injury can set you back days or weeks and it can also cost you money and enthusiasm.
It’s almost 5 years since I started running and people can’t understand why I still run. After all I’ve lost weight, and even on the verge of becoming “too skinny,” according to Naija standards.
There is so much for me to do. HIIT runs, fartlek, 5k races, 10k races, I can go on. And to be honest, I can’t give up the feeling of finishing a 30 minute – an hour’s run. It’s quite addictive. Consistency conditions your body to handle stress. Think of it this way. Each time you get out there, you expose your body to doses of stress and strain. Your muscles tear, heal, and get stronger to handle that amount of stress. You increase the stress a bit. Your muscle adapts to that. You increase the stress again.
You run faster. You run further. Your muscle breaks down, heals, gets stronger. You get it?
But you can’t push further if you aren’t consistent. You will be setting yourself up for an epic fail and serious injury.
You might be a slow poke today or a plodding newbie. Just be a consistent one. Don’t wait for a chronic illness, metabolic disease or some social media event to help you make conscious choices. Take charge of your body. Discipline it. Then watch it pay you back. You will be amazed by how fast and how far it can go.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime