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Guest Post: The Non-Runners Guide To Distance Running

Posted Aug 17 2010 9:54am

Greg just emailed me with a great guest post that I thought you guys would enjoy! There is some great information here that I think most runners can relate to.

The Non-Runners Guide To Distance Running

About the author: Greg Hayes is the author of Live Fit Blog. Check out his fitness blog for more ruminations on fitting fitness into busy lives.

For the vast majority of my life, I haven’t been a runner. To be honest, as a teenager, and young adult, I hated the idea of running, just for the sake of running. I was fit simply as a by-product of my lifestyle, which is an experience to which many adults can relate. Time spent playing tennis and basketball, farm work and chores at home, led inevitably to some baseline level of fitness. This made me happy. Unfortunately, life caught up with me.

As the progression toward adulthood, family life, and responsibilities marched onward, maintaining that baseline fitness level became increasingly difficult. This eventually led to the realization that I wouldn’t be able to stay fit without a more regimented plan of attack. Enter my foray into running.

Waiting until my 30′s put me late to the game of running. Being competitive by nature, overweight, and slow makes for a tough proposition when you want to turn yourself into a runner. But I learned that there’s hope for non-runners, in the form of distance running.

If you want me to say that distance running is easy, you’ll be disappointed, because it’s difficult. But the great thing about running for distance, rather than time, is that it’s really more about mental fortitude than speed. It’s about the willingness to keep putting one foot in front of the next; even if you’re doing it slowly. This simple fact opens it up to everyone.

Anthropologists have long been interested in answering one simple question — What was the difference maker(s) that gave us the evolutionary edge ? Obviously there’s no single answer to this question, but evidence is beginning to pile up to support the idea that one of those advantages lies in the design of our feet. We were built to move. Compared to most other animals on the planet, we’re relatively slow. But we’re persistent. Hence the term persistence hunter, which describes how we survived early on. We weren’t built for great speed, but we have the capacity to continue moving when competitors have spent their energy stores.

The same dynamic plays out when you take up the mantle of a distance runner. As long as you’re in relatively good health, and you follow a few simple rules, developing the ability to traverse long distances takes nothing more than simple mental fortitude and commitment.

So how does a non-runner tackle this challenge? It begins (and ends) with accepting the notion that speed is irrelevant. Lose the watch, because it will only encourage you to injure yourself. Runners of all stripes are obsessed with time – yet running for speed is one of the fastest ways to acquire an injury, and distance running is all about injury avoidance. Avoiding that pitfall in distance running is all about consistency. Distance running means adding mileage slowly and deliberately, over the course of weeks and months. It also means knowing when its time to let off the gas, and simply continue to move forward. Slowing down, and finding the enjoyment in running.

If you take up this mantle, don’t expect to win any awards. If you do it with a partner, you may find the two of you diverge on the subject of speed at some point. You may even find that sometime later, speed begins to matter. But if you’re new to running and want to learn to enjoy it, take some time-tested advice. Slow down and enjoy it.

What did you guys think?

I definitely think that running slow has it’s advantages when it comes to any sort of training. Running slow helps you recover, avoid injury, and most of all, avoid burnout.

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