Now, where did I put my running shoes?

11Apr09

It’s sobering to realise that I will never again be as fit as I was at the age of 15.

Back then, I was training 12-14 hours a week (for a school sports team, no less – we worked hard), as well as walking a mile a day as part of my journey to school. Now I have to drive to and from work, and aside from the occasional game of tag or dodgeball with the kids I teach, I do no formal exercise at all.

At least, that used to be the case. But in a moment of boundless optimism, I signed up for a local football tournament. That weekend, after becoming short of breath walking around a temple, I realised I had to get slightly fitter if I was going to be in any kind of shape to run around a pitch for ninety minutes.

This sort of thinking has occurred to me periodically for the last few years. Usually what happens is I get all enthusiastic, put on some sports clothing, and go for a run.

The first run goes well and I feel all virtuous.
The second time I run half of what I aimed to do, walk the rest of the way, and call it a near-success.
The third time I stop half-way with shin pains, hobble home, and put my running shoes away for another six months.

This may explain why I’m not as fit as I once was.

This time, I’m trying a different plan. I always run with music, and I now have a shiny iPod nano that fits in my pocket nicely. But my usual musical tastes run to indie pop and jazz – not ideal exercise accompaniments.

So I found myself some upbeat music that might be more energetic. Podrunner Intervals is working quite well at the moment. Essentially it’s a half-hour mix of dance-type music with different BPMs. The idea is to walk on the slower bits and run on the faster bits, keeping in time with the music. It’s good for me because:

1) I’ve never been good at regulating my energy. I tend to push myself too hard at the beginning and stop before the end because I’ve tired myself out. Forcing myself to stop running at the end of each running segment actually means I do more exercise.

2) I don’t really like dance music. So I can switch off paying attention to the music and just treat it as a beat to keep time to. The lack of lyrics on most of the segments help with this too.

3) It’s designed to start at complete beginner level. After months of not doing any proper exercise, that’s where I am. Sadly.

4) The mixes form a series, slightly increasing the intensity each time. You’re supposed to do each one three times and then move on to the next (ideally, this means one mix a week). So I can feel as if I’ve achieved something when I use a mix enough times to move up to the next level. I like feeling smug.

So far I’ve kept this new routine up for three weeks. That’s about two and a half weeks more than my new routines usually last. My aim is to keep this level of exercise up even after the new school term starts and I’m tired in the afternoons. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

The other reason, I think, why I’ve been able to keep going much longer than usual is this: no shin pains. It turns out that running on grass or sand, instead of concrete or tarmac, doesn’t cause pain. Genius.

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