Fitness for Fat Nerds: Running Quick Start Guide (2)

We’re going to get ever so slightly more advanced here, so if you haven’t read part 1 take a look now.

Sorry it took me so long to get back to this, my fellow fat nerds. I’m now settled in Houston for the summer (yay, internship) but it’s playing hell with my ability to run because good god have you seen what they call air here? It’s like a gelatinous solid dropped straight from the Devil’s microwave. I’m more likely to concentrate on biking and weightlifting this summer (once I’m cleared by my physical therapist, that is, argh!) so is there any interest in reading about those, too? Let me know.

Anyway, let’s dive in.

So you’re starting to run. You’re shuffling and doing intervals and maybe pushing yourself up to 20-30 minutes as a stretch, but it’s rough. What other tricks might a fat nerd have to make getting up to speed less torturous?

Well, to start with…

It’s not a race.
Really. We get this horrible thing in our brains because of PE in school, I think, where we believe that if it ain’t fast, it ain’t running. And there are quite possibly going to be jocks lapping us at any moment, ready to yank our pants down and laugh mockingly as they go flying by.

Let it go. Just let it go. This isn’t a race. Slow down.

If you’re running in an area where there are a lot of other people, it’s okay if they pass you. Don’t feel bad. Unless they’re assholes, they’re just cruising on and minding their own business and giving no shits about how fast you’re running. Do them and yourself a favor and give no shits about their speed either.

You need to learn the difference between pushing yourself an pushing yourself too hard. If you push yourself too hard for speed, you’re more likely to end up with an injury, which is a very frustrating thing that’ll stop you from running for a while. Sometimes you’re going to want to challenge yourself with your pacing, which is awesome, but don’t kill yourself. And you know what? Sometimes it’s awesome to just cruise along, take your time, and feel good.

You’ll be able to relax and have a lot more fun if you’re not worrying about your speed. Once you’re over the initial weeks of soreness that tend to haunt the first few weeks of new exercise, running should leave you feeling good, not exhausted and full of existential and muscular anguish. Find yourself a comfortable pace and stick with it.

Which brings us to the next point:

Keep it light and quick.
Pacing-wise, this has really worked well for me. First off, you want to keep your steps light. It’s a lot easier on your joints, trust me, and you have no reason to be pounding the ground if you’re not being chased by a ravening zombie horde. Until you’ve got a good handle on how a light impact feels, it helps to leave off the ear buds for a while and just listen to your own footsteps. Concentrate on making as little noise as possible while still trotting along. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out, and that’s okay.

The other thing that helps is that you make your steps quick. Which means by necessity taking smaller steps. There’s an excellent description of this technique at No Meat Athlete (thanks Chelsea for turning me on to that) and I encourage you to give it a read. This also helps you run more lightly.

Now, over at NMA they’ve got you shooting for 180 steps per minute. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything that fast in my life. I feel good and relaxed at around 160 (I use Carmalldansen (speedy cake remix) as my pacing song, of all silly things) but I’ll work my way up eventually.

Because while you want to shoot for a fast pace, this is another thing where it’s not a race. Work up to it. You’re not going to jump off your couch and immediately hit the ground running at 180 beats per minute. (Or if you do, let it be know that I hate you. A lot.)

Once I get my pace set, I tend to run independently of whatever music I’ve got going. However, if you want a little pacing help, check out Podrunner. There’s a really nice selection of mixes at different bpm.

Don’t look down.
Another army guy trick: keep your chin up. You know what the ground at your feet looks like – you saw it a few seconds ago when it was farther away. You don’t need to look at it again, it hasn’t changed in that short amount of time.

This is a thing that will help you with breathing. If you look down, you tend to hunch, plus your airway’s kinked and you can’t suck wind as effectively. So just keep looking ahead and trust in your feet. You do it all the time when you’re walking.

This also, I note, helps keep you from running into tree branches.

Not that I’d know anything about that.

The only exception I’d make to this rule is if you’ve hit an extremely rough patch on a trail, or if you’re negotiating the sloppy remnants of snow in the late winter, things like that. If the terrain is actually dangerous, pay it as much attention as is necessary. You should only have to look down for a few seconds. If you need to stare at the ground any longer than that, you might want to reconsider the location you’ve chosen.

While you’re at it, don’t hunch your shoulders. Really, just relax
This is a thing that happens to me sometimes when I’m really tired. I tend to hunch my shoulders and try to pull myself along with my arms, since my legs obviously aren’t doing their job. If you feel your shoulders creeping up toward your ears, if you’re not standing up straight, fix the posture issue. That’ll help you breathe too.

I always had a problem not being sure what to do with my arms when running, since everything feels fairly weird at first. The key really seems to be that you want to (a) be relaxed but (b) not so relaxed you’re flailing. Don’t clench your hands, keep your elbows bent comfortably, keep your shoulders relaxed and swing comfortably from there.

Which has proved problematic for me recently, since I’ve had such issues with my right shoulder. Thankfully, those seem to have been resolved by the surgery and everything appears okay now that I’m allowed to run again. But when you can’t move one of your arms properly, you start to realize just how much your arms are involved in the entire process…

But anyway. Don’t tense up. Every bit of energy you use to be tense is energy you’re wasting on fighting yourself instead of running. Relax. And if you’re tensing up because you’re that tired or in pain then STOP. You have my permission.

Cheat Codes
Still none. Sorry.

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