So you’ve decided to start a running program? Good! Whether you chose one of FlintLand’s Holistic Running Programs (HRP) or any other, you will get great satisfaction, health benefits and a sense of pride about what you’re achieving. That is, if you do it right.
I don’t mean to play scarecrow here, but no shit, you need to take this advice seriously. And trust me, I know from – very painful and close – experience.
Whether you’re learning - or transitioning to - barefoot or minimalist running, here are some philosophic rules to abide by at all times to run healthy, happy and injury-free.
Rome, like your calves, glutes and achilles tendons, wasn’t built in a day. You are about to ask more of your body, and it will be happy to comply. But you need to give it time to adapt. Some beginner and transition programs begin with as little as 200m of running. OF COURSE you can do more! Don’t. These programs were built to ensure you don’t do too fast, too soon and break something. The bottom line is : fail to follow the recommended progression, always work to the threshold of maximal effort and you WILL get into trouble.
Setting flashy, cocky, unrealistic goals will get you nowhere. Leave that to Tim Ferris and all your other “friends” who are going to show you how to become a billionaire porn star bodybuilder with 3 hours of effort and easy instalments of $19.99. Enjoy the small victories, set goals that you can reach and that will motivate you to get to the next level. Smiling.
Listen to your body. You might be sore from time to time, but you’re not supposed to hurt. Your body will change, but it’s not supposed to do so overnight. Your capacities will increase, but not exponentially and forever. Be watchful of extremes (like weight loss) and set your mind on steady, comfortable, gradual improvement.
Don’t take what anyone – including me – tells you for an absolute truth. Almost anything in the running world is under some sort of debate. That’s healthy. Do your own research, question what you are doing and how you are doing it, consult others, read, chat, listen. You’ll get in contact with many different views, values and philosophies. Then you can choose your own, or build them from scratch. And don’t apply this only to running; it’s also true for nutrition, cross-training, stretching and everything else in this world, really.
Tolerate NO pain
Remember, the “No pain, no gain” motto? It’s a steaming pile of horseshit and a recipe for disaster. Would you run your car pedal-to-the-metal with all the dash warning lights on and alarms going off, no oil in the engine and faulty brakes? Well then why would you do that with your body?
Pain is your body’s signal that something is wrong. Maybe you haven’t eaten right and are out of fuel. Maybe you’re overdoing it and your muscles are warning you that a tear is imminent. Maybe the day’s weather or lack of quality sleep is taking its toll. Maybe your bones or tendons are overused and are pleading for a restorative break. Whatever it is, I can guarantee you one thing : fail to listen to pain, “tough it out” and you’ll be in trouble faster than you’ll ever believe. Plus you’ll get an aggravated injury to top it all off.
When you’re done training, cool down for a bit. Say, walk for 2-3 minutes, catch your breath. Then always take time to stretch. It’s one of the best safeguards against injury. Keep each pose for 1min15 secs minimum. Don’t force, don’t push.
You can find great stretching programs here, here and here.
Run like a puppy, sleep like a dog
Is it Chris McDougall who coined that one? I’m not sure, but it’s not me. But the matter of fact is, that is some of the best advice, ever. You’re playing hard and that’s fun. But don’t forget to let your body heal and repair by making sure you get good-quality off time and plenty of sleep. Remember : rest is a vital part of your training.
A lady bystander in the crowd once yelled at me “Hey! You’re running a marathon!” and reminded me in an instant how awesome an achievement that is and how terrific I felt about it. Whatever you do, even if you walk to the corner of your street for the first time, never forget how awesome and fantastic it is to be active, to be outside. Be playful about it. You’ll see, it keeps you smiling and it gets contagious very fast!