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How to Start Running and Enjoy It

Updated on May 31, 2015
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I’m the guy who didn’t like running for a long time. But I have finally found a way to turn things completely around. Now I enjoy it so much that I don’t want to go without it! When I didn’t enjoy it, it was really tough to get myself to do it. And as a result, most often I didn’t go running. In this article, I want to show you the simple distinctions that I have made and that I know that work, so that you can also enjoy running and therefore do it more often and get all the benefits that come with it: better health, better endurance, stress relief, excess weight loss just to name a few.

So if you are not yet running on a regular basis, but this is something you really want to do, this article is for you. Additionally, if you are already running fairly regularly, but you are forcing yourself to do it because you can’t seem to enjoy it, please also read on.

How to train for enjoyable running
How to train for enjoyable running | Source

How to Train for Enjoyable Running

First let me ask this question: why are you not yet running on a regular basis? If you are not having health issues or recovering from an injury, the reason is probably because you don’t enjoy it that much. Is it true? Think about it. I’m very sure that if you would really enjoy it, you would be running regularly already. If you didn’t have time because you were so busy before, you would have read a time management book or so to find the time to go running. Every day you would be looking for opportunities to make it happen.

“The key is to turn running from something you must do into a deeply enjoyable exercise that you do not want to miss having in your day”

This is exactly how I feel at the moment. If you think that running could never be enjoyable for you, you are wrong. Running can be very enjoyable and I am speaking from experience. Not long ago, I didn’t enjoy it and therefore found every excuse in the book to put it off. Now, when I get home after a stressful day, I really do want to go running. This is because for me it is stress releasing, relaxing and I now thoroughly enjoy it, even if it’s cold or raining outside. And all it took were some simple changes in strategy.

So let’s get into how you can make it happen!

Biggest Major Beginners Mistake

The one major mistake that almost all people make when they first start the sport of running, is that they start out way too fast and hard. Somehow people think when they are not completely exhausted afterwards, then the run was not good or effective enough. However, if you are completely exhausted after the run, chances are slim that it was truly enjoyable and energizing.

The Secret of Enjoyable Running

Let me tell you the one big secret upfront: You have to run in a way that leaves you feeling good! And for 99% of you the secret is to slow down significantly. This is because you want to train in your aerobic zone and not in your anaerobic zone.

Secret of Enjoyable Running: You have to start slow and increase your pace only gradually, so that you stay in your aerobic zone.

You might say that then you are not burning so many calories and that you are therefore wasting time. This is not true. First, if you start to enjoy running, you will go more often and in any given week or month, you will end up burning more calories than otherwise. Second, if you are running slower, then you are burning more fat than sugar. And once your fat burning ovens have been switched on, they keep burning for the rest of the day, even if you are not running anymore. So you will keep burning calories from fat and you will feel more energized.

So when you come back from running, you should feel more energized than before you went running, not less. If you are feeling like pulling out that tree over there or that you could run the same distance again, then you are doing it right.

Train in Your Aerobic Zone

The reason why you have to slow down for running to be more enjoyable and sustainable is that you want the energy to come from burning fat. Your body has two main means of generating energy. You are either mainly burning sugar or burning fat. Both of them have their pros and cons. Here is what they are.

Anearobic Training: Burning Sugar

Out of the approximately 135.000 calories stored in the body, only about 2.500 are stored in sugar. That shows that the body can only store a very limited amount of sugar. Plus, this is the fuel your brain needs to function. If the body has depleted too much of its sugar stores, the brains’ fuel is in danger and the body will shut everything else down to ensure the brain stays functional. This can easily happen after an intense run. You may have experienced this before: it’s when you are feeling completely exhausted, tired and hungry for high sugar content food. Then your body needs time to recover and it’s not such an enjoyable experience. This is also what happened to inexperienced marathon runners around the 20 mile mark who then can’t go any further.

Pros for burning sugar:

  • Immediately available for fast, explosive energy. Fight or flight fuel.

Cons for burning sugar:

  • Body can’t store much sugar. Lasts only very shortly, not for the long term.
  • If too much sugar has been used, the body shuts down and needs time for recovery
  • Burning sugar produces acid which the body has to compensate for and get rid of. This takes energy later on.

Aerobic Training: Burning Fat

Burning fat has much more positive effects than burning sugar. However, the problem with burning fat is that the fat is not stored inside the muscle cells. Hence, the body needs time to break the fat down somewhere else in the body (you know where it is J) and transport it to the muscle cells. So it is not available right away. However, once the fat burning ovens have been lightened, the amount of fuel available for them is practically endless.

Pros of burning fat:

  • Practically endless amounts available in the body
  • Positive effect on your emotions. Leaves you feeling energized

Cons of burning fat:

  • Needs time to start metabolizing. Slow warm-up phase required before workout

Your Aearobic Training Session

It’s quite easy to go for an enjoyable fat burning run. Here is what you have to do:

  1. Start out by simply walking for the first 3 minutes, then change into a faster walking pace for another 3 minutes. Then start with a gentle jog for another 3 minutes. This is the most important phase of your entire run, because it gives your body time to start the fat metabolizing process. If you go directly from zero to running, then your body only has one source of energy it can tap into and that is sugar. You don’t want that. So make sure you don’t miss this first step!
  2. Now you can increase your pace slowly about every 1-2 minutes until you have reached a comfortable running pace. Remember to go slower than you would normally do. In the beginning, it will feel as if you are going way too slow, because you are not used to it. If you are using a heart rate monitor, you should stay around 60 percent of your maximum heart rate. Go for as short or long as you like. Also, when you are not used to running yet, you can also walk firmly or switch from running to walking and then running again. Your pace will naturally increase over time without you having to use more effort.
  3. Take deep belly breaths as you run. It is not important whether you breathe through your mouth or your nose. Let it shift naturally from nose to mouth as the intensity increases.

Occasional Anaerobic Exercise Sessions

After you have built up a strong fat burning foundation through aerobic training and you want to increase the intensity of your runs, you may occasionally do so. Go for a high intensity run at around 80 percent of your maximum heart rate from time to time. However, make sure to limit those training sessions to one third of your total running. That is for every two slower aerobic runs you can include one run with higher intensity.

How to think for enjoyable running
How to think for enjoyable running | Source

How to Think for Enjoyable Running

This part is important because as with almost everything in life, eighty percent of the success is based on your psychology, only twenty percent is based on your strategy. As I mentioned earlier, most people go way too fast because they think that going slow is useless. After you have trained in an aerobic way for a while and you can feel the positive effects it has, it gets easy, because then you know the truth. But before, you have to keep reminding yourself that by going slow, you will eventually be able to go much faster and longer than pretty much everybody around you, while not using more effort. Plus you will be enjoying yourself in the process!

The last sentence is important to keep in mind. If you learn to love the process more than the future outcome, it gets super easy. So another key is to focus your mind on enjoying the present moment while running. For this you have to run in a comfortable pace. Otherwise your focus will shift to enduring rather than enjoying the present moment. This is a doable strategy for the short run, but usually not sustainable over the long run.

To help you enjoy the present moment, there are a variety of metaphors and strategies to use. You may shift between the different ones during your run and just use whatever works best for you.

Hold your ellbow at nienty degrees and form a very gentle fist with your hands, thumb on top
Hold your ellbow at nienty degrees and form a very gentle fist with your hands, thumb on top | Source

Focus on Your Hand Position

While running, keep your elbows in a ninety degree angle with your hands pointing straight ahead. Form your hands to a very slight fist with your thumb on top. If it helps, focus on holding something very fragile inside your fist, so you keep it very gentle.

Focus on Your Body

Mentally scan your body from head to toe. Do you feel comfortable? Is the pace easy going for you? Adjust whatever you feel isn’t right. The key here is to see your body as your partner in the run. Don’t see your body as it having to execute your wishes no matter what. Instead, listen to its clues and then act on them.

Additionally, focus on your breathing. You want to take deep belly breaths. If your breathing is short and shallow, slow down and take more deep breaths.

Focus on Your Environment

If you are in a sugar burning state, your vision tends to narrow and lead to a funnel view. This is not what you want to have. In a fat burning state, your vision tends to be much wider as you are able to process more visual information. Therefore, notice what is going on left and right around you without turning your head. Take in what’s beautiful in the environment you are in. If your focus shifts to a tunnel view, slow down.

Another thing that I like to focus on is the ground moving underneath my feet. Imagine that the world is turning underneath your feet while you actually stay in the same position. You have to lift your feet only enough so that the world can move underneath them and that it takes almost no effort to do this.

How to eat for enjoyable running
How to eat for enjoyable running | Source

How to Eat for Enjoyable Running

I do not want to go into too much detail here because this topic is vast. At the same time, you can already achieve a lot by just knowing a few simple distinctions:

  • Get rid of as much unnecessary sugar in your diet as possible. If you eat sugar, you will burn sugar. You already know that sugar is unhealthy. And yes, it is really hard to avoid as the food industry keeps pouring loads of sugar into everything. Just do your best to avoid it.
  • Add a variety of healthy and unprocessed fats to your diet, for example olive oil,coconut oil or flaxseed oil. Remember not to heat the flaxseed oil up, only pour over your meal after the cooking is done. For cooking coconut oil ist best. If you eat healthy fats, you will burn fat!
  • Add salads and vegetables to your diet wherever possible. For example, I came to really enjoy vegetable soup or just steamed vegetables with rice for a meal.
  • Have healthy snacks handy during your day. Nuts or fruits are perfect for this.

Summary

How to train:

  • Train most of the time in your aerobic zone, only thirty percent or less in the anaerobic zone. Use a heart-rate monitor if this helps you
  • Start your run by walking normally or running very slow for a few minutes, then increase the pace and intensity slowly
  • Take deep belly breaths as you run

How to think:

  • Know that by going slow in your training, you will ultimately be able to go much faster and longer!
  • Focus on creating an enjoyable experience in the present moment, not sometime in the future
  • See your body as your partner and listen to its signals. If you are going too fast it will not be enjoyable.

How to eat:

  • Get rid of as much sugar in your diet as possible!
  • Add healthy, unprocessed fats to your diet like cold pressed olive and flaxseed oil or coconut oil
  • Add as much vegetables, salads and sprouts to your diet as possible. Ideally they should make up seventy percent of your diet.

Further Reading

For further reading, I strongly recommend that you check out Stu Mittleman’s book “Slow Burn”. Stu Mittleman is an ultra-distance running champion who set a world record by running 1,000 miles in 11 days 2 hours and 6.1 minutes.

I got most of the information in this article from his book. By reading his book, you will get a lot more and also more in-depth information. As I said, I can strongly recommend it.

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