Resources for running

Last Updated: 09 July 2017

So the idea with this article is that it is a live document that I’ll be updating as and when I find something useful that’s worked for me. The impetus for this article came from a chance meeting with an old friend who has just started training for a half marathon and was curious about various aspects of my training. Hope this is going to be useful.

In the text below these are the main sections:

Why Run?

Reading about Running

Getting Going

Warm up and Cool Down

Building Strength

On ‘Barefoot Running’

Other Resources

Why Run?

This piece basically goes through the research (recent and otherwise) on the physiological and psychological effects of running. A lot of it rang true from my experiences this past year. It ends with a beautiful quote by Murakami when he’s asked,

What on earth do you think about while you’re out there for so many miles? This, as the writer Haruki Murakami noted in his What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, is almost beside the point. Sometimes he thinks while on the run; sometimes, he doesn’t. It doesn’t really matter. “I just run. I run in void,” he writes. “Or maybe I should put it the other way: I run in order to acquire a void.”

Reading about running

Here are my three picks for books that were really fun reads about running.

1// What I talk about when I talk about running by Murakami: This is Murakami’s take on a memoir. While he talks about his life, his writing and his thinking, he intertwines the narrative with experiences of running marathons, ultras and triathlons or just regular training and uses them as analogies for his experiences. Out of the three, I feel like it’s the most interesting one especially if you like his fiction. 
2// Born to Run by Christopher McDougall: This one is slightly more academic (well relative to other two in any case) where in McDougall is making the case (chapter after chapter) that homo sapiens have evolved to run long distances. He does that through his experiences with a tribe in Central America for whom running is a way of life, to scientists who hypothesize that early humans evolved tribes that engaged in persistence hunting, which is a way of wearing down prey by chasing them over long distances unlike other predators in nature. 
3// Eat and Run by Scott Jurek: While this acts as an autobiography for champion ultra-marathoner Jurek, for me the big takeaway was the sense of community that runners have with each other, the sense of bonhomie. He also weaves in tips on improving your running, and every chapter ends with really nice recipes for smoothies, rolls, spreads and others that are an intrinsic part of his diet as a runner.

Getting Going

I’m just going to share what works for me, though I’m pretty sure that everybody would have their own system. I’d made several false starts in the past to train to run long distances in the past, but failed every time.

Step 1: What helped was that the first thing I did was sign up for an event, in my case the Mumbai half that happens every year in January. I set myself a clear date and distance goal.

Step 2: Now there are a whole bunch of tools online that can help you, but the key next step is to set up a clear schedule for how you’re going to train. So that means a calendar where you know what distance you’re going to run which day of the week. The tool that helped me through my training was Endomondo premium, which dynamically adjusts your runs based on performance besides mixing up the training runs so it’s not just long, slow runs but also short tests, interval training and others.

There are a bunch of free tools also like Nike’s running app, My Asics, or a whole bunch of user generated training plans that you can download, print and follow. The key is to just follow the plan, it’s a Tuesday, the plan says 5k, put on the shoes and hit the road. So if you’re just getting started with running, do a ‘couch to 5k’, or try a 10k.. there’s now a bunch of events that happen across the world, find an event near you, sign up, start training and DO IT!

Getting Going when you’re feeling Lazy: So here’s a little trick that my friend uses when he’s feeling too lazy to go for a run. He’s made a kind of contract with himself. He’s decided he will not make the decision not to run while sitting in the office or home. He will at least change, put his shoes on and get out on the road. If at that time, he still doesn’t feel like running, he won’t, but in most cases he ends up doing the run. He told me about this a couple of years ago, where he came from nowhere and ran a marathon. I decided to make this part of my ‘process’ and it’s been superb! I forgot about this until yesterday when we were doing our walk/run at the same time.

Warm-up and Cool Down

There’s a LOT of stuff out there, but I’ve found that these three videos really work. One important thing to remember though, the most important thing is to listen to your body, it’s going to tell you about what it needs, and through considered stretching, icing, rest etc you can build a really good relationship with it.

The Five minute warm up: Now it’s important that when you’re warming up for a run, ensure that you’re doing dynamic stretching like Oscar shows in the video. It’s this terrible training I know I got growing up of just doing static stretching for warm up.

The Five Minute Cool Down: This video is invaluable in ensuring that I stay pain and stiffness free post runs. Honestly, I’m a tad lazy after short runs, but after longer runs I make sure I do these.

Also, I highly recommend that you get yourself a golf ball and do these exercises after every run.

Building Strength

Depending on your fitness, there will be a point that you may hit a wall, and that’s when the overall strength of your body becomes really important. For me personally, I’ve been usually very fit and strong with my lower body through years of running, walking and football, but my upper body and core is terrible.

So it’s important to start building strength holistically. For this with my insane travel schedule, I’ve found that the Nike Training Club app is pretty amazing for this. I’ve been using the plans that they have and the workouts which go from 15 minutes to 45 minutes are serious work, but fit quite well with how I’d like to work out.

On ‘Barefoot Running’

Now if you’ve done even the slightest bit of reading, then you would have read a whole bunch of stuff about barefoot running, minimalist shoes, striking front or mid-foot etc. There’s a lot of rhetoric out there, and while I also subscribe to the thinking, I’ve found Scott Jurek (in Eat and Run) to have the best bit of actionable advice on that front:

Step 1 Get your stride rate per minute: The first step is to get your stride rate by counting the number of times your right foot strikes the ground in 20 seconds. Multiply that by three and you’ll have your stride rate per minute.

Step 2 Ideal strike rate: He suggests that the ideal strike rate is between 85 and 90 per minute. This means that you’re taking ‘short, light and quick’ steps rather than ‘big, slow’ strides where you land heavier and such.

Step 3 Hey presto: So if you’re running at that stride rate, try and ensure you land with the body centred over the foot, and it’s the best way I’ve found to ensure that I’m landing on the front or mid-foot.

Other Resources

There’s a ton of stuff out there, but here are a few more that I rely on:

1// Reddit /r/running: Here’s an amazing FAQ that is great to dive into and answering more of the questions you might have.

Disclaimer: Needless to say, you oughta consult a medical professional before you take on anything as physically strenuous as long distance training or strength training. These are things that I use and find useful, and your taking the advice is on your initiative alone. How’s that for legalese?

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