Updated: Apr 24
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with running. I got into running to improve my performance in my high school sports and it was intrinsically negative. I could never get away from comparison; I felt ashamed if my mile time wasn’t the magic number I had set in my head, if I wasn’t first finishing sprints in practice, if I didn’t run a number of miles that impressed people, if I had to stop and take a rest break or drink water. Yet, it made me happy. It felt good to move through the town I’d always known in a different way. After a marathon in college ended with a strain along the side of my right foot, I shied away from running. I loved the way it made me feel but I’d push myself way too far. I would refuse to stop, unless the conditions became too treacherous or the pain in my body became too severe.
I knew I needed to step back from running despite my love for it. Since graduating college, my running has been mostly limited to trails and always without a tracking device. Not knowing how many miles I’ve done or my pace forces me to be attentive to my body. This way, I am aware of exactly how much I’ve got left to give. Am I tired and ready to be done now? Or can I keep going? Learning to run or exercise intuitively is a process and it takes some time. But once you unlock this magical world, you can have a much more positive relationship with movement, your body, and even take your fitness to higher levels than ever before. Here is what I’m doing for my upcoming race to respect and listen to my body during training.
I loosely follow my training plan, it’s more like a guideline. You have to be okay with not matching your plan everyday. Life happens and you won’t feel your best everyday. That is more than okay. Bringing flexibility into your training allows you to individualize it to your needs and your body. You might be having a great day and run double your planned distance or you might not go as far as you’d thought. You are not a failure; if you have to change around your training plan, you are a human.
2.Taking a moment
I take a minute before I decide to step on the treadmill or dress to run outside to evaluate where I am. How does my head feel? My lungs? My legs? Did I have enough water or food today? Do I actually want to run right now? Am I going to enjoy running outside or the treadmill more today? Do I want to go fast or slow? This allows me to establish an expectation for my run or change my plan. Maybe I had previously planned on doing a 3 mile interval training run, but now that I think about it, my body hurts and would much better enjoy a longer, slower 6 mile jog. Check in with yourself, before, during, and after exercising.
3. Taking it slowly
I intentionally run the first few minutes at a slower pace, allowing myself time to bring my awareness to my body (yes this is going to be repeated all down this blog page). Some days you might be hyped for your run, start, and realize you feel absolutely terrible and just want this to end. Some days the opposite might happen. You don’t truly know how a movement is going to make you feel until you are experiencing it. On the treadmill, I start at a slow comfortable pace and take it from there. Some days it never gets raised, some days I double it. So take it slow, relax into the run, and let your body take you where it wants to go.
4. A silent tracker or a distraction from the treadmill screen
This is probably against every running rule in the book, but I don’t track my runs. I used to get so irritated at the voice in the MapMyRun app telling me my pace and distance. I prefer to just run in areas I know well, knowing specific landmark distances can also be helpful, i.e. if I run to that bridge from my house I’ve gone 1.5 miles. I run at whatever speed feels good until my body feels like it’s ready to do something else. With my training, I keep my app open but silent in the background. Meeting my planned distance isn’t my focus but it allows me to gauge where I am at in my progress that day. I can focus on the joy and movement of the act of running rather than meeting a pace. In this chilly winter, I’ve had to do the majority of my runs inside. Treadmills obviously make running intuitively a lot harder. I know several people that cover the screen of the treadmill with a towel and never give it a glance. I personally have two tactics to stop from fixating on the distance or speed:
A. Interval training
For shorter runs or as part of a long run, I’ll incorporate intervals including a slow jog and a fast run. I honestly don’t have time to focus on anything but breathing and recovering during these. Intervals also help if you’re feeling bored on the treadmill.
Yup, I throw in my headphones and just zone out to HGTV. The treadmills in my gym have tvs plastered right in front of your face making people or car watching impossible so I’ve had to start waiting shows. It’s definitely not my favorite thing but it’s a simple enough TV program that I can still be attentive to my body while being distracted from the numbers.
Running without tracking allows you to meet your optimal potential every run. Some days you might surpass your training plan and some days you won’t but being in tune with yourself allows you to push yourself further when you can and take it slowly when you need to.
5. Longer training period, less weekly runs
I knew in my past experience, daily rigid training plans resulted in disordered behavior for me. Missing one day meant I had to add those miles to the next which resulted in guilt-filled endless runs each week. I purposely chose a training plan that has 4 days of running a week spread over 16 weeks instead of the traditional 5-7 day a week plans over 8-12 weeks. This also allows me plenty of time for other activities I enjoy! Instead of running all the time, I am still lifting weights, hiking, doing yoga or pilates, and snowboarding without having time constraints on my training.
6. Prioritizing my happiness over my training
Some days there are things I’d much rather do than run and that’s just life. Are you going to be happier running at this moment or doing out on a coffee date with your partner? You don’t have to be so intense about your training. Running is supposed to be FUN. Yes, you read that right, fun. Running makes me feel good but that doesn’t mean it makes me feel good all of the time or that I want to do it all of the time. If at that moment lacing up my shoes won’t make my day better, I don’t do it.
7. Fueling adequately before, after, and during runs
Making sure you have had enough water and food to carry you through runs is extremely important. If you are not eating enough, you simply won’t have the energy (aka calories) to let your muscles do the work they need to do. Eating intuitively and bringing awareness to how eating certain foods affect your exercise can enhance your experience. If you’re hangry, you’re probably not going to like running very much.
8. Being okay with change
Summing everything up, you have to be okay with change. You have to be able to accept and adapt every run. That’s basically the gest of all of these tips. You might have a vision about how a certain run will go and then everything completely changes when you take that first step. That’s okay. That’s life honestly. You might run slower, longer, shorter, faster, than expected but as long as you’re enjoying it, you’re doing it right.
Are you interested in learning more about intuitive eating? Are you ready to ditch diet culture and start on your intuitive eating journey?Watch my free training video on how to improve your relationship with food and your body now. Get 3 actionable steps you can implement today.