I have thought this for most of my life. All through my childhood, teenage years and beyond. But it turns out I was wrong!
Last weekend, I ran (read: jogged slowly!) just over 16 km (10 miles) for the first time. It wasn’t even that hard. I just put my earphones in and went. The fact that it was a beautiful, temperate winter’s day helped. Don’t get me wrong, I have been steadily increasing my mileage and doing weight training for 8 months ago after a baby and a broken ankle.
When I was in high-school, I had mild knee pain when I ran. Physiotherapy did not really seem to help. I had shoe orthotics fitted and still wear some, which also did not help with the knees. I wanted to run and did a little with a friend, but only ran a grand total of 4km a couple of times and it was a big effort I did not want to repeat! I tried running again in University with little success.
For most able-bodied, non-runners who would like to run, getting over the mental challenge of ‘I can’t run’ is one of the biggest barriers between them and 5km. For me, the lightbulb moment occurred about 4 years ago when I decided to go out for a 2 km run and just did it. Previously when I had tried, I had to stop every 400m and walk, then still only make it to 2km. While this is a good way to start, eventually you have to move past the jog-walk-jog phase if you are going to love it and continue on running longer term.
My tips for learning how to run:
- Set an achievable goal (eg: 5km)
- Listen to a good running podcast, read a book or get a personal trainer to get some tips on running form. The early podcasts from Mojo for Running are great for this sort of help.
- Do some strength training. This does not necessarily mean going to the gym and lifting weights. Lunges, squats, hip raises are just the starters of what you can use. Again, find a PT or a good training program to help with these to avoid injury.
- Run with a friend or download audiobooks onto your smartphone / iPod to keep you interested.
- Do not increase your mileage too fast. A lot of the Couch to 5km programs will suggest a 12 week or less program, but the physios / running coaches / podiatrist I have either discussed it with or listened to say it should take double this if you have not run before or in a while.
I have previously done most of my running on a treadmill, which has worked well for me. A lot of others find it easier to run outside. Even though it is physically slightly harder, it is more interesting. Recently though, I have found my long runs mentally very difficult on the treadmill and have moved outside now.
How did I get past the knee pain? When it became worse, I found out it was actually ITB syndrome, a common runners complaint. I have managed this through consistent running, slowly increasing mileage, using a muscle roller, stretching and strength training. So thankfully, not really anything to do with my knee at all. It has not bothered me seriously for a while now, although I do get a niggle occasionally.