Yes, I know. It’s been awhile. The addition of a second part-time museum job has occupied a lot of my time and mindshare in recent months. There’s no guarantee it won’t be another couple of months after this. But for today, at least, I feel like writing.
I’ve been running more since my layoff last year. Running is a mental health strategy for me: I know it helps me cope with stress and I trust the science that says it helps combat the blues. I figured that this year I was probably going to need as much of both of those effects as I could get, so I’ve been diligent about making some time.
Honestly I fell into running. Cross-country was the only unit in junior high school PE that I didn’t actively hate. In college, it turned out I could fulfill the gym requirement by jogging on my own and keeping a log. After awhile I started to appreciate the laps around the
Stopwatch (Photo credit: wwarby)
track or the time on the nature trail with music for company and a respite from all the reading.
I never competed and never had any coaching or training–at least not beyond basics of stretching and building mileage slowly. I just went out and ran miles around the neighborhood at a pace that felt natural to me. When I did it regularly, I ran longer and faster. Or at least I thought I did, as much as I could judge without really tracking things.
Now, I do track things. I have one of those little chip gizmos in my shoe that tracks my distance and pace. Slowly, I worked up to a 4 mile race this summer, then a 10K a few weeks ago. And here’s what I learned: I’ve been doing it wrong all these years.
Apparently you’re not supposed to go out and just run, and repeat, and get better. Or rather, you can, but if you really want to improve that’s not a great strategy. You improve more if you actually spend a good bit of time intentionally running slower so you can build endurance.
It’s not rocket science and I’ve probably even heard it before. I’m just not sure I actually believed it. But twice this year when I was stuck, slowing down has undeniably helped me do more. It’s hard–very hard–to make myself slow down. I feel good, I’m brimming with energy, and it feels intuitively as if I ought to be letting myself go instead of holding back. Make hay while the sun shines, right?
The thing is, I seem to have this impulse in more than just running. Around the house, with hobbies, with others, and especially with work, I tend to expect myself to be at “race pace” all the time. Or, rather, to think there’s only one pace and that I’m either keeping it up or I’m lacking in willpower and discipline.
I think I need to work on a training plan for life.