2014-01-27

Fitness: I'm Still Here

I have been running about ten kilometers a day, and working my way up, in preparation for the Cowtown Half-Marathon coming up in late February. Because my objective with this half-marathon is really to re-accustom myself to running longer distances and shedding unnecessary muscle mass, I have been engaged neither in formal, structured training, nor in workouts that amount to anything more than "I'm going to go for a run."

I realize this makes for incredibly boring blogging. There is not much even a very talented writer could say about just kind of going for a run. So, rather than waste your time by trying to keep you updated on a series of rather dull daily runs, I have opted to blog about other topics. Nevertheless, I thought I should say something about how I've been training lately, in order to tend to that aspect of the blog.

I often discuss exercise motivation on my blog. Self-motivation plays such an important role in exercise because "fitness" is not a very specific endpoint. Once you "get there," you still don't feel as though you really are "there." All those pictures you see on social media websites, where the beautiful people are having a gorgeously photogenic exercise experience never actually happens in the real world.

No, in the real world, once you've achieved a certain level of fitness, it starts to be more about maintaining what you've got, preventing yourself from losing muscle mass, or strength, or speed, or flexibility... The human body is a very use-it-or-lose-it kind of a machine. If you lose your motivation, it's easy to lose the physical progress you've built up. Moreover, as you age, you naturally start to lose speed and strength, albeit gradually.

So today I'd like to offer a good, simple way to motivate yourself during your daily run: Go find some beautiful scenery to run through. It seems so simple and so obvious. Running can get monotonous, and a change of scenery is always good for that, but chances are you've already exhausted most of your local "running routes" many times over by now. Running around the neighborhood is convenient, and can be quite pleasant if you have a good rapport with the neighbors.

But there is no replacement for a scenic river or lake, a mountain path, a beautiful canyon, or a nice beach. There is no replacement for a quiet country road or a green park, the soul-lifting solitude of an expanse of farm land or a bustling sidewalk through the city's main park lined with a who's who of the local running culture. Whatever does it for you, go out there and find it. Find some place that makes you excited to run, that makes the experience more fun than trotting around the surrounding streets.

The result of my foray into more scenic running? I've managed to significantly increase my weekly miles, and more importantly, my average pace has returned to an ever-more-comfortable sub-7:00-per-mile pace. (Remember, folks, when it comes to running, faster is easier.)