After I ended my volleyball career I was not totally sure what to do for workouts. Because I was an athlete, working out was part of my regular routine so forcing myself to get to the gym was never the issue. The problem I began to face was trying to fall in love with the workout. As a volleyball player, I could use practice time as an escape from my life and I struggled to find that again. So, I started running. And let me tell you this was not easy. Never before in my life did I consider myself a runner, so the first few weeks were brutal. I honestly could barely get myself through a mile. Over time I trained myself and fought through the mental battle in order to succeed. Here are a few tips that worked best for me individually, and might help those of you who want to get better at long distance running.
- Just start doing it
The absolute first thing you have to do is get yourself motivated to try it. Do not get discouraged when your body is dead after .4 of a mile. You WILL get better. Practice running 3-4 times a week get on the treadmill or run outside for at least 20 minutes. If you need to stop and walk, that’s okay just listen to your body, but make sure you are running for at least 20 minutes.
- Time Yourself
After about a week or two of light running, start to test yourself. Run at least half a mile to a mile and keep track of your time per lap. When you are first beginning, you might not be able to keep a steady pace, but try your best to run at a constant pace. What you want to avoid is starting off really strong and using all your energy on the first two laps, and then failing to finish the rest. Start at a slow pace so you can run for a longer time.
- Increase your distance every few days
Every few times you run, start to push yourself a little further. This is how you will train yourself to get better. Even if it is only .2 further than before, your body will soon adapt to running. This is also about mental toughness. Sometimes you need to just force yourself to go the extra distance. If you can’t do it, then stop, but really try your best to increase just a little because over time it will add up.
- Listen to your body
Sometimes you will get on the treadmill, feel good and will be able to run four miles. And other times you will struggle to get through one. This was one of the hardest battles I faced. Listen to your body and rest if you have to. It is not good to run long distance more than twice a week. If you are not feeling up to it then run at a slower pace or even take this day to speed walk on an incline. However, don’t mistake fatigue for laziness. Sometimes you have to push through the first mile before your body gets in the swing of things.
- Fight the mental battle-
The biggest struggle for me is fighting the urge to stop. Most people are physically fit enough to run long distance but they lack the mental strength in order to get there. Sometimes I get so bored, and my body thinks that means that I am too tired to keep going. What helps with this is setting goals. These goals can be pace, distance, trying new routes and sometimes even counting calories. This actually distracts me from thinking about running and ultimately allows me to go further.
The number one thing I can tell you is to not get discouraged. It takes a while for your body to get used to running; it took mine an entire semester to get good at it. Take it slow, set goals and do not mistake boredom for being fatigued. Running can sometimes get boring so run with friends, play music or even watch TV. Whatever you need to do to make it enjoyable.