Developing a running habit can be incredibly overwhelming. For those who are new to running or haven’t ran in years, this can be especially true. Fortunately, if someone is willing to be patient and to take it slow, they can set themselves up well to not only develop a running habit, but also find it enjoyable.
I very active when I was younger, and running for me was primarily a means to an end. Typically, running was related to building endurance (i.e. conditioning for sports) or keeping my weight down (I was a wrestler). Mainly, running always felt like some kind of punishment, or something we “had” to do. The thought of running for enjoyment never even crossed my mind, and I imagine many people share that view.
As I got older and more out of shape, I tried to get into running a few times, and always failed. I had grown up on the “no pain, no gain” attitude towards sports and fitness, which time and again ended with me injured, burned out, or both. Finally, I tried out the Couch to 5K program and found that the run / walk method worked as a great introduction, and forced me to slow down. Eventually, I used various running apps to work on speed and run longer distances, but working very patiently and keeping one goal consistently in mind: don’t get injured. That forced me to slow down and really pay attention to what my body was telling me. Since I work with statistics for my day job, I also paid close attention to how much I was improving. I noticed quickly that if I had stretches where distance or pace increased drastically, it was often followed by some pain or heavy legs, which are classic signs of overtraining, and a fast track to injury. I also noticed that varying my runs in terms of distance, speed, terrain helped me become a much stronger runner, but also a happier one. Simply put, I enjoyed running more. Not by obsessing over one run, or one mile, but by taking a broader view.
Statistics is the science of changing your mind amongst uncertainty, and with running, there is no shortage of uncertainty. How much you slept, how much you ate, your hydration level, your experience level, and the weather are just a few of the things that can influence a run. As I have gone back and looked at old running data, that has become increasingly clear. Also, I have noticed that variability can actually be a feature, rather than a bug. Below are some examples of my running data, using various apps that that may further illustrate that.