Tricks Of The Trade
The Last Chapter
If you’re not running at this point, I really don’t know what to say! Unless it’s because you’re so engrossed in this book; in that case, it’s fine. You’ve been shown how running has helped me, why running is so great for you as a human, and you were even given detailed instructions on how to run. You were given a training regimen to start yourself out and you were shown how to make a log to keep track of your progress. You even caught a glimpse into the minds of other crazy humans who run.
Now we’ve arrived at the last chapter. Here are some tips and other words that I think will help you along the journey.
Tips For The Lifestyle
– You have to do it every day. It gets easier, but you have to get out there and do it every day. That’s really the hardest part, convincing yourself day after day to get outside and run. But I can promise, every day you force yourself out the door will be a good day.
– Always stretch yourself out before AND after you run. Your body is a muscle; if it isn’t primed for action, you’ll have an easier time hurting yourself.
– Know the difference between being hurt and being injured. When you’re hurt, it isn’t serious, and you can push through it and still be okay. When you’re injured, pushing through it will result in you not being able to run. This will come naturally, but not immediately – it’s all about being comfortable in your own body and learning your limits.
– Don’t be afraid of pushing your own limits. That’s not to say you should get out there and kill yourself beating your feet against the planet, but everyone has a comfort zone they exist in. For some, this comfort zone is very big, so big that they don’t think they have one. For others, the comfort zone is very small, so small that they don’t believe they have one. What you should strive for is being aware of your comfort zone, living on its edge and expanding it whenever you can – comfort is the polar opposite of progress.
– Get outside and run in the rain. I know what you’re thinking: ‘No.’ Well here’s what I’m thinking: ‘Yes.’ Not only will you feel like an alpha for being the only one tough enough to be doing it, but the rain is just another stress variable that your body will learn to overcome. Remember, we’re just hairless monkeys on a rock spinning around a ball of fire; it’s okay to get wet. In fact, during the summer when that ball of fire feels like it’s four feet above your head, the rain feels pretty damn good.
– Running during a snowstorm is fun too, just throwing it out there.
– Don’t let other humans tell you how to run. Don’t let other humans tell you you’re too slow or that you’re too fast, or that you’re anything. Usually when humans have stuff to say about you, it’s them projecting their own shortcomings onto you because they can’t deal with themselves. Ignore the peanut gallery, you have running to do.
– Time yourself on every run and convert that time to a 5K time, or a time applicable to the distance of your chosen
punishment race. This will not only help you track your progress, but it’ll also help you teach yourself how to vary your pace. You’ll organically figure out the difference between your long- and short-distance paces over time, sure, but finding your baseline is always a challenge. If you time yourself, finding that baseline effort you have to put in to improve becomes all that much easier.
– Run in the woods at least once a week. I don’t mean hiking, although you should do that too, but actually run the trails, even if they lead up a mountain. Especially if they lead up a mountain. Hiking to a viewpoint is great and all, but running up there and mixing that view with a runner’s high? You’re welcome. As for why: the uneven terrain and sharp turns/steep hills provide a fantastic workout. Plus, there’s just something primal about running through the forest!
– Run in the morning, before you do anything else. Okay, maybe go to the bathroom and drink some water first, give your body some time to wake up before you put it to work, but definitely run in the morning. You’ll have that runner’s high unlocked early and it will carry you through the day on clouds of bliss, mark my words. It’s just like the stoner’s wake and bake philosophy, except better because the sweat will make you sparkle when the early morning sunlight hits you. In other words, rise and shine.
– Don’t look at pain as a bad thing. Pain is just a certain signal your body sends to your brain when it’s doing something it isn’t used to doing. You’re running, you’re using your body in a way you probably never have before. It’s going to be confused, especially during that first month or two. Pain is weakness leaving the body, nothing more and nothing less.
– Vary your workouts, don’t just do the same thing every day. That’ll get real boring, real quick. The last thing you want is to become is a creature of habit.
– [PLEASE] DO NOT ADOPT A GOD COMPLEX BECAUSE YOU RUN. It’s one thing to feel divine, because you are divine. But so is everybody else, and just because you lit a fire under your own ass and made the decision to run every day doesn’t make you better than anybody. Well, it kind of does, but the other humans don’t like to be verbally made inferior. We’re all on our own journeys, each of us are at a different point than the others are. Instead of belittling someone for being where they are, support them. If you want what’s best for another human, that human will want you in their life. And if you want to make someone feel inferior, well, doing so with your presence alone should be enough.
– Find a tribe of humans to run with. Dogs run in packs, birds fly in flocks, humans run in tribes. Training alone can be tough, especially when it comes to holding a steady pace, but when you’re out there with your tribe it’s all that much easier because they hold your pace for you.
– Stretch your body out before and after you run. To warm up before you run, focus on dynamic stretches, which is just stretching with movement. To reax your body after the run, focus on static stretching, which is stretching with as little motion as possible. Or do the reciprocal; honestly, as long as you’re stretching, you will be just fine.
Next, I’ve detailed a small amount of workout ideas that you can try to incorporate into your running. They are meant to challenge you and add some spice to your running life – nothing more, nothing less. Feel free to follow them to the T, or use them as foundations in creating your own custom workouts. Also, when doing these, you should have some form of a stopwatch ready.
Speed Workouts – Do these anywhere you normally run.
– The Fartlek
The name (pronounced “fart lick”) is hilarious, yes, but it translates to “speed play” in Swedish. This involves alternating your pace throughout your run, breaking up periods of high exertion with periods of jogging. Say you’re running for 30 minutes; for the first 4 minutes, give 25%. Then, for 2 minutes, give 75%. Then, back to 4 minutes of 25%. Rinse and repeat.
– The Tempo Run
Go for a shorter distance run at a slightly slower pace than you would run a race at. To do this, calculate your desired 5K time, for example, 20 minutes. If you do a 2-mile tempo run, strive to finish it around the 14-minute mark.
– Fox and Hounds Run
Find yourself a friend or three to do this one with. Half start the workout first. After a predetermined amount of time, the second half starts the workout. The goal for the first half, the foxes, is to not get passed. The goal for the second half, the hounds, is to either pass the foxes or to finish the workout within the amount of time the foxes got their head start.
For example, say you’re doing a 3-mile workout. The foxes get a 2-minute head start. If the hounds finish their run 1 minute and 30 seconds after the foxes finish theirs, the hounds win.
Track Workouts – Do these on a track, preferably one with a lap distance of a quarter mile (that’s 400 meters).
– The Indian Run
Get yourself a tribe to do this one with, and a baton. If you’re not a freak and you don’t own a baton, a stick or even a rock will do just fine. Line up single-file and start running, the human in front sets the pace. Steadily pass the baton/stick/thing from the front to the back of the line while running. When the human in the back gets the thing, they run up to the front and set the pace. Then, the thing is passed to the back of the line again and the cycle is continued. Do this over the course of at least a couple miles for a solid competitive workout, and don’t be afraid to end it with a race.
Note: this one is fun in parks too!
– The 10 Mile Relay
Get yourself a partner and a goal pace. For example, for a runner with a 5K time of 20 minutes, 1 lap should be 96 seconds. Human One runs their first lap, aiming to finish in 96 seconds. Then, right when they finish, Human Two starts their first lap, aiming to finish at 96 seconds. Each human rests while their partner runs. Do 40 laps total, meaning 20 laps each – that translates to 5 miles of running per human, 10 miles total.
– Straightaway Sprints
The straightaways of a standard track are 100 meters long. Run from beginning to end, aiming for a pace of, for example, 24 seconds. Then rest for 24 seconds. Then run back, aiming for a pace of 24 seconds. Each rest period should be as long as it took to run the previous straightaway is what you should be getting out of this. Repeat this anywhere from 8 to 20 times, depending on how ballsy you’re feeling that day.
Hill Workouts – Find yourself a hill, preferably one with a bunch of side streets branching off it, and get ready.
– The Haul
Run, from the bottom, to the top of the hill. Don’t stop on your way up. On the way down, jog slowly to recover. Boom, 1 set done. Do 3 to 5 sets and call it a day. Give yourself a minute or 2 of rest in between each set, too.
– The Ladder
Pick four points on your hill. In my day we’d use a hill called Croissant, and our four markers were the first fire hydrant, the second driveway on the right, the first street sign on the right, and the sign that said don’t let your dogs shit everywhere. Run, at a fast pace, to the first marker, then slowly jog down. Then gun it to the second marker and slowly jog back down. Then to the third, down, fourth, down. 1, 2, 3, 4, one set done. This is essentially a suicide workout, but it’s up a hill so we call it a ladder. You could also do it 1, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, 1, but you have to be the one to make that call.
Repeat 3 to 5 times, giving yourself a couple minute’s rest in between each set, and call it a day.
Additionally – and this goes for the next one too – make sure you are descending slowly. If you’re sprinting back down the hill, you’re missing the point of the workout entirely.
– Side Streets
Run, from the bottom, to the first side street. Continue running to the end of that side street and the double back to the hill. Go to the next side street and repeat until you’re at the top of the hill. It’s basically The Haul except you’re running all the side streets, too. Then, slowly jog down the hill; 1 set done. This is more of an endurance hill workout, so don’t worry about doing it at a superfast pace, and always remember to jog slowly when you’re going downhill. Do 2 to 4 sets, if you’re still breathing at that point, with a minute or 2 of rest in between each set.
Fun Workouts/Running Games – especially fun to do at 5Ks, these can help build camaraderie among runners while simultaneously giving a great workout.
– Ultimate Flying Disc
The official sport of cross country teams everywhere. Make 2 teams, at least 3 humans each, and set up end zones. The goal is to pass the reverent flying disc to a teammate standing in the opposite team’s end zone. When you have the flying disc, you can take up to 3 steps forwards or backwards and unlimited steps left and right in relation to the end zones. If you step out of bounds with the flying disc or drop/fail to catch the flying disc, it gets turned over to the other team. Game to 5, game to 10, whatever man. Go nuts.
– Beanbag Relay Race
Make 2 teams, anywhere from 1 to 10 humans each. Set up 2 rows of 5 markers, whether they be cones, sticks, extra beanbags, rocks, anything, all spaced out evenly. Get 10 beanbags. When you say go, the first human takes a beanbag, sprints to the first marker, puts the beanbag down (note: do not drop, place it down) and sprints back. Then, the second human sprints to the second marker, puts the beanbag down, and sprints back. Repeat until all 5 markers have a beanbag. Then, the next human in line sprints to the last marker, picks up the beanbag, and sprints back. Repeat with each human until all the beanbags are picked up and securely grasped in a hand. First team to do it wins.
– Toe Tapper
The ultimate game, requires a handful of humans to be done correctly. Set up a square with 4 markers – we would usually use draw-string bags or t-shirts – the size of the square dependent on the number of contestants. Everybody stands on the inside perimeter of the square. Then, you go. The object of the game is to tap – I SAID TAP, NOT KICK OR SHATTER – the top of everyone else’s foot. If your foot is successfully tapped, you are out. If you step out of bounds, you are out. Last human standing is crowned Champion Of The Universe.
The Competitive Edge
Lastly, here are some tips for if/when you get into the competitive side of running.
– Looking for somewhere to start? Nonprofits often hold 5K runs to raise funds for their organizations; it’s a great way to get together with your local community of runners, support a worthy cause, win some awards and eat free food!
– The most important thing you can do: run your race. Competition is fun, you want to see how you stack up against other humans, you want to be better than them, and that’s great, but, you won’t go anywhere if you’re paying more attention to your competition than you are to yourself.
– Persevere! Running a race against other humans is much harder than just going for a run – it’s also more rewarding. Remember: it’s the worst twenty minutes of your life, then you’re done. Then you get awards, free food, and… well, what else do you really need??
– Every time you pass somebody, you get a morale boost and they get deflated; use this to your advantage.
– Encourage your fellow competitors! Whether you pass them, lap them, get passed or get lapped, finish before or after them, it doesn’t matter. They’re running the race just like you are, so make sure to show your support. Eventually, other humans will do it for you, too. Also, when you finish, shake the hand of whoever finished in front of and behind you. Be a good sport.
– When you first start racing, don’t worry about anything except finishing. Don’t worry about time, place, age groups, anything – just finish your first couple races without walking and know that you’ve done well. Racing is a very different animal than just running, it has a different temperament. One should look at it through a different lens.
– Don’t go out with the rabbits; at the beginning of every race, there are always going to be runners who sprint out ahead of the crowd to “get a good start.” All too often they end up burning themselves out early and their race suffers because of it – don’t be one of them.
– Know the difference between a sprint and a kick. A sprint is, at the end of your race, when you take all that energy you’ve saved and burn it, battling the competitor next to you through the finish line. A kick, however, is when you’ve been giving everything you’ve got for the whole race and, as you approach the end, something comes from within you and takes over, blasting you through the finish. When I would run races in high school, I would hit the beginning of the final stretch and black out, suddenly coming to when the race was over. I never actually lost consciousness, but all my attention and awareness went into pushing harder than the guy next to me. I rarely got out-kicked.
– Races are the time to go as hard as you can. During a normal workout, if you’re doing it right you’re giving 100%. During a race, give 110%. Or 120%. Or better yet, 1,111%. If you don’t, by the time the race is over, you’ll have an overwhelming feeling that you could have done more. And that is NOT the feeling you want to have after a footrace. That doesn’t mean sprint the whole race either, just give your best attempt.
– Put forward your best effort during the entire race. Not just at the beginning, not just during the middle, not just at the end, not just when somebody’s about to pass you, not just when you’re running alone. From the moment that gun goes off until you cross the finish line, you’ve got to be giving yourself 100%. Otherwise, why do you even bother?
– NEVER listen to anybody telling you to run with a strategy called “negative splits.” What this comes down to, essentially, is running the first leg of the race slower so you can gun it for the second leg of the race. This does not work; if you aren’t giving 100% throughout the entire race then you are wasting not only your own time, but your competition’s time too.
– Don’t go it alone. Running a race is fun and all, but a lot of races have the option to sign up with a team. Get a couple of buddies together and make one!
– The starting line carries a lot of anxiety with it. What if the weather is bad, what if it’s too hot or too cold outside? What if someone trips you? What if the course is full of potholes? What if a meteor strikes and kills everybody? In the event of these things, well, everybody else has to deal with them too. Just breathe and get out there.
– Lastly, always stay positive. Life itself is psychedelic, meaning mind-manifesting. The things you think have a tendency to become real in mysterious ways. If you go into a race thinking about how bad you’re going to do, how much it will hurt and how you wish you were still sleeping, chances are you’re going to suck wind and perform terribly. However, if you go into a race thinking about how great you’re going to do, how you can’t wait to compete and how amazing you’ll feel after you cross the finish line, chances are you’re going to kill it. And even if you don’t, well, at least you’re not that obnoxious loser who’s openly doubting themselves for all to hear.