40 things about running that I wish I knew 25 years back
What would you tell your running self when you started?
What is One Thing Wednesday (OTW)?
This is literally (I use this word a lot) just one focused thing on a Wednesday that is the polar opposite of a social media short video. But as I write and re-read that, the first OTW is 40 different things… mega lulz. That’s some meta-ironic Daren type 💩.
Why I’m writing this
I have a lot of ideas. Most of them are assimilated into social media short videos because… that’s what “they” want you to do. But, I’m sure if you subscribed here you want to go into those deep dark corners I’ve been talking about. I then realised my Three Thing Thu newsletter was falling into that same trap of “being quick because… “Aint nobody got time for that”.
So please, sit with me for longer than 5 seconds and ponder this whole 1% better/consistency thing.
What I want YOU to learn
The goal here is to share more profound and meaningful thoughts and ideas. Nothing revolutionary about this concept but maybe the actual thoughts will inspire you to do something different, leading to change in your training, racing or life. That ol’ running as a metaphor for everything shtick that I keep rambling on and on about.
Let’s get into this month’s OTW.
This format is a bit generic, and I know a lot of people did this at the end of the year. but, I am fortunate to have a birthday in January, so I decided to hash out the top 40 things (I turned 41 this month) I learned over the last 25 years of running that I seriously wish I knew when I was younger.
Hopefully, this stops newer (and experienced) runners from committing the same mistakes as me.
Two things before I start;
This is written in a super casual text/email format so please excuse grammatical errors, etc. I think these lists do better when it’s from the heart and sounds like a friend is talking to you and not doing a keynote sales PowerPoint presentation.
I know the title says 40 things, but this got super heavy really quick so there are only 13 things. And rather than rush through it, I thought I’ll slowly flesh out the other two-thirds over the next few months.
When/what cadence? Not sure. This (like training and life) is all an experiment. I’m just trying to be as much of an objective scientist in this game.
What did I miss? Please comment below and tell me what you would tell yourself when you started your run journey below.
Strength training is the secret sauce: Read the following points on strength training and why I 100% believe in it. My discovery process (Science/studies, talking to experts and applying it with my own experience) has proven this.
Calves are key: Calf strength is so overlooked for running for many reasons. The crazy thing is that just focusing on strengthening your calves is a force multiplier. What that means is that you do one thing, and it pays off in many ways down the road.
* Plantar fascia problems? Do calf/soleus strength work.
* Achilles problems? Do calf/soleus strength work.
* Shin splints? Do calf/soleus strength work?
* Tight calves? Do calf/soleus strength work?
(FYI - The calf muscle is actually made up of 2 muscles called the gastrocnemius (fat muscles everyone sees on the back leg) and the soleus (The smaller muscles that run down the sides of your lower leg. Each one has a few specific key workouts that strengthen each part. But let’s talk about calves as one system for now. I’ll go in-depth on calves in the future because I feel like I didn’t understand their importance until I was injured/it was too late).
The calf exercises are sometimes annoying (:cough: painful), not as much instant gratification as lifting heavy, and you gotta do them. But if I had taken care of my calves and strengthened them back when they were healthy, young and supple, I wouldn’t be having the issues I’m having now (I think, at least).
You don’t have to be the best at the strength training workout: Good form is a high priority. It means you get the most out of the workout and also avoid injury. But do you have to be the prettiest at it? No. Just showing up consistently (with good enough form and the workout regressed enough in resistance to where you won’t hurt yourself. And it will pay over 3,6,12 months and more. And then it compounds.
Consistency > Intensity: Everyone is now talking about consistency (which is excellent!), and I have proof from the juice.
Making sure you show up will get you pretty damn fit and very healthy. If you want to be the fittest and perform better year after year as you age, you gotta dial in that consistency and be intense at times. But if you can show up, you will do the proper work. It’s played out, but the message is all facts.
Over the last four years, I’ve just been showing up and running most days, and I’ve gotten faster than I was 20+ years ago. (FYI - I’m running 5-7 days a week, with 2-3 days being double workouts/runs)
Run commuting: This is one of the easiest ways to be a consistent runner and build up your aerobic base. Most people have to go somewhere.
If you are prepared and fortunate enough to be able to run to your destination (work, school, shopping, get-togethers, etc.), you will be able to find the time to build up your aerobic base and get in a lot of easy running. This makes running 5-7 days a week much easier.
And yes, run-walking (with a heavy backpack) builds up the base too!
Progress won’t be linear: If progress were linear, I’d be running a 2 min 5k time and have the world record (Shouts out to Shannon for that one). 3 steps forward, seven steps back, nine steps forward, two steps back, etc.
It’s a hard creatine supplement to swallow (see what I did there🤡?!) until you set a goal for many years and realize how hard it is to get to that goal as you get fitter.
I equate it to Albert Einstein’s physics theory of relativity/mass and energy; E=MC2. Not to get too nerdy, but the faster an object goes, the heavier it gets (mass), and the more energy it goes faster. (This is why we have yet to figure out how to travel at the speed of light)
So the fitter you get, the more energy it takes to get even fitter. Think of professional runners training 15-20 hours a week, running 130+ miles a week, getting 9+ hours of sleep, eating perfectly, taking supplements, massages, etc. All of that to get a 20-second best time in the marathon (or if you run the 100m, shaving off one-hundredth of a second!).
The takeaway - You get to value the journey more since that is all you’re doing. The destination is now a byproduct of the said journey and is temporary. Your training lasts much longer.
I’m not a fan of racing: I train to race and don’t race to train. But when I’m racing, I do pretty well. So, it’s one of those “getting comfortable with being uncomfortable” models that I live by.
Some people absolutely love race day; I can’t stand it. The nerves, the schedule disruption (my nutrition, sleep, training, strength training, etc.) But… it’s a necessary evil, and I’m never really that mad when I get the best time at a race.
Want to go deeper hands-free? Listen to our podcast on your next run, ride, or gym workout.
Running is a mostly introverted activity: I’ve found that most runners have an introverted side to them. It’s really hard to go out and do all your runs with someone that is at your ability, can run at the same time as you, wants to do your workout/pace/distance and lives close enough to you.
Especially as we get older, this is even more apparent. But at the same time, introverted runners become extroverts when they are around others who share running as a passion. At least, this is true for me.
Cycling will make you a “better” runner over the long term. But it won’t make you faster in the short term.
I go back and forth with cycling. I love it, and def can say it has helped me build up a pretty damn good aerobic engine. But, coming out of the triathlon and trying to run my best 5k times, I quickly realised that having a big cycling aerobic engine won’t get me those fast 5k times (and even half-marathon times) I want.
To be a faster runner, you have to run fast at the pace of your target best time. Not cycle, swim, do yoga, elliptical, strength train, or insert whatever other activity outside of running in there. As the law of specificity states, ‘You have to do the thing to get better at the thing.’
Dialling in my nutrition was the 3rd best thing I could have done: I think a few core pillars are non-negotiable to being healthy and fit. And getting your diet and nutrition right is def one of them.
When I eat right (timing, enough calories, proper macros/micros, etc.) I feel like I can destroy my day. I recover well for the second or next day's workout; I’m mentally fresh for work and available for my kid/family/friends, etc.
The slow-carb diet is a great tool for fat loss and fat management in the short term: I gained more body fat than I would have liked a few years back and cycled through all the diet fads.
I landed on the slow carb diet as a great way to lose fat in a few weeks and maintain healthy body fat during the off-season/recovery weeks/injury periods, etc.
*I’m about to release a piece that explains the slow-carb diet in a bit of detail, particularly for runners. And if you’re interested/I can sort myself to get it out; I’ll put together a proper “Slow carb diet for runners” piece of content for ya. (video, audio, social posts, etc.)
Dialling in my nighttime routine was the second best thing I could do: I still struggle with this but I gave myself a range of time and a wind-down routine. It’s not perfect and def my weakest routine/habit in my life, but it’s a framework, and I stick to it. I love nights as my chronotype is a night owl.
I literally get a 2nd wind most nights and can do creative or admin work pretty late. I think it’s because there are few distractions (everyone is asleep/offline), and it’s chill. It’s dark out, lights off, and I got my night shift/Flux is on (It’s like night shift but on crack. It takes out the blue light in your monitor, making it almost a deep dark, dim red., So good for night work).
As I write this, it’s getting into my “stop doing work, pens down” time, and I know I’ll thank my nighttime self in the morning for being refreshed when I wake up. Took me years to get here. This is still a struggle.
Dialling in my sleep was the single best thing I could do: This was a game changer and another “force multiplier”. Again if you didn’t read the above, what that means - is to do one thing, and it positively affects many other areas of your life (Kill many birds with one stone).
I don’t mess around with my sleep. So much so that I stopped drinking alcohol because I realised even one drink (beer, wine, spirits, etc.) would ruin my sleep and cause me not to go into a deep sleep. I’m sure this is a combo of getting older and my brain/body being super aware of what goes in (ie, poison).
And… you got this far! Dope. I’ll look to post up the other 27-ish over the next few months.
Again - What did I miss?
Please comment below ⬇️ and tell me what you would tell yourself when you started your run journey below.