The Freedom of Outdoor Running….

I really don’t like treadmills, I get so bored and it all feels very labored. It simply feels forced and harder than normal running, which should be free and at your own pace with a playful aspect to it.

From time to time I will use 5-10 minutes of running time on a treadmill at the gym to add an edge to my warmup, apart from that though I never run while in the gym. Running outdoors is a different story altogether and was how I first got into fitness in my early teens – Running gives a sense of freedom. Freedom to take the route you want, freedom to stop and admire the views and freedom to go at your own pace. That is what running is all about- The freedom and fresh air, plus it does the body good…..

Start and End runs with Yoga or Stretching – Starting a run with a comprehensive set of yoga stances is a great way to add a bit more to the workout. Set aside 5-10 minutes either side of the run to practice some Yoga poses will help you warm up (and cool down) plus it provides a great dynamic warmup.

Also adding 5 minutes of Deep Breathing at the end of a run is a great way to calm the nervous system and calm the body down after a strenuous workout. Simply breath in for 4 seconds through the nose and into the belly, hold for 4 seconds and breath out for 4-6 seconds, continue until you feel the nervous system calming down.

Pick a nice route – If you live in a city like me it can be difficult to find a nice scenic route while running. With a bit of searching though, you can find some pretty beautiful places to run wherever you are – look for parks, or nice parts of the city with the least traffic in the surrounding area. This not only makes the run far more pleasurable but also makes the run far healthier as you won’t be inhaling all kinds of fumes and chemicals.

Go at your own Pace – Many people push themselves too hard when they start running. I find the optimal length for a run to be 30-40 minutes. Any longer and I get bored, any shorter and I don’t get a flow. Find a time that suits you and take it at your own pace. If you are starting out feel free to mix running with walking until you can work up to a consistent run. Also consider throwing in a few sprints, or body weight exercises throughout the run for a more complete workout.

Shoes – Back in the days I used conventional running shoes I would get terrible shin splints and pain around my knees, this was all a result of the stiff and stubborn running shoes. It made me stop running for ages as I was in too much pain, even walking became excruciating and I needed constant downtime and stretching to recover. This was as result of a few short runs a week! Since changing to a more minimalist choice of footwear my problems are non-existent and running is fun again…..

‘And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.’ ~Kahlil Gibran

Have a read of this article over at Zen Habits which is a pretty comprehensive guide to running barefoot or using simpler footwear. I love my Nike Free 5.0′s but have heard great things about Vibram Five Fingers, some more free running shoes are piece of kit that you should definitely consider investing in if you are planning to take up some sort of running. Running with lighter footwear or barefoot gives a real sense of lightness and freedom plus they will allow you to build up all the supporting muscles in your feet and ankles making injuries less likely….

Keep Clothing Basic – You don’t need fancy running gear, in fact the more natural thee clothing you wear the better. Things like cotton breath far better than modern plasticky running gear making for a more comfortable run. Your running Kit should be as simple as:

  • A T-shirt (and hoody for winter)
  • Some Shorts
  • Shoes and Socks

Nothing more is needed, keep it simple and use stuff that you feel comfortable in that allows your skin the breathe….

As Christopher McDougall puts it –

Everything I’d been taught about running was wrong. We treat running in the modern world the same way we treat childbirth—it’s going to hurt, and requires special exercises and equipment, and the best you can hope for is to get it over with quickly with minimal damage.

If you haven’t read it yet his book ‘Born to Run’ it is great, and shows just what running should be and the freedom it should give us. Besides what better time to start running a few times a week than now……

Freedom – Running should be fun and free, not like the photo above which is orderly and regimented with set distances and goals. While these things are fun, it is best to start out with running in a uncontrolled manner just hitting the road and running for fun. It would be great to hear any tips from readers about how they started running or how they motivate themselves to run, also any conventional running shoes to barefoot transition stories would be cool…….

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