Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Saturday, July 01, 2006

More on Anxiety, Pain, & Enjoyment

by AJ

After completing my first marathon, friends and acquaintances would often ask me for advice about running. Typically, they started something like this: "I really want to run and get in shape. I've tried it before, but its horrible. What should I do? How can I run farther and faster?"

My first, knee-jerk bit of advice was always, "Run slower". Most beginning runners simply run too fast. They have a "no pain, no gain" mentality. So they charge out the door and complete a punishing run. They huff and puff. They pour sweat. The next day, their legs are in pain.

A few stalwart souls manage to do this for a few weeks, or even months. They are propelled by sheer mental determination. Every run is a battle.

But few people indeed can sustain this kind of approach for long. Most quit running.. Convinced that running is a horribly unpleasant activity.

I understand, because I used to take the same approach. As a teenager, I thought I wanted to join the cross country team at my High School. During the summer, I decided to train to get in shape. I followed the approach outlined above. After a couple weeks of pain, I decided that I hated running.

Later, at the age of 27, I came across a book by a professional marathoner. His central piece of advice was "run slower". I followed his advice and suddenly, running was enjoyable. I took it easy. I paid attention to my breathing as I ran, and any time it became labored, I slowed down.

The ironic thing is-- because I was enjoying the process, I ran more. Each week, I added distance. As the weeks passed, my legs, heart, lungs all got stronger.

And something else magical happened- without making any attempt to run fast.. I naturally got faster.

Eventually I started to join 5k and 10k races. And eventually my body became strong enough to handle a bit of "speed training".. where I did indeed try to run fast. But by then, I was strong, I loved running, and I could handle the intensity.

I think there's a lesson for language learning here... :)

San Francisco, CA