Thursday, July 14, 2011

Make the Easy Parts Easy

People often ask me* my single best piece of advice for becoming a runner, and my answer is always the same: have excellent genes for it. There's just no substitute for being born with the right propensities for targeted muscle mass, VO2 capacity, pain tolerance, sturdy knees, sturdy ankles, sturdy feet, sturdy toes, and a collection of subtler qualities of mind I'll summarize as being too damn stubborn to stop running once you've started. Being selectively stupid helps the latter.

These genetic and arguably-genetic draws being notoriously difficult to obtain if your parents didn't bestow them, if I had to choose a second bit of advice, I would say: make the easy parts easy. A mistake I see people make is to turn running into a gigantic production -- it has to happen across town, or an hour's drive into the country, or at the end of some distant rainbow or at the base of some enchanted waterfall; or it cannot possibly happen unless in the presence of the workout buddy or buddies; or it has to take place during the most productive two-hour window of the day, when your psychic alertness peaks and Saturn is in aspect for your microsign or whatever; or it has to be attended by an onerous routine of scrupulous record-keeping and progress-tracking and spreadsheets and smartphones and diet plans and meditative practices and thoughtful journal entries.


Just put on clothes and shoes that stay out of your way, go outside, and start running. I recommend early morning before anyone has a chance to intrude on your time, but opinions vary, as do internal clocks. Do the same the next day, but stay out a little longer and go a little farther. While you're out, look at what other runners are wearing and not wearing, and follow their example. Grab more running-ish shorts or shoes or a shirt the next time you're going by a store that sells that kind of thing, or dig something out of a closet, or borrow a friend's.

By all means invite a friend if that's your inclination, but don't make your running dependent on the friend's participation. If he/she/they "can't" be there, it's a signal that it has become too complicated. Simplify it.

The running itself should be the difficult part. Make everything else as simple, direct, quick, effortless, and routine as possible. To become a runner, go straight outside, pick a direction, and run. Let the finer points fill in later. Repeat.

* Not really.

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