How I started running outdoors

I started running seriously because I didn’t want to be out of breath when running after the bus!

I used to run to warm up, cool down or to complement my weight-lifting training. I would spend up to 15 minutes running on the treadmill and because I found it so boring, I was unable to continue for much longer! One day I found it hard to run after the bus despite my short stint on the treadmill and that made me take running more seriously. Here is what I did.

From treadmill to outdoors

As the weather was very nice, I decided to do a test and see how running outside would be compared to the treadmill. There is a nice park near my house so I ran there. Much to my surprise I found it very hard and had to stop after 2 minutes! And I was thinking all along that my 15 minutes on the treadmill 3 times a week was keeping my cardio level in good condition. I concluded that bobbing up and down on a rubber carpet on the spot is nothing like running outside with the wind in your face and the terrain undulating.

So I took up to running outdoors. I would probably have done that anyway because I got bored on the treadmill before getting tired on it!

There is an asphalted path near my house leading to the field so instead of walking to the field and then running, I decided to just run up and down the path to save myself time. It would be drier as well on a wet day as there would be no grass to wet my shoes. Running on that path was a big mistake because the next day, my ankles were very sore from pounding this hard surface.

From asphalt to grass

You often hear how proper running shoes and a soft surface are important to help protect your joints. I believe joint problems are an issue in the long term if you run regularly. If you only run once or twice, then pounding the pavement should not cause any harmful effect as your body will have plenty of time to recover. My ankles felt sore because they were not used to this hard surface; they would certainly have adapted to it. However, since I intended to run regularly, my sore ankles reminded me to take care of my joints so I restricted myself to run on grass exclusively.

Let me tell you, running on grass is nothing like running on the treadmill. It is much much harder. It is also harder than running on the pavement because the grass absorbs all the shock. This is good news for your joints, and also for your fitness level as it means you have to work harder. Running on grass would probably be close to running in shallow water or on the sand.

As I found out earlier that I could not last more than 2 minutes running in the field, I did what other beginners do – mix walking and running. After a few sesions, I was running only and did 1 lap of 8 minutes. Later I did 2 laps for a long time and then moved on to 3 laps. I never walked afterwards.

My strategy to push myself

I believe you can’t improve at running if you do not measure your time and if you do not pace yourself accordingly. I used to start the first lap slow and easy as a warm-up, speed up in the second lap and then end up sprinting at the end of the final lap. With this strategy, in order for me to improve my time, I needed to either sprint faster at the end or start sprinting earlier. As there is a limit to how fast I can run, I had to start sprinting earlier. I also can’t keep at a sprint forever, so my speed goes time. In other words, for me to improve my time, I started running faster earlier and earlier and at the same time, my maximum speed went down.

Over time, I found myself starting to run fast from the beginning and trying to keep at this speed till the end. I was barely sprinting in the end because I pushed myself so hard from the start that I didn’t have much energy left.

Pain and warm-up

I kept running throughout winter as I was sufficiently motivated. The hardest part was to actually turn up on the field and get started. Once I started running, it was easier to continue. The next winter, my motivation was not as high and I stopped altogether. Spring came suddenly and the warm weather beckoned me outside. I went running for the first time after a winter of cardio inactivity and the good weather spurred me on. It was a good run and I was surprised and pleased at my level of fitness. However, the next day and the next week was agony for me. I had shin splits and could barely walk up the stairs. Until then, I was not warming up. After a whole winter of not running and then suddenly going all out, it was too much for my legs and I experienced for the first time how painful shin splits could be. During this painful period, I swore to myself to always warm up thoroughly.

I had to spend the next 2 months away from the field because every time I would start running, my shins would become painful again. I did some specific exercises I found on the internet for my shins, exercises which I could do at my desk.

When I had fully recovered, my new running routine started by gentle running for a few minutes mixed with stretching exercises. I didn’t rush and took my time. Once I felt loosened up, I started running flat out. No more warming up while doing my laps. This way was actually better for my performance because during the warming-up phase, I was able to get in a competitive mood to run hard so once I started running, there was no stopping me. I made great progress that way. I had started running 5 laps before the previous winter a few rare times and now I did it more frequently.

I have one tip for you from experience: have really comfortable shoes. They become really important the longer your run. Make sure your socks fit you properly as any small bit rubbing against your foot will end up giving you a nasty blister that will cause you to have to stop running for a while.

What makes me run

There are two things I really enjoy with running. The first one is the sense of accomplishment when I see that I beat my own tough record, especially on longer runs. The other is the endorphin that the body releases after running. I feel tired but also in high spirits. If the weather is good, I will lie down on the grass afterwards to enjoy it and rest.

I’m not a runner and I don’t find it easy at all to run. But the rewards are good and I just need a 20-minute run to feel fully invigorated and exercised.