If you are anything like me, you don’t really like running. Okay, let me rephrase that. I both like it and hate it at the same time. I like the challenge. I like what it does for my overall health and fitness. And at some level I like how it makes me feel alive.
But as someone who has fully embraced an active lifestyle as part of my busy schedule, I don’t just want to limit myself to only running. I like cross-training, lifting weights, playing sports, and taking classes. There are only so many hours in the day, and it is actually the diversity in my physical activities that has helped me excel as a part time runner in races such as the 5K, 10K, and half marathons.
Recently I placed third in a half marathon in Sheboygan running only twice a week on a treadmill. But how did I get to this point?
I remember my “ah ha” moment in my adult life where I decided to make fitness a priority and a lifestyle choice. Growing up, I had always been active in all sorts of sports including basketball, soccer, and track. In college, I was heavily involved in intramurals, and while I took probably took more liberties than I should have with my diet, I managed to keep myself in pretty good shape.
Things changed a bit right after college. I had my first “real” job and while I didn’t completely rid my life of all activities, I was definitely inconsistent at best—only getting to the gym every now and then, and not really playing sports anymore.
I wasn’t fat by any means, but I was starting to, shall we say, “soften” a bit. But not even that was my “ah ha” moment. The real wake-up call was when my friend Luke started up a rec basketball team and asked me to play on it. I had always been that player that no one would want to guard in rec leagues because I would be running and moving constantly—because I was in such good shape. So as you can imagine, it really hit me hard when we had our first game and I was huffing and puffing my way up and down the court. I was tired early and often, and I just couldn’t do what I used to do on the court.
It may not seem like that big of a deal, but it was a very humbling experience. I remember looking myself in the mirror and saying, “I’m too young to have peaked!” I had a choice. I could start to make some changes in my life, or I could slowly wait for my belly to come in and settle for an average tired life of mediocrity. This may seem harsh, but that’s how I felt. It really was a “crossroads” moment for me. There were plenty of people that I saw after college that were shadows of their former selves. Would I be one of them?
The next week I started getting back in the gym. I ran twice a week and lifted twice a week. All I wanted to do was be consistent and not worry about how hard the workout was. Over time, I began to challenge myself more and more; adding in new routines, workouts, and intensity levels. I was committed to the lifestyle. And you know, literally since that time there is not one week where I have not done a workout.
I believe it was this deep and consistent base level of fitness that has allowed me to excel in sports and running races, even without training most days of the week for anything in particular.
The reason I excel is that when I do run, I am very focused and challenge myself with hills, sprints, intervals, as well as regular pace work so that I get the most out of each workout. I have friends that run long boring runs all the time for their training and while these do condition the body to finish long races, they don’t help you improve. To improve, you must start to challenge yourself. And because I am adding in other workouts, this actually helps me push through tough parts of the race when others start to lose steam.
So the secret recipe is first consistency. For me it started back after I graduated from college. The other part is intensity. Once you fit in exercise as part of your lifestyle, start to challenge yourself with harder workouts that get you great results.
And next thing you know, you beat all your friends who are running all the time to train for races, when you only run twice a week.
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Written by Scott Eigenberg, Member Services Representative at Elite Sports Club-Brookfield