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Movement Mondays: Introduction to Running for Gamers

Welcome to Movement Mondays, where we go over ways to keep mobile without making yourself miserable. Each week, we’ll cover a different topic, from running to weightlifting to dancing to rock climbing. There isn’t only one right way to stay active; the “right way” is whatever meets certain basic requirements (150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week, muscle-strengthening exercise that hit all major muscle groups 2x/week) and, more importantly, keeps you interested in moving. Follow this series to see if you can find what moves you here!   

This week’s topic: Running!

I’M A GAMER. WHY SHOULD I RUN?

As anyone who’s seen Zombieland can tell you, the first rule of the zombie apocalypse is cardio. It’s also a fairly good thing to consider prior to a zombie apocalypse, too; running is a low-cost, easily-accessible, relatively straightforward fitness method.

In general, running is good for you because it improves cardiovascular function—it makes your heart and lungs more efficient, both while active and at rest. When it comes to gaming, that translates to improved oxygen-carrying capacity to your brain, which in turn improves focus and attention. Running has other benefits, too, like increased endorphins (feel-good neurotransmitters) and decreased cortisol (stress hormone), improved muscular endurance, and decreased risk of certain medical conditions.

WHAT IF I DON’T LIKE RUNNING?

I don’t know if anybody else has borderline-traumatic memories of wearing the world’s ugliest middle school gym uniform (somehow, all gym uniforms are simultaneously the world’s ugliest gym uniform; just ignore the logical impossibility there) and being yelled at by their gym teacher to keep running, but I sure as hell do.

Here’s the good news: that’s not what running is.

Or rather, it’s not what running has to be. Running can involve somebody yelling at you to keep going, if that’s what motivates you and you want that, but the great thing about running is that as long as you’re not doing it with horrendous form or heading directly into traffic, there’s no wrong way to do running.

You can run on roads. You can run on trails. You can run on a treadmill. You can run on a track. You can do hill sprints, or long distances, or something in between; you can stop running and then start running again; you can do run/walk intervals; you can compete in races or just run for the fun of it; you can run by yourself or with a buddy or with a whole running group; you can run in a way that suits you.  The important thing is that if you’re running, you’re enjoying it (or at least not entirely loathing every second of it; there will be times you don’t feel like running).  

But the point is this: if you want to run, running is what you make it. Nobody else decides how you run. Sure, there are ways that will get you certain kinds of results more efficiently than others, in the same way that running Dazzle as a support will probably result in better teamfight results than if you run him as a position 1, but you can structure your running to fit your specific goals.

Want to lose weight? You’ll want to incorporate some interval training.

Want to race? You’ll need to train for that distance.

Want to just be generally healthier? There are certain minimum metrics you need to hit (heart rate maintained at a certain elevated level for a certain amount of time), but you can do that however the heck you want.

IS RUNNING THE BEST WAY TO EXERCISE?

The last and most important thing about running is this: you don’t have to do it if it’s not what makes you want to move. If running brings you enjoyment, awesome! Go forth and run. But if running makes you miserable, makes you less likely to exercise rather than more, do something else. Do yoga, or weightlifting, or breakdancing, or martial arts, or rock climbing, or any of the thousands of other ways to stay active. Don’t think that only one of them is a valid form of exercise.

If you do want to run, keep reading. This is how you start.

WHAT DO I NEED TO START RUNNING?

First of all, you’ll need a good pair of sneakers. This is the single most expensive part of running (unless you take up racing). Good sneakers are worth investing in. I’d recommend buying a running-specific store for a few reasons. They can fit you for them properly, and not just in terms of the measurements of your foot. Most running stores have a treadmill where they can watch you run for a minute or two to pick out the quirks in your running stride (and pretty much all of us have quirks). Different shoes will provide different kinds of support; they can make sure you have the right shoe for your quirks.  You could get a generically good shoe, but you’ll get more value out of a shoe that’s specific to your needs.

Think of it like having a Crystal Maiden supporting your Legion Commander: it’s not bad, but it’d be even better if you had a Dazzle instead.

(…I may have been playing too much Dazzle in pubs at the time of the writing of this article.)

Second, you’ll need clothes that are appropriate for running. Just like running itself, you’ve got lots of options here. You don’t have to wear running tights if you don’t want to, but generally, relatively fitted clothing will be better in terms of comfort and resistance than baggy clothing.

Third, you’ll need a plan. It’s a lot easier to stick to any kind of workout regimen if you have a structure to it. That structure can be as simple as “on Monday, I run 2 miles; on Wednesday, I do 8 laps of the track alternating running hard and walking each lap; on Friday, I run 3 miles” or as detailed as a marathon training plan.

Fourth, you’ll need patience and realistic expectations. You’re not going to get faster or fitter overnight. Generally, it takes about 4 weeks before you start to see significant cardiovascular benefits. You might start to see weight loss benefits sooner, but you can also expect to feel hungrier as you start to exercise more. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to eat more (although it may), but it does mean you need to eat appropriately for the demands you’re placing on your body.

(Stay tuned for a future post on nutrition and running!)

WHAT KINDS OF PROBLEMS MIGHT I RUN INTO?

The last thing to consider before you dive in are some obstacles you might encounter (and no, I’m not suggesting about the ones you’ll have to deal with if you take up steeplechase).

Consider what environmental hazards you might have to deal with: in the city, cars and traffic; in more rural areas, sparse lighting and wildlife; in both places, inclement weather. Make sure you have sunscreen, extra layers, a waterproof layer, or reflective clothing, as appropriate. Consider a lightweight water bottle for hydration on the go. The checklists below can help you stay organized.

Night

  • Reflective vest 
  • Light source
  • Noisemaker (useful for wildlife)
  • Personal protective gear, e.g. pepper spray

Cold

  • Base wicking/warming layer, e.g. compression shirt and/or running tights
  • Lightweight longsleeved shirt
  • Heavier sweatshirt or pullover (can be removed and tied around waist if overheating)
  • Handwarmer/footwarmer packets
  • Gloves
  • Hat/earmuffs

Hot

  • Lightweight handheld water bottle (<20 oz is easiest in terms of weight)
  • Sunscreen
  • Thin, breathable layers (like cotton)

RUNNING WORKOUTS: THE SLOW, THE FAST, AND THE WEIRDLY-NAMED

There are four types of running workouts we’ll consider: intervals (aka Fartleks (yes that’s actually their name)), moderate-paced runs, long slow runs, and hills. Here’s how each type of workout can fit into your exercise plan.

Intervals/Fartleks: Interval runs combine periods of work with periods of recovery, and can be used for everything from a relaxed run/walk pace to a sprint/recovery speed workout. If you’re newer to running, run/walk intervals are a great way of building endurance. Start with something like a 3:1 run:walk ratio, and gradually increase the amount of running time relative to the amount of walking time. (And in case you’re thinking run:walk sounds too easy, people routinely use it to run marathons. It’s worth trying!)

Moderate-Paced Runs: These are the bread and butter of any running plan. These runs should leave you feeling slightly tired by the end, and just at the upper end of conversational pace—you could say a few short phrases to a running companion, but not speak comfortably in full sentences. These are the true “middle of the road” runs, in that they’ll be slower than the “hard” phase of an interval, faster than a long slow run, and a short to medium distance.

Long Slow Runs: These are useful if you’re building up to run at a longer distance, and should be run at a relaxed, conversational pace. You should be able to easily chat with a running buddy, if you have one, on this type of run. These are less about speed and more about endurance; the goal is to build the tolerance of your lungs, heart, and legs to activity.

Hills: Hill runs are important for building muscular strength in a way that doesn’t make you bulky or slow down your running. These are usually done in an interval format, with the “work” phase being done at a near-sprinting pace, and the “recovery” phase being either a very slow jog or a walk. Running up hills builds glute and quad strength; running down hills puts extra stress on your quads. If you have a history of knee injuries, be particularly careful about hill running. A good place to start is with a hill that’s about a quarter-mile long and relatively shallow (not steep).

The program I’ve made below is by no means the only valid way to get started running. Other great resources include the Couch to 5K program and Zombies, Run! (which is ridiculously fun; I use it regularly). But if you’re looking for a place to start, this is a pretty good one. Happy running!

CaitSignature

 

 

INTRO TO RUNNING TRAINING PLAN

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