I used to run, at the gym. Then I stopped.
I used to run, during lunchtimes at work, then I moved jobs, and cycled a lot instead.
Now I work at home, and cycling doesn’t seem like it delivers enough exercise benefit for the time I have, so I run again.
I started from a position of fairly good fitness. I had been cycling to work for years, but perhaps that didn’t help – it turns out that the muscles involved in cycling and those involved in running might all be located in the legs, but it certainly felt like brand new pain.
In the first runs, and all of them since, I used Runkeeper on my phone. It has a mode where you can set custom workouts, and it will beep at you when it’s time to change pace. I started off with intervals, 1km “steady” and 0.25 km “slow”, and repeated that four times, mostly running laps round a playing field near the house so I could stop if or when I couldn’t do any more.
That first run took me 35 minutes, to cover 5km. It was August 2015. I did that interval pattern once a week for a few weeks, then decided that wasn’t enough to make progress. By that point my legs and lungs had got the idea so I experimented with dropping the intervals and just running. I told myself I’d walk for a minute or so if I needed to, but I didn’t need to. My first continuous 5km run (well, slightly over) took 32 minutes.
I stepped up to two runs a week after that, and noticed some improvements to my pace. By the middle of October I was down to 27 minutes for 5km. At this point I’d decided that I wanted to run a 25 minute 5km, mostly because I like round numbers. As motivation, I decided that if I could crack that pace, I’d buy myself an Apple Watch, and after that I’d only get even better because hey, imagine having your pace continuously available!
I went back to intervals, this time 0.75km steady and 0.25km fast. To my surprise, the first time I did this I took a minute off my time! Now I was only one minute away! To my even greater surprise, my very next interval run got me under (just under) a 25 minute 5km. I duly bought my Apple Watch and I’m very pleased with it, but I never look at it when running, only to start and stop the workout, which is much easier than doing so on the phone then wrestling it into the arm holster. It does feel a bit ridiculous running about with a thousand pounds worth of gadgets strapped to my left arm, but that’s something of a first world problem.
These high speed intervals were hard work and not too enjoyable, so since then I’ve settled back into regular 5km runs, usually around 26 minutes, though I have managed one or two 25 minute times, and the occasional longer (7-10km) run if I feel I have a bit more time.
It’s definitely ingrained in my weekly routine now, and I miss it if I haven’t done one for a while. It even helps with work – I’ve had so many aha moments when running along, not really thinking about anything. In fact, I probably value the brain-emptying inner calmness I get whilst running as highly as any of the fitness benefits. It’s the cheapest, easiest way of getting a decent block of exercise into your day.
Now go and run somewhere!