Part I – 11 Fundamental Questions answered for every Non-Runner

Non-runners are generally very appreciative and respectful of runners. They hold them in high regard and are quick to praise them. They show genuine interest in discussions about running.

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Strangely enough, they never seem to start running themselves. I wondered why.

Why would people acknowledge the benefit of something and yet not do it themselves?

Many people intend to take up running for various reasons – Better health, weight loss, and recommendations by friends. But then there is a substantial amount of fear, prejudice and misconception about running. These things stop them from becoming runners.

I began an inquest to understand the mentality of non-runners. I spoke to my non-running friends. I got my running friends to speak to their non-running friends.

This article series is an outcome of that inquest. Here I try to answer the 11 most common questions that people have about running. I hope to remove the doubts bothering a non-runner and convert him/her into a runner.

There are many more questions that people have which can’t all be covered in one article. Therefore, I will be splitting the questions and answers into a series of articles.

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Let’s begin…ahem!

Question 1 – First of all – Why should I run?

Simple answer, health and fun. Running is the oldest sport known to mankind. Running comes naturally to our species. Unfortunately, many of us just haven’t nurtured the habit as we got older.

The health benefits, physical and mental, are immense. Your body becomes stronger u, your immunity increases. All this makes you a happier person (Don’t believe me, Google ‘Endorphins’ to know what I am talking about).

Running can be a group sport. Join a community and you will see people from different walks of life. Before running I would only socialize with the chums from my IT industry and discuss the same issues to death. Through running I have made friends with doctors, builders, scientists, painters, teachers and even film personalities! My perspective has definitely broadened.

After a while, the fun part comes first. Health becomes a by-product of the fun you are having. Can’t ask for more, eh?

Question 2 – Am I too old to start running?

No way. I did PE exercises in school and started running after I turned 47. Nothing in between. There are others in my running group who started after 50 or even 60. And then there is the legendary Fauja Singh who is 104 years old and still runs marathons!

The mantra is to start at any age, stay consistent, improve gradually and most importantly, enjoy the journey.

Question 3 – Should I run alone or go with a running group?

A group, definitely.

If there are no groups around, you may run alone. Some people prefer to listen to music while they run. I don’t. That’s just a personal choice.

I tell my friends, “Just dress up and show up in the running group and the people around will take care of your motivation”.

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Question 4 – Can anyone take up running?

Broad answer, YES. Exceptions would be people with specific health conditions. Always consult your doctor before undertaking any new physical activity.

There is no entry criteria to start running but your doctor’s permission is a must.

Question 5 – I desperately want to start but never get the time. What do I do?

Ah, I don’t get time to watch old boring documentaries anymore. Guess why? Coz it’s not a priority anymore.

Seriously, make running a priority and do it the right way. You will get time for it. Move around your other activities and drop the excuses. If people like Anil Ambani (industrialist) and Raghuram Rajan (RBI Governor) can find time to run regularly, so can you.

As you read this article somewhere in this world someone much busier than you is out enjoying a blissful run.

Question 6 – How many days of the week should I run? Not every day I hope!

Not every day, definitely. Even the regular runners don’t do that.

Aim to run 3 or 4 days a week. Less is fine, more is not.

Even if you do 1 day a week, it’s cool. Get into the habit.

Question 7 – When is the best time to run?

The straight answer is, any time of the day. In India mornings are better because –

there is less traffic on the streets,

less heat outside,

you are fresh after sleep,

and you are unlikely to be busy with anything else.

Question 8 – I tried running once and the next day my body was aching all over. Why?

That, my friend, is because of muscle soreness. Nothing to worry about. In fact it is your body’s way of telling you “Hey, these muscles haven’t been used before”. Answer back to your body with a “Better get those muscles working…now!” Soreness reduces as you become consistent and thus stronger.

Other names for muscle soreness are “Good Pain” and “Pleasure Pain”

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Question 9 – I want to run but what distance do I start with?

Start with the bare minimum! Surprised? Let me explain. The objective in the beginning is only to inculcate a new habit. The routine of waking up early, wearing those colorful running clothes, tying up the shoe laces and stepping out of the door is going to take some effort.

Once you hit the road, run short distances. It could be a few kilometers or a few hundred meters or just a few meters. Start gradually and finish not too long thereafter.

Towards the end of a run you should be thinking “I could run more” and not “when will this suffering get over”.

Question 10 – I feel exhausted at the end of a run, even if it is a short distance. Why?

That is because you are going beyond your capacity. Run a short distance at a slow pace, walk in between and stop before you feel tired. Do this regularly and your performance will improve.

Follow the simple talk test. If you are able to talk while you run, you are doing fine. If you are struggling to complete a sentence, it means you are going too fast. Of course if you can whistle or sing a song while running it means you are going too slow!

Singing and whistling while running is actually quite enjoyable, trust me. Running was never meant to be a punishment. Remember to have fun all along

Question 11 – Everyone else seems to run so fast and I can’t. Why is that?

Comparison with others is pointless so just focus on yourself. If required, compare with your own past performance. Stay focused and be consistent. You are bound to get faster and feel nice about it.

Speed is relative. There’s always someone faster and someone slower than you. Don’t obsess over it.

Will my knees pain when if I run? What kind of shoes and t shirts do I wear? When can I run in those big events? Can kids run? Phew…Lots and lots of questions, right?

Watch this space! All such questions like these will be answered in the forthcoming columns! Remember it is going to be a series of columns

And by the way, Welcome to the Running Tribe. I know you will be hooked to this awesome community!

Please post your feedback and questions in the comments section below.

Links to other articles in the series – Part II, Part III

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Sandeep Kulkarni is a veteran long distance runner from PUNE RUNNING

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