While jogging in Rhodes one day this fall, an elderly Greek gentleman called out, “Is good gymnastic!” as I passed by.
This has become my running mantra as I embark on this crazy, 13.1 mile-long adventure. After three weeks of training, I’ve never felt this good in my whole life, physically and mentally. I’m happy to report that settling into a training routine, enjoying every single step, and digging the whole process!
This success has been in large part due to a new technological addition to my running repertoire. After 6 years of running and one failed training attempt, I finally invested in a heart rate monitor. I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I say it has revolutionized my running. Never before has a piece of technology completely changed my life for the better like this. If you’re a beginning or intermediate runner and don’t use a heart rate monitor, I highly recommend investing in one.
Here’s why. I like running. I love running. But some days, it was just so hard to get myself to do so. I’m normally a hugely self-motivated person, so this was odd for me; but no matter how I tried, I couldn’t get myself to lace up my shoes and get out the door.
The first time I put on my heart rate monitor and set out at my normal pace, I was astonished to see that at only five minutes into the run, the display read 98%.
Yep. After six years of serious running, I was trying to run at 98% of my maximum heart rate for the duration of the workout every time I ran.
Suddenly, it all made sense. No wonder I had a tough time getting motivated, and no wonder I got injured the first time I tried; I was killing myself every time I went for a run! It blew my mind. All this time, I had been going about it all wrong. It hadn’t felt like I was pushing it that hard, but in hindsight, the signs were all there: I had to run to only the most ridiculous pump-up songs or I couldn’t get motivated, I could only go for relatively short distances, and yes, I wound up with a knee injury the first time I trained for a half marathon.
Since I learned how to make the most of my heart rate monitor (ie, training at 70-80% of my maximum heart rate), I have had sobering lessons in patience over and over again, but after three weeks I can say without hesitation that it has been completely worth it. The first time I tried to run in this heart rate zone for a full 30 minutes, I was appalled by how slowly I had to go. While going up some of the hills on campus, I was crawling, barely running in what could only be classified as granny-jogging. But I made myself do it, and I’ve slowly gotten faster and faster; and while I have no time goal for this first attempt, and I know I probably won’t even break 10-minute miles during the race, I know I have many more races in my future to improve my time if I want to. I know I’m doing it the right way, and I feel fantastic!
Here’s my routine every week:
- A basic, time goal run on Tuesday and Friday. These begin with 30 minutes and reach 60 before tapering at the end. For the basic runs, I jog around the AFS campus, which is great because it’s quiet, beautiful, and hilly, so it’s a good challenge; and sometimes I see my students along the way, which makes me smile!
- Cross-training on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This means anything but running. Most cross-training days, I do yoga, but sometimes I mix it up with kickboxing or, if I happen to be in Kavala, climbing a castle!
- A long run on Sundays. This began with 3 miles and will peak at 11 before tapering. I did five this past Sunday and it felt great!! For these long runs, I go down to the Thessaloniki waterfront and run right by the sea. The people-watching is fantastic, and it’s nice and flat so I get a break from the hills on campus. Also, the “Asian” restaurant in Thessaloniki is right by the water, so I treat myself to dinner after running; I get takeout curry noodles and eat them right by the White Tower. Can you imagine how I must look to Greeks? I already look strange to them, but when you add the running tights and takeout box with chopsticks, you get a weirdly pale girl with weird hair in weird clothes eating weird food with weird utensils!!
In addition to getting a heart rate monitor, I also recommend a book I picked up for beginning or intermediate runners. As I’ve been running for a while, parts of it were way too simple for me, but it still gave me a good handle on the basics I never knew!
Lastly, here’s where I need your help. If you have any recommendations for running music, please send them my way! I need all the good tunes I can get for all those hours I’ve got to log in the coming months. I’ll leave you with a few of my new favorites for running:
- “Dog Days,” Florence + the Machine (trippy music video aside…)
- “Alors on Danse,” Stromae
- “We No Speak Americano,” Yolanda Be Cool Vrs DCup (by the way, Camp Equinox fans, this song is huge over here!!)
- And, what kind of Hellenophile would I be if I didn’t run to at least a little shameless Greek pop?
- …OK, perhaps a moderate amount of shameless Greek pop.
- Fine. I’m obsessed with Greece. Now that that’s out and over with, dig this!