Make a Resolution to Run

In the Light in the Night 5k, held at Gateway Island Park on Dec. 3, Robert Davis of McMinnville led the pack with a 18:13 time.

Kristen Wasik of Murfreesboro led the females with a finishing time of 22:07.

Check out the full results here

Though the competitive road racing season will be in a bit of a lull for the next couple of months, it’s a great time to train (indoors, perhaps, during the coldest times) and prepare to enter a race later in the year.

Fleet Feet, located at 544 N. Thompson Lane, holds Saturday morning runs every week at 8 a.m. if you feel a group run will help you get moving.

Many who have never run before may say that running is boring. However, in actuality it can be one of the most interesting, beneficial and different times in your day.

Not only is running great for improving your respiratory and circulatory systems, shedding weight and strengthening legs and core, it is also great for mental health. Thirty or forty minutes on the road allows one to reflect on the previous day and prepare and organize for the following one.

If you care to use a small mp3 player (which can be pretty affordable these days), you can use the time to check out new music or listen to recorded books or podcasts. But even without the earbuds, the peace that comes with focusing on a single thing for a half hour is nice.

Once you’re able to maintain a strong pace for a number of miles, there are plenty of things to vary up your runs to keep things interesting from day to day.

On one day, after a warm-up of at least five minutes of an easy jog, hit a mile as hard as you can. The site gmap-pedometer.com allows runners and cyclists to plot, calculate the distance of and save routes on roads in your own neighborhood. So I suggest setting up a route of a mile and a 5k (3.1 miles) right in your own part of town. Use the stopwatch on your phone or watch to time your quickest mile possible. Walk for five minutes and then do it again, though it’s understandable if your second timed mile is a bit slower. A treadmill could come in handy,  if the temperature outside is unfavorable to you and for precisely timing your distance ran.

On another day, start with a five-minute easy jog again to get pumping and reduce the chance of injury, and then sprint for 30 seconds. Run like someone’s stealing your baby and you must catch them—big strides, high knees, heels to the butt, pumping your body to the absolute maximum, Olympic sprinting-finals style. Go back to an easy jog for a half or a whole minute and do it again. Try at least five of these alternations; work up to 10. Cool down with an easy jog before collapsing.

On the third day of my weekly routine, I’m currently doing a 5k plus one additional mile, for a total of 4.1 miles. If I can push and improve my pace on this as if I am in a road race, actually running a 5k will be a breeze. I’d like to make this day more of a hill training day, but Murfreesboro is so flat compared to so much of Tennessee, I need to look for some big hills to conquer. The incline is another good feature of a treadmill.

The fourth day could be an endurance day. Set a distance that is reasonable to you but still taxing, and do it, no matter how long it takes. I’m just at six miles on my long day, but I will continue to add half miles until I do just a little better than double that and am able to complete a 13-mile half marathon regularly.

If the temperature is between 35 and 100 degrees, I’m fine. Below freezing and above 100, it gets a little less fun. But yet another reason to use a treadmill, particularly on these long days, is to take advantage of the TV mounted on them or the full-size movie cinema they are in, as the Murfreesboro Athletic Club offers. Running from 4:30-6 p.m. on a Sunday is not a problem if there are a couple of competitive NFL games on the treadmill’s TV.

The rest days in between the running days are certainly important, and they give your body a chance to recover. But I like to have more running days than off days, so the 4-day running plan will place one set of consecutive running days next to each other at the end of each cycle (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, for example).

If you want to truly improve your times, the sprints and hill training are important. The biggest factor in a runner’s increase in speed is due to improved lung capacity. In other words, work your breathing hard and the changing amount of air your lungs can take in with one breath is the single most important thing one can do to shave of seconds on finishing times.

Get those knees up with each stride!

For many runners, it’s all about the “PR,” or personal record for a particular distance, moreso than trying to outdo another runner. It probably feels great to win a race, but it also feels great to break your own time in a mile or a 5k.

Do not be intimidated. Compared to most hobbies and sports, running is incredibly easy to get into. The first step: run. Tie your shoes and take off. Remember, even if you get up and jog easily for 10 minutes, the results will be better than if you had not.

Think about your whole body as you run. Make sure you’re pushing off with your toes each stride and not just shuffling your feel along and not bending at the ankles. Pick up your knees. Kick your tail with your heels. Pump your legs as quickly as possible (be mindful of your “cadence”), but take large strides. Land on the front part of the foot, not the heel. Keep breathing under control. I usually start a run by inhaling for four steps, exhaling for four steps, then switching to three and then two as my lungs ask for more air.

It seems like keeping the shoulders and elbows engaged is one of the top inefficiencies of many runners. Don’t keep the elbows bent and your fists up high. This uses blood, oxygen and energy. Keep the arms straight and relaxed. Swivel at the hips slightly each step and rotate the rib cage from side to side. Use your hands and extended arms swinging back and forth as momentum pendulums, weight that helps you move forward, rather than running with bent, and therefore shorter, extremities.

Jared Cook

Run with power. Don’t lean back by any means. You’re going forward, so project your body weight forward slightly. I think of the Tennessee Titans powerful tight end Jared Cook as I run. That guy is like a locomotive going down the field. It always seems like when he does get tackled or tripped up, he’s still going to fall about 8 yards forward before he ever comes down because of the power and momentum with which he runs down field. Run in such a way that if you did just give out or trip, you’re momentum is carrying your body forward rather than just collapsing straight down right where you are.

Hopefully these tips will inspire some to run (without giving out all of my personal training secrets), or even improve their health in another way. Even if on your first jog you are winded after a couple of minutes, everyone has to start somewhere, and the important thing is that you’re literally taking steps in the right direction and that you improve your lungs and your time your next running day.

I am by no means a running or fitness expert, but this strategy has helped helped me shed pounds and improve my times.


About the Author

Bracken, a 2003 graduate of MTSU’s journalism program, is the founder and publisher of The Murfreesboro Pulse. He lives in Murfreesboro with his wife, graphic artist and business partner, Sarah, and son, Bracken Jr. Bracken enjoys playing the piano, sushi, Tool, football, chess, jogging, spending time in his backyard with his chickens, hippie music, climbing at The Ascent, bowling, swimming, soup, tennis, sunshine, revolution, defiance and anarchy. He can cook a mean grilled cheese, and can fry just about anything.

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1 Comment

  • Donna Mayo

    Very informative article. I know how hard it is to find the time. So proud of your commitment and progress.

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