One of my favorite exercise routines is running. It can be done anywhere, it’s not a very expensive sport (at least not if you’re not spending a ton on entering marathons and buying expensive gear) and let’s be honest … you can get a lot done in a 30 minute run and burn through a lot of calories compared to most exercises you can do in the gym. Still, people find it a chore to run. Why? Because still we insist on making running more complicated than it needs to be.
Think about it: what does it take for you to run? For many, it’s a long process. You have to think about when you’re going to run, then motivate yourself to run. Then you have to get changed into your workout gear: the well-beaten sneakers or running shoes, t-shirt or snazzy running top, shorts or running pants (in winter), so on and so forth. Then you pack your water bottle. Then you can’t live without your phone so you grab that and either carry it while you run or slip it into your pocket. Can’t forget the iPod or mp3 player! Oh, while you’re at it, grab that pedometer or expensive mile tracker. Now you’re finally ready to run and you look like you’re also ready for war as you’re now adorned in tons of gear and distractions. By the time you get to your actual run, you’re tired, you’re distracted and lugging around all of this gear puts a damper on the run. Back home you go to repeat the process again and again each week, each month, every year if you manage to stay motivated enough to keep with the routine.
It doesn’t have to be so complicated. It doesn’t need to be so complicated. Start running naked. Naked runs are not a new concept among seasoned runners; it’s also not what it sounds like. You can actually run naked even if you were in one of these full womens co-ord sets or any other sports gear. Running naked means you’re running with as little as possible. A lot of these things that people think they need in order to run are unnecessary burdens. I honestly don’t think the ordinary casual runner should be subject his or herself to long, enduring, grueling runs. I’ve read in Runner’s World magazine and in other places that anything beyond 30 minutes actually works against you rather than for you. Why’s that? Because after 30 minutes, your form gets worse, you’re more fatigued, you’re more prone to injury and your body’s ripped through burning bad calories and fat and starts eating away at good muscle. This is a key idea: run shorter sessions, therefore, cut down on things that you’d need for longer runs!
It’s fine to run more than 30 minutes a day. In my experience from clueless “running isn’t a sport” guy to someone who’s read and learned a lot more about it over the past three years, I’ve come across some really interesting information. First, split your sessions into smaller chunks. I used to subject myself to running an hour everyday. It got old quick, I felt stuck in fatigued mode and honestly, while it did help me maintain a lean frame, I couldn’t see any other benefits. Then I read about running an hour each day but 30 minute sessions: you can run before work, then after; run 20 minutes at breakfast, lunch, dinner. The combinations are many and by separating your runs, you’ll feel like you’re running more each day and you may find that you’ll even increase the distance you can cover in just 30 minutes.
Now, if you’re running 30 minutes or shorter, what do you really need to get through it? The answer is very little. Leave the cell phone in the car or at home: I suspect the world can do without you for that long if not longer without self destructing. I think that’s the biggest distraction and first thing runners should try to ‘shed’ in their quest to run naked. Phones are a big distraction: imagine running at your best and hitting a nice pace and stride, only to have to stop because someone at work called or your kid or spouse MUST ask you a question that can’t wait. Imagine running but stopping or slowing down because your friend has called you. Suddenly your run has gone from a vigorous exercise to leisurely walk that won’t even torch the calories from your morning coffee. Phones are big distractions, not to mention a bit dangerous if you’re running.
Second, ditch all of those hand-held gadgets that you think you need. I’m all for tracking miles: I do it just as a personal bench mark and little pat on the back to myself for putting in the work each week to my fitness. But, unless running is your career or you’re training for a marathon … stop and get back to running for the sake of running. When I first began to run, I didn’t track anything really. I noted how much time I spent running and how many times I passed a certain tree or fixture where ever I ran. Running was a bit more enjoyable before I began tracking miles. The moment I started tracking the miles each day, if I didn’t see at the end of the week that I’d run 20 or 30 miles, I felt like I’d failed a bit. It’s stupid really because you can’t fail at fitness, in my opinion. These little gadgets that track your progress are really unnecessary for most runners. Learn to run for the sake of fun and getting fit, not for winning some invisible/unknown race.
Your iPod and mp3 player probably seems harmless. Yes, studies have shown that when people worked out while listening to upbeat, fast-paced tracks by artists like Madonna and rock music, they worked out harder and burned through more calories. Yet, a British study also suggested that for runners, if you’re continually running while listening to music, your performance will suffer. The key advice? Try running without listening to music at least half the week. So if you’re doing my suggested 2 or 3 runs a day (at 20 minutes or 30 minutes each) then choose one run each day to run ‘naked’ without listening to music. Many listen to music to drown out their surroundings or to distract their minds from their own problems and situations. Well, there’s also a Buddhist approach to running where you run without music and instead focus on your breathing and the nature around you. It’s a form of meditation that’ll make you more aware and will help soothe and calm you just as much as running with loud music blaring through your head will.
Last, stop carrying these ridiculously huge water bottles. Even if you’re not into the whole naked running phenomena, carrying around water bottles as you run is unwise. If you’re holding it as you run, you’ve just compromised your form. You’re going to lean at a slight angle, not move the arm that’s holding the bottle, you’re going to set yourself up for a bad run and possible injury. Run shorter sessions and down your water when you get back in. You should also try to down 16 oz. or so of water before you run because you’ll end up sweating part of it out. If you’re keeping yourself hydrated throughout the day then you can go 30 minutes or so without that water bottle.
Naked running is all about shedding distractions: you’re running with yourself, not against others or problems. It’s all about running with a lighter load. Try it and get used to running with as little as possible. Not only will it improve your runs and make them more enjoyable but they’ll turn your runs into times for reflection and enjoyment.