By Katie Weiler, Gazelle Sports Grand Rapids
Think back to when you first started running. Was it in middle school? Maybe high school? Or with a friend to stay in shape? It could be yesterday that you started, but regardless of how long ago it was, it is important to look back at why. Why did you fall in love with this crazy sport in the first place? The answer to this can help to drive you through the challenges you may face during training.
I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with middle school cross country runners this summer and have learned a few things from them. Many are new to running. There are a handful that competed last year, but most have never run on a team before. My favorite part about spending time with them was their excitement. They would show up voluntarily on nights that were 80 degrees and muggy, and still be excited to be out there with their friends. Below I have made a list of my observations in my time with these new runners:
- Running is a social sport: Most of the kids are joining the team because they have friends that are doing it, too. Running brings people together and allows you to make new friends, as well as have a workout partner to push you or pull you along when you begin to struggle. The social benefits of running are endless when you are able to have fun and be healthy in the company of others.
- Overthinking is overrated: Pace, distance, mileage, etc. are not a concern for those who are just starting out. By not getting too focused on how fast they are running on every run, they are able to enjoy the company of others and save the fast stuff for workout days. Most of the kids did not have a watch. They simply ran on feeling. At times, leaving the watch at home and listening to your body on a run can be more rewarding than clocking splits for every mile.
- Back to the basics: The most important part of every run happened before they started running. A short warm up, followed by dynamic drills set the stage early for injury prevention in these young athletes. Following the run, they would walk as a cool down and rehydrate, as well as stretch lightly. Building a routine of good habits early can help to prevent injuries or feeling tight later on. Evaluating how we warm up and cool down from a run or workout can help us see where improvements need to be made or added.
Being in the presence of the young runners helped me to look at my own training and some of the stresses that come with running in a different way. I hope all runners, new or seasoned, can have a take away from looking back at the start and focusing on how simple this sport can be.