Embrace fitness through running or walking

Consider personal style when making choice of strategy

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By Susan Gordon

Why do we run? What makes us lace up a pair of sneakers and head out the door for a workout? Everyone has a different list of reasons as to why aerobic exercise holds an attraction.

We are fortunate to live in a climate that encourages outdoor activities all year round. The benefits of exercise and increased fitness are now widely supported by medical professionals too. If you have been read the “riot act” by your doctor, or have decided on your own that being fitter will make you feel better, you’re not alone.

The question is often, “Where to start?” With a group, a trainer, or an online learn-to-run program? 

Your personal style of learning and motivation is something you’ll want to contemplate when considering whether or not to incorporate running or walking into your life. 

Some people are more consistent when they know a group of runners or walkers have a specific starting time and place, and they are committed to adhering to the dynamics of that group.

Other people prefer to self-motivate and are able to direct themselves through a program, or reach a particular level of fitness and confidence before joining up with a group or coach.

With most running clubs, there is a mix of group and private workouts. If you decide to connect with a group, speak to the coach or long-time members and determine if your current level of activity and fitness gels with the scheduled workouts and pace groups. In most cases, even beginners will be pleasantly surprised to learn how welcoming and friendly a group of runners can be. If you feel intimidated or lack confidence, be sure to share your thoughts with the coach or long-time members of the club.

Everyone had to start somewhere, so you can be certain that you will be supported by members of the group who tend to run at your pace. They  can help you learn how to manage your program and will help you feel comfortable with one or more of the weekly workouts.

Staying motivated is critically important to a running or walking program, so the last thing you want is to overdo a workout by going too far or too fast, or feeling as though you are going to be left behind by others.

Don’t ever feel like it’s “too late” for you either. I began running competitively at age 48, following a lengthy career as a professional horse trainer. There were a few things I learned the hard way at the start, which is what helps me work with others, especially Masters (age 35+) and Grand Masters (age 55+) who might be contemplating a running or walking program.

Next week, I’ll let you know what motivated me to start running, and how a few beginner mistakes almost foiled my first attempt at a 5K race. 

Meanwhile, maybe you’d like to step outdoors for a nice walk, a few laps around the track, or a hike on one of Salt Spring’s beautiful trails or pathways. Stay relaxed, breathe deeply, and walk or run with tremendous gratitude for your mobility. My motto is “begin where you’re at, and the rest will follow.” 

Editor’s note: In addition to writing a column about running, Susan Gordon will also be providing results from and information about various races involving Salt Spring athletes. 

 Susan has been a Salt Spring resident since 2012, and a competitive runner since 2008. She is an NCCP-trained endurance coach, and member of BC Athletics, as well as the Salt Spring Sneakers. 

She currently holds the B.C. Seniors Games meet records for W55-59 at the 800m, 1500m and 5000m distances, and the B.C. 1500m Racewalk record for W55-59. In 2018 she won the B.C. road race championships at the 5K, 10K and half-marathon, and the 8K championship in 2019. 

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