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5 Running Lessons

It was a beautiful day for a run today, 72 degrees, light
wind, clear blue sky and lush foliage… the trail was busier than usual, with
bikers passing me every few minutes.  But
otherwise, it couldn’t have been a better day.
My running partner recently left DC to spend a couple of months working
in Morocco,
and I swore to myself that I wouldn’t completely go to pot while she was
gone.  So I forced myself to get into my
gear and go for a solo run.  Being alone
gave me the chance to reflect on 5 running lessons…

Don’t compare
yourself to others
– there will always be someone better, faster, fitter,
stronger, smarter…  It’s important to be
content with who you are, and do the best with what you’ve got.  At least, this is what I told myself as I was
passed by the majority of joggers on the trail, dragging myself along to mile

Appreciate the beauty
of nature
– it’s so easy to take nature for granted.  I ran by a patch of mushrooms, and one had
been broken off its stalk and flipped over so I could see its little
vents.  How can a fungus know how to grow
into such a well organized structure?
How can the cells know to line up into soft, brown vents?  I don’t know… it seems pretty amazing to me
that one little organism can be so delicate, complex, and completely
independent.  It never asked anyone for
permission to be itself.  Meditating on
the whimsy and creativity that is abundant in the life around us can put things
into perspective.

Take responsibility
– no one’s going to help you get in shape.
It’s up to you to take care of your body.  I’m really bad at this – I don’t like to exercise
alone, and I sometimes put off getting in shape unless I have a partner for
accountability.  It’s as if I prefer to
delegate responsibility about my health to others.  I know that this is a common tendency in
medicine – where folks rely on their doctors, without taking responsibility for
applying their advice (for diet/exercise/medications) on a daily basis.

Exercise is a
life-long discipline
– as I thought about how hard it was to run, and how
heavy my legs felt, and how much easier all of this was just a couple of years
ago… I realized that exercise is not something you do every other weekend.  It really is best applied on a daily basis.  And being in shape is the result of
consistent hard work – so we have to focus our minds on making exercise a part
of our regimen, just as we make time to eat each day!

Don’t psych yourself
– part of your success or failure in exercising has to do with whether
or not you believe you can do it.  When
you’re running, you have to believe that you can make it the whole way… or that
you can run farther than you did last time.
The temptation is to quit when you start feeling a little tired, but you
have to keep going – encouraging yourself along the way with a positive
attitude.  Of course, if you really are
unable to make it (your heart rate is at its limit and you are breathing so
hard you can’t speak) then slow down.
But a lot of the time you’ll find that running an extra mile is a matter
of mindset, not physical capability.

Do you have running lessons to share?

This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

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5 Responses to “5 Running Lessons”

  1. Fit as a Fiddle says:

    MP3 players are great for running on treadmills but not for running outside.  My local running club has a Run Aware program to raise awareness of the dangers of running with headphones.

  2. Amka says:

    I’m not sure I would blame headphones for the two horrible incidents. In the first one, how close was the runner, really? If the attacked runner was taken from behind with a hand over her mouth, I’m not sure clear ears would have helped. In the second case, I fail to see how not having headphones on would have improved that situation very much either. 

    By the same logic, maybe it is the trails that should be prohibited? They offer isolation to would be attackers. I would venture to say that trail running is more dangerous for a variety of reasons than running in suburbs. Does that mean we should ban trail running? 

    I’m sorry to disagree. I know the experiences for the running community there must have been quite difficult. But I choose to not live in fear. I simply don’t see this risk outweighing the enjoyment of life.

    Also, headphones are not banned in the races I’ve run.


  3. Judy404 says:

    I am new to this site and am interested in running.  Seems like I always have a hard time breathing.  Is it best to take short fast breaths or deep breaths.  I barely make it 1/8 of a mile before I give out.  Any thoughts?


  4. ValJonesMD says:

    Hi Judy – is it possible that your shortness of breath is related to asthma or heart disease?  If your doctor has ruled out the medical causes of your symptoms, and it’s related to being deconditioned (“out of shape”) then I’d recommend that you start with walking.  Try to slowly increase the distance and speed of your walking before you begin jogging.  It will take a few weeks of regular activity before you notice a substantial change.  Good luck, and stay active!

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