Legen-wait-for-it-dary Advice from Barney Stinson: Run.

Running is as simple or as complicated as you make it, and some of us need to make it more complicated just to make it simple, right? If running were always as simple as “just run” then it would be simple enough for all of us to “just run”. We add GPS, PR's, Pace, VO MAX, Negative Splits, Tempo Runs, Fartleks, Hill Repeats, and even #$^%* Wreck Bags to the mix in order to keep running interesting.  To put it another way, running apparently isn't crazy enough for some of us by itself, somehow “runners” need to make it completely over-the-top insane to keep motivated.

How (wait-fot-it) Non-Stinson-ational.

B2BB: Back To Barney Basics

Let's take a look at the painfully obvious advice from our fictitious friend Barney, shall we?

Step one to running (distance redacted): You run, There is no Step 2. – B. Stinson

If you've actually seen the decade-old episode of How I Met Your Mother, Lucky Penny (S2, E15) where the above line becomes a barroom bet to complete the NYC Marathon, you know the price Barney eventually pays later on in the subway:

Now, this 26.2 bet was distinctly outlandish, no one normal goes from running zero miles to a marathon – although I've already established in the first paragraph that many of us are not “normal” at all – but at a single-mile level, the idea of step 1 & 2 aren't that crazy at all… and any able-bodied person can do it.

…and absolutely, positively, should.

Step 1: You Run

Back in 2013, I was thrilled to write 7 Weeks to a 10k and share so many of the running stories, tips, and tricks that changed my life over the last 15 years. Secretly, the book had very little to do with the 10k distance, it had everything to do with developing a love of running that lasted a lifetime.

I’ve been chased by zombies.

I’ve run past rattlesnakes, crossed the raging Colorado river, circled a baseball field repeatedly for over 50 miles, sprinted past world-famous athletes (only to be left in their dust shortly thereafter), and watched a world-record ultramarathon distance get shattered. I’ve been lucky enough to run alongside Dean “Ultramarathon Man” Karnazes – one of my running heroes and a fantastic guy – in the middle of nowhere in Globe, AZ, and got lost with him on a trail in Austin, TX. Heck, I even got to run my first ultra marathon by Karno’s side for the first few miles.
Running has taken me to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and all the way to San Diego, both times to run some of the most exciting marathons of my life. I’ve enjoyed running down the middle of the Las Vegas strip under the Sin City lights past all the billion dollar hotels and in the middle of, well, nowhere in Montana. I’ve seen more places across the United States with running shoes on my feet than I can count, and each experience has been special to me, because there’s no way I should ever be a runner – I’m just a fat kid from Connecticut.
– Me, 7 Weeks to a 10k

I'm very passionate about running, but since writing that book I suffered a handful of injuries that lessened my passion and nearly killed off any desire to run at all. 2016 was the first year in over 12 years that I did not participate in an actual marathon, though I did eke out 45k on a trail race. A combination of ankle issues stopped running from being enjoyable, and once I stopped running on a regular basis my fitness level plummeted, and my desire to get fit again snowballed into a slump that lasted for nearly 12 months, culminating with a DNS at the Walt Disney World Marathon back in January.

Step 1a: Run, Dammit!

As my fitness decreased and waistline expanded, I sat idle for way too long; finally it dawned on me that my lack of exercise and fading fitness was also causing depression, and I needed to snap the hell out of it. Luckily, the whole SmashPlan program had been in the works for a couple of months, and fit perfectly into reclaiming my fitness. Less than 2 weeks into the program, I re-injured my partially torn left rotator cuff forced me to change my workouts into a #5kaday running streak that as of this writing is on its 52nd day. Before I get into what I've learned from running 3.1 miles every day, let's get back to YOU for a minute – and remind you that you already know how to run:

Running is a natural movement based on the physiology of humans; instinctually we will run in times of crisis or fear (fight or flight response) or when chasing after objects or individuals (hunting, sports, the taxi that you just forgot your laptop in, etc.).

“But I don't know how to run!” is complete BS, while you will most definitely not have the most efficient running posture and gait from the get-go, you have a normal, natural form that will get you from point A to point B, and as you progress, that form will get better and your pace will get faster. It may not seem like it at first, but your running form will improve, and running will get easier and possibly a whole lot more fun!

Starting Out

[NOTE: If you're already a runner, you can skip forward to Gettin' A Streak On]

Get out the door and walk for 5 – 30 minutes, it doesn't matter how far or how fast. You don't need expensive shoes or any high-tech gear, just walk. That's it. Repeat for a few days, weeks, or months. It's your life, it's your schedule, it's your body.

Progression to Running

Please, don't fall into the DOMS trap. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is a motivation-killer, and is pretty simple to avoid; DOMS basically comes from overworking muscles that aren't ready for the workout, so don't do too much, too fast. Yes, we've all seen commercials where athletes are exhausted after a hard workout – you're not there yet! Slow & steady is the only way to improve when you're just starting out, and not to get sidetracked (or derailed) by DOMS.

After you've been walking for a few (insert days, weeks, months here) and feel you're ready to jog a little, then after you've warmed up and are partway through your (hopefully daily by now) walk, then jog for a little bit. Jog to the next mailbox, telephone pole, intersection, or whatever landmark you pick. Don't go too far, and keep walking after you're done for some “active recovery”. Don't go too far, or too fast. Next walk, jog for 2 sections, and progress slowly week after week. You'll know when it's time to job farther or faster when the recovery walks in-between seem unnecessary. Still, don't jump on the gas too fast, take your time to build up speed.

Guess What?

You're a runner. Yes, you are. Don't fight it, just let it happen. Celebrate with a new pair of running shorts or shoes, but don't go dropping $150 on a pair of running shoes until you know a lot more about your gait, and that will come as you run more and develop your style a bit, and a trip to a good running store with knowledgeable staff and a treadmill will help a lot too. Once you're a runner, the sky's the limit – but still remember that a hard, fast workout one day will lead to more soreness and a slow run on the following day. Too much is still too much.

Gettin' A Streak On

As I mentioned in my Streaking article during the whole SmashPlan weight loss, running every day is something I've never done before, and has changed the way I look at running and even how I run on a daily basis. That's the key, daily. I mean like every #&*$ day I drag my ass out for a 3.1 mile run no matter how bad I feel, what the weather is like, or if I even feel like being out there… and it's been transformational.

Running every day means more days than not you'll be running even though you think you have a valid excuse not to. You head hurts, your tummy hurts, your blood level alcohol is > 0.00%, you had a burrito for lunch, it's too cold, it's too hot, it's too early in the morning, it's too late at night, you didn't shower and stink already, you just showered and don't want to get sweaty… get it? But, that's the magic of running every day; you just run regardless of the excuses.

Over the last 52 days, if I didn't run every time I had a “good excuse”, I'm positive I would have run 10 – 12 times total.

For the record, 52 5k equals over 160 miles, if I let the excuses dictate my running, I would have logged 36 miles over the past 2 1/2 months.

Even if I was just running/jogging a mile every day, I'd have completed a 52 mile ultramarathon versus just barely over a 10k.

I repeat, the magic of a running streak happens when you get on a running streak, you strip away the excuses and run anyway, every. damn. day. After a week of running every day, you realize you don't want to throw away that 7 day investment by skipping a run, so you knock out day #8. Day #49 is exactly the same, but your investment (in yourself!!) continues to grow, and if you stop now you've thrown away months of hard work.

Be A Barney

Keep it simple, if you can already run a mile (if not, go back to “Starting Out”) just get your ass out the door and run. Now. Keep it up every day, and use all those BS excuses as tinder to stoke your fire.

Step 1: You Run


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