Ways to Enjoy Running Every Time

I have to be honest: while there are days when running is exhilarating and I get into “the zone”, there are other days when running feels like drudgery and just a chore I need to do. So how do you make sure you enjoy every mile of your run regardless of how fast you’re going or how good you’re feeling?

Running with Music

I find that running with someone always helps lighten the load. Whether with chatter or companionable silence, having a running buddy or a group makes the miles fly by. This also has the very positive effect of encouraging you to show up for a run session because someone’s counting on you to be there.

You can also try running with a dog. If you have a dog but have never run with them before, it’s best to get your vet’s go-signal, followed by a training period with your pet on a leash to build up the mileage and speed you run with them. Certain breeds are better built for running, especially those bred for extra stamina and agility like working dogs such as sheepdogs, retrievers, and collies. Just remember that dogs don’t sweat like humans do, so take frequent water breaks and work out in cooler temperatures such as early morning or evening to keep them from overheating.

When going solo, running with music helps! According to research done on the effects of music on exercise, music can distract you from the discomfort of exercise, increase your desire to move, and can make you move in time to the beat. Faster-tempo music has also been shown to motivate people to exercise harder. Even if they are training harder, people rate their level of exertion as lower than if they had trained without music. And of course, listening to music you like is pleasurable in itself.

Conversely, you can shut off the music, turn off the gadgets, and treat running as meditation, an exercise in mindfulness. Staying in the present moment listening to your breathing and letting thoughts positive or negative just pass through can be done whether you’re sitting quietly cross-legged or jogging through the city. Focusing on the sensations of your body moving, the smell of the air you’re breathing, the sights around you, and how your body is responding to exercise keeps your mind from wandering and worrying. Acceptance of what your body on that particular day is capable of performing, and not watching your speed or distance or time on your watch, is also very freeing. So forget about pace or distance when you do this kind of running.

You can vary the pace during your run to keep things from getting boring. A fartlek (“speedplay” in Swedish) is a continuous run that mixes slow-paced running with spurts of faster-paced running. This allows you to recover in between hard efforts and makes things interesting when done while incorporating urban terrain. You can try sprinting from one light pole to another, jog to the corner, then sprint again towards another pole, a mailbox, or a plant box. You can also do a version of a fartlek by playing songs and running faster during the chorus and slower during the verses. If you’re running in a place frequented by others, you can also try speeding up to overtake the nearest runner, then slow down to recover — although this can bait the other runner into doing the same thing and turn into a race!

Set simple and reasonable goals to achieve on every run. It’s important not to bite off more than you can chew; aiming for a 15-kilometer run on your first week of running will leave you feeling tired, achey, and if you’re unable to make up the distance you set yourself up for disappointment. Instead, aim for finishing a certain distance or time running all the way, or running up a particular hill feeling strong. When you can tick these off it gives you a feeling of accomplishment, which can fuel motivation for your future runs.

Don’t forget to stay hydrated. A run can quickly turn tortuous if your throat is parched and you start seeing mirages. Bringing a water bottle or a hydration belt can keep thirst at bay for shorter runs. For longer runs, keep some money on you to pay for refills at convenience stores you plan to pass along the way. A food stop can also do wonders for your mood and can act as a little body and brain break before you set off once again.

Lastly, run in places you enjoy. Treadmills are great at getting the job done, but nothing beats running outdoors where you can see the world go by. Find a new running route, or frequent your favorite one. When the sights on your route are something you look forward to, it makes getting out the door much easier. Maybe you love the loop in your neighborhood because it allows you to see your other friends out running. Maybe you can find that view of the sea another runner once raved to you about.

Every day out running is different, but what matters is the attitude you take towards your run. When you’re determined to enjoy yourself no matter what, you will definitely enjoy every step of every mile.

Ask Kikay Runner: Average Running Mileage

This is a section on my blog where I answer questions people ask me. If you have any questions for future Ask Kikay Runner entries, email me, tweet me, or leave me a message on the Kikay Runner Facebook page.

Erik Valenzuela asks: Hi Noelle, what is your average weekly and monthly running mileage? During training and off/maintenance season?

Hi Erik! First of all, thanks for making a distinction between training and offseason — I can’t tell you how many times people think I’m a machine that can maintain huge weekly mileage all 52 weeks of a year.

During the offseason (which could last two weeks to a month for me), I’m not ashamed to say my average weekly running mileage could dip below 10 kilometers. I’m usually doing other activities to keep fit. Back when I had my job at the gym I would teach my dance and yoga classes for the week and that was it. These days though, I will probably still be doing some swimming, biking, and running, but definitely won’t be obsessing about run mileage or speed or amount of time. The offseason is when I give myself a break, physically and mentally, so that when the time comes to start training properly again I won’t be fatigued and will go into the training with gusto.

Last year during my training for Challenge Roth (an iron-distance race), my average running mileage was still pretty low (about 27 kilometers averaged weekly over the entire nine-month period) but that was because I was loading up more on swim and bike — and these also give me a good aerobic base. I think my longest run was 27 kilometers.

When I was training exclusively for running a marathon, my average mileage every week for 16 weeks was 30 kilometers, and my longest run was around 32 to 35 kilometers. That’s quite low for a marathon runner — but then I was also putting in at least 5 hours weekly of aerobic and high-intensity interval training due to dance classes.

I will admit I’ve let my run slack in the last few months and I can definitely benefit from putting a few more miles every week into these legs. But it’s not exactly just about adding mileage — it’s about the kind of mileage you do. I find that I can perform well and get by on less running (I can crack out a half-marathon any weekend) but the running I do has to be more intense in order for me to keep my speed — hills, intervals, speedwork. Quality over quantity if you have limited time, and I usually have only two run sessions every week.

But that’s what works for me, and as I’ve become aware, there are diminishing returns to this sort of thing. I may have to overhaul my running program and explore adding more mileage (and whether to add that mileage as separate sessions or lengthening existing sessions) as I build toward my next few races. But that’s the fun part of training — finding better ways of improving performance.

Kikay Runner

Training for Challenge Philippines

Last year while I was preparing for the inaugural Challenge Philippines, my sole goal was to finish it. This year things are a little different. After bagging the third spot on my age group podium, I now feel a little bit of pressure to stay on the podium, or at least do better than my time of 7:06:06. While last year before the race was held people had an inkling it would be hard, now everyone knows how brutal it is and are preparing accordingly. Add to this the bigger number of foreign participants, and you just know the competition will be much fiercer.

Challenge Philippines (photo by Nicky Loh/Getty Images)
Challenge Philippines (photo by Nicky Loh/Getty Images)

It’s now just a little more than 9 weeks to go until race day, and it’s a good time to start getting some heavy hill mileage on the bike. Challenge Philippines has 1,398 meters of climbing so you will definitely need leg strength.

However, the course is also technical with hairpin curves and switchbacks. For me the best preparation is definitely riding on the course itself. Some teams may organize their own recons, but the technical committee for Challenge Philippines will be holding guided recons open to all participants. I’ve been in touch with Jumbo Tayag of Hubble Multisport, and he tells me the first recon may be on December 27 with a support vehicle and mechanic. Most weekends of January will also have recons. Stay tuned for the official announcement soon!

I’ve also put together a new training playlist for Challenge Philippines. :D Continue reading “Training for Challenge Philippines”

Swim, Bike, Run, Fun

With all the hard training I did this year for triathlon, I was always in grave danger of beginning to view the swim, bike, and run as work and drudgery. This can lead to burnout and is a big reason why people exit the sport of triathlon. We kind of get all grim and serious, forgetting that whatever the outcome of a training session or a race, it doesn’t impact the economy. (Thanks, Coach Patrick Joson, for this little bit of wisdom.)

Ironman 70.3 Cebu
Time to lighten up!

There’s also some inherent ridiculousness and seeming pointlessness Continue reading “Swim, Bike, Run, Fun”

Ask Kikay Runner: How to Find Time for Training

This is a section on my blog where I answer questions people ask me. If you have any questions for future Ask Kikay Runner entries, email me, tweet me, or leave me a message on the Kikay Runner Facebook page.

Last month I asked my Facebook Page followers: “Anything in particular you’d like me to write about? Training tips, troubleshooting, reviews?” Here are some of the requests they made.

Pao Moreto asks: How to get back after a long time of hiatus. Or more importantly, how can anybody who works in the graveyard shift find time to run. BPO and running.

Shelley Jo Rojas Saracin asks: How to get back after a long hiatus din!

Rj Bumanglag asks: Following Mr. Moreto’s idea, you could also write training schedules of an 8-5 office employee.

Macky De Leon asks: Time management. How to squeeze in training for us with 9-5 work.

Sheila Llorin asks: Same with Macky De Leon’s comment.

Running Up Mt. Faber, SG
Many times, training in the wee hours is the only option.

Finding the time to train, whether you’re a very busy person or someone coming back from hiatus, is about creating good habits and celebrating each step forward so you become more motivated to continue. Here are a few tips to help you get started training again. Continue reading “Ask Kikay Runner: How to Find Time for Training”

Where Can You Do Run, Bike, and Swim Training in Manila?

Being based out of Metro Manila has its perks. My work is here at the various gyms I teach classes at, all the good sports stores are within reach, and it’s where plenty of runs are held almost every weekend.

Unfortunately, training in the city is another matter entirely. Metro Manila the mega-city was cobbled together from different cities and municipalities that spread out and merged into each other, so there wasn’t any city planning to give us proper sidewalks, bike paths, parks, and sports complexes. It is also a highly-congested city with more than its fair share of vehicular traffic and pollution. These are not the ideal training grounds at all.

I sometimes find myself envying my buddy Joel who relocated to Cagayan de Oro City some years ago; he tells me he can ride from his doorstep out onto long stretches of road where he can train undisturbed for hours. He’s got access to a track and a pool as well, and I think he’s made the biggest leaps in his athletic fitness since he moved there. (The fresh air also has something to do with it, I think…)

But we’ve got to do the best with what we’ve got, and this blog post is an attempt at identifying the places in this city that most athletes I know train at.

Xpert.PH shoot
Where can you train in Metro Manila?

Continue reading “Where Can You Do Run, Bike, and Swim Training in Manila?”

Heat Training in the Philippine Summer

Last Saturday, I was out cycling with some friends and we got off the road at 11:30am because the sun was beating down hard. (Contrast this to three weeks ago, when I was out cycling until 2pm.) Swimmers, like swimjunkie Betsy, have been complaining about the soup-like conditions in our outdoor pools. Then yesterday, I started a long run at 6:30am and it was already hot and sticky.

I don’t recall it being this hot around this time last year — and we hit some record temperature highs late in the summer back then. So more likely than not it’s just going to keep getting warmer through the month of May. How are we athletes expected to keep training in these conditions?

It just makes you want to kick back and chill.

It turns out there’s big benefit in this automatic “heat training” we have in the Philippine summer. Continue reading “Heat Training in the Philippine Summer”