There’s a one-mile race every September in NYC called the Fifth Avenue Mile. Michael runs it every year, and I love spectating this particular race because there are several heats that start throughout the morning and early afternoon. It attracts a high-profile Pro field. And it is fun to watch runners pushing hard for such a short distance, especially when you’re used to spectating longer events. My favorite heat, by far, is when the 80+ year olds take off. It’s so cool to see these runners still out there going for it. Some of them are pretty fast, too!
A few years ago, while spectating the Fifth Avenue Mile, I overheard a father telling his young son, who was probably 7 or 8 years old, “our family isn’t built to be fast over short distances (like the mile).” For some reason, this comment really hit me the wrong way. The truth is, what we know about running and our bodies is still in its infancy, and I think it is sad to close a door entirely, especially before the child tests his ability and interest in a particular sport.
I call what this father was expressing to his son, a “limiting belief”.
Despite my allergy to limiting beliefs, there are some commonly accepted principles that pertain to running. Of course, these may change as we learn more about physiology and running performance. And every person is different. Part of learning to run is learning what works for you. But for now, you should be aware of these as you become a runner.
- Gradual Overload – it takes time for your body to adjust to running, which is why it is wise to build up your running distance slowly.
- Specificity – The principle of specificity states that to improve at a particular exercise or skill, you should practice that exercise or skill. So, to improve at running you need to … you guessed it, run.
- Diminishing Returns – I read once that, on average, runners tend to improve for their first 7 years of running and then they plateau. At the time, I was a new runner and this gave me hope. Now, I’m not so sure! Anyway, the point is that you are likely to see larger increases in performance (if you’re training the right way) when you first start running. Don’t be frustrated when these drop off. Running can still be rewarding even when you’re trying to improve your time by a few seconds rather than several minutes.
- Reversibility – sadly, any adaptation that takes place as a result of training will be reversed when you stop training, meaning that you will lose fitness. So, keep running!