September 28, 2015

The Long Road Back - Part 3: Where Are You Going?

This marks the third installment of a 4-part series on getting back into running after a long layoff. This series began with Part 1: Check your ego at the door, which discussed mentally preparing to start running again, and continued with Part 2: Baby Steps, which actually got you out the door and putting one foot in front of the other. This third article discusses which direction you will take your running.

Part 3: Where are you going?

“Cat: Where are you going?
Alice: Which way should I go?
Cat: That depends on where you are going.
Alice: I don’t know.
Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

― Lewis CarrollAlice in Wonderland (1865)

Now that you have resumed the activity of running, it is time to think about what direction you want to go with your running. While there is some overlap, how you structure your runs will be determined by why you run. Below are 5 reasons for lacing up your shoes...

  1. I run to lose weight and get in shape…Fitness is probably the number one reason people take up running initially. If this is your priority, it is important to remember that you cannot outrun a bad diet, especially as you get older. Also, it is particularly important to keep in mind that while running is a good way to drop some weight, it doesn’t build muscle, and if developing a muscular physique is your goal, you will have to add resistance training to the mix. A good article about combining running and weightlifting can be found over at Runner's World and a website dedicated to running and weightlifting is Strength Runner.

  1. I run to keep my sanity…Beyond the physical aspects of running, the mental and emotional aspects of running cannot be overstated. An excellent article exploring these topics can be found at RUNNING – Running and Your Mental Health: A Perfect Combination.

  1. I run so that I can race…Racing is the reason that a lot of our Type A folks hit the road. They need a goal and racing provides that goal. Of course, the Holy Grail for runners is to qualify for the Boston Marathon. From the 5K through ultra-marathons, there are numerous resources and training plans to prepare you for any distance and any goal. A good place to start is over at Cool Running. Also, you may wish to retain the services of a personal coach, either one you can meet with in person, or one that you work with online. Your humble author is a running coach.

  1. I run to be social…Fun runs, group runs, and races provide an opportunity to share your love for running with others. Also, many of these activities have meals and/or refreshments afterward. Further, most areas have running clubs, and a quick search of the Internet can help you find one close to you, but a good resource is Road Runner’s Club of America. Another avenue is to find a running partner who lives near you. Local races are a good place to start, or you can introduce one of your friends to running!

  1. I run to run…The love of running is the most basic of reasons to run. Many people derive joy from the mere act of running, with no goal or endpoint in mind. While this approach to running gives you all the physical, mental, and emotional benefits, it is done so without those being the primary focus. An entire book is devoted to this topic. You can pick up Zen and the Art of Running by Larry Shapiro over at

No matter what your reason for running, the most important thing is to enjoy it and not get injured so you can keep running. The final installment of this series will be Part 4 – The Runner’s Toolbox. In it, we will explore ways to make running fun and to keep you going. 

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