Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Eat Sleep Run Repeat

My job is to find the right words to communicate ideas in a succinct and intelligent way, so when I struggle to remember a phrase or idiom, I get unbelievably irritated.

It's unfortunate, therefore, that when I'm tired, a little run down, sleep-deprived and stressed perhaps, my brain morphs into a porous mass of grey matter and I've been known to look for needles in hay fields and make mountains out of ant hills.

What is the spice of life? I found myself asking today. Change? Diversity?

I searched everywhere: behind acronyms and between figures of speech, under phrases and mottos, but it was only later in Sainsbury's when a can of Heinz baked beans caught my eye that the penny dropped: 57 varieties. Yes. There we go.

I had to smile at the irony though: I'm a creature of habit, set in my ways and all too often has passion fallen victim to routine without me even noticing.

It's important to remember - but all too easy to forget - that a comfort zone is just a restrictive fish bowl in the exciting fairground of the world. There are magicians and clowns to muse at, gymnasts and fire-throwers to admire and a giant Ferris wheel, bumper cars and candy floss to gobble.

If only someone could teach this old dog new tricks, then perhaps I'd be more willing to join the fun and change my leopardy spots once and for all.

And so, somewhat tediously in a roundabout style I usually strive to avoid, let me introduce my latest post on the risks of routine and why variety really is the spice of life.


We all have favourite training routes that we know like the sweaty backs of our hands: this tree marks the first mile, that crossing can be particularly busy during 5pm and 6pm and pacing is of the essence if we want to conserve energy for the final hill.

But just like a schoolboy who will never learn his seven-times-tables if he only ever practices his fours and fives, we will never reach our full potential if we always cover the same ground.

For years, I ran the same circular route around my hometown, but doing it every week eventually became akin to watching paint dry. Like clockwork, my body would navigate the streets as if locked into rails, without my brain having to trigger so much as a single synapse, and eventually I surmised that my swelling boredom must be a sign of my passion for running having died a dull death.

I wasn’t getting fitter and even though there was nothing wrong with plodding along week after week, the post-run rush I had once experienced had gone AWOL. Something had to change; quite literally.


These days I ensure that no two runs are completely the same. As well as differing route and direction, I play with speed and intensity, and constantly vary shoes, gear and music.

Primarily this is advantageous to sanity of course, but I’ve witnessed the physical advantages of varying my workouts too. I used to think that to be able to run long distances, I’d have to train long distances. Of course there’s truth in that – no one should run a marathon without clocking up a certain distance - but the toughest long-distance runners will have strong muscles from speed and hill work, and pain-free joints thanks to avoiding excessive weekly mileage.

I only do one long run per week these days, keeping my other training sessions for sprints, leg and core work, tempo runs and cross-training. I’ve become faster, enhanced my endurance and suffer less post-run niggles than ever before. My joints feel durable, muscles dependable and perhaps most importantly, I unfailingly look forward to my long weekend run.

Variety should characterize aspects of your life beyond running. The greater the spectrum of colour on your plate, the broader the range of nutrients and minerals you are likely feed your body, keeping deficiencies at bay.

In social circles, travelling to different places will broaden your mind, enhancing your network of friends and acquaintances – a valuable resource as you battle the hurdles of everyday life. Read lots, listen to music, tales, lectures and lessons, visit galleries, exhibitions and shows, shed the blinkers and examine the world in all its radiant glory.

And when you’ve done all that, put on your trainers and run somewhere new: up the hill, into the forest, along the river and over the bridge. Who knows what’s waiting for you over there. It might just change your life but if you never dare to explore, you’ll never know.  

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