Professor Jens Bangsbo is one of the world’s most renowned running experts. Among other career highlights, the former Danish national soccer player served as assistant coach to Italian team Juventus Turin for five years, where he worked under Carlo Ancelotti and Marcello Lippi, training stars like Zinedine Zidane and Gianluigi Buffon. Today Bangsbo is a much-consulted sports scientist and author. He gave GripWorld ten pointers for making running even more fun.
Running is not a punishment
Before you start running, you should take a moment to reflect on your attitude and motivation – why are you interested in this activity? The most important thing is that you don’t consider exercise in general and running in particular as a form of punishment. Instead, exercise can be a physical and mental reward, a hobby that will be very good for you in the long term. Framing things positively always boosts your motivation.
There is no single perfect time to run
I personally like to run after work because it helps me feel good and clear my head after a stressful day. But everyone has to find their own rhythm and best time for running. Whenever you just feel like running – that’s the right time. If you notice that your body isn’t physically ready for exercise first thing in the morning, then you should probably run in the evenings instead. There’s no point in dragging yourself out of bed and into your running shoes and forcing yourself to do a few laps. Your motivation will evaporate before you even make it out the door.
Variety can be motivating
Every now and then it’s good to vary your normal route, take a detour to the right or left, or even try a completely new path. That will make your run much more interesting, because you don’t know what’s coming around the next corner. On the other hand, many runners like sticking to the same route because they always know exactly where they are at each point, and can check to see how much time they needed and if they’ve gotten any faster. This form of competing against yourself is also very motivating for many people.
10, 20, 30
I recommend the 10-20-30 concept – which actually should be called 30-20-10. Warm up for five minutes, then jog gently for 30 seconds, run at your normal pace for 20 seconds, and sprint for 10 seconds. Then you can rest for two minutes before starting your next round. Ten seconds of all-out effort is doable – knowing it will be over soon motivates you to really push yourself. You do up to five of these blocks of running and resting, so you’ve run for about 20 minutes. Running for 20 minutes twice a week is plenty at the beginning.
Be honest with yourself
There are any number of reasons and excuses for not exercising. But you should be honest – ask yourself if you really don’t have time to exercise for 20 minutes twice a week. At the beginning of the week, it’s best to set aside two timeslots for exercise. If you can, also choose two fixed days, then you don’t have to spend time each week thinking about when to go running.
Rewards are overrated
Some people think that every time they’ve exercised they deserve a reward, like a cold beer or something sweet. Of course you’re allowed to have a treat, but it’s not an effective long-term strategy – if you reward yourself every time you exercise, then at some point it’s not special any more. And then it’s no longer a source of motivation. If you’re exercising to lose weight, it’s also counterproductive. You should consider the good feeling that you usually have after running as your true reward.
Run with friends
I personally like to go running with someone else from time to time. This can also help with your motivation, because you’re less likely to get lazy and find an excuse not to go at the last minute. Plus it’s more fun to exercise with a friend – you can talk, you have the fun of doing something together. You’ll be finished with your run before you know it.
Choose the right music
Music can help you discover your own rhythm while running and get you moving – as long as it’s the right music. It shouldn’t be too fast or frantic, but it can’t be too dreamlike, either. It has to match the cadence of your running. I often choose to leave my headphones at home, however. When I run in the woods, I like to listen to the sounds of nature – the birds or the wind in the trees. I find that relaxing.
Make running part of your routine
Integrate running into your daily routine. It’s usually easy to combine with other elements of your day. One option is running to work in the morning or running home in the evening. That won’t cost you any extra time, and when you get home you can just flop down on the couch. If you decide to try it, I recommend getting a running backpack, one that fits snugly so it doesn’t swing back and forth and bother you while you’re running.
Good shoes double your fun
A good running shoe is important to keeping you motivated. Digging your old sneakers out of the closet or buying cheap shoes at a discount store will leave you with blisters or aching muscles because they don’t provide the right support. So you should buy one or two pairs of good running shoes. They don’t necessarily have to be expensive. What’s important is to invest some time in finding the right pair and get some expert guidance.