For reasons that are not clear to me, I learned to hate running as a child. I ran a mile when I had to do so for gym class in school, but that ended in 10th grade. Yet, I enjoyed many sports that involved running, including baseball, basketball, football and soccer. So, my hatred of running was purely focused on running for the sake of running.
I have stayed physically active and fit my entire life, including biking and swimming, but for decades, I avoided running like the plague. In my 40s, I played Ultimate Frisbee, which involved a tremendous amount of running with very few breaks. Although exhausting, I was able to play competitively with much younger players often less than half my age. But, I still hated running for running’s sake.
Given that I am a strong bicyclist and swimmer, about 10 years ago, friends suggested that I compete in triathlons. I consistently rejected these suggestions since I hated running. But, as my advancing age made competing with teens & twenty-somethings in Ultimate Frisbee more challenging, it dawned on me that I could run if I put my mind to it. Then I discovered the Sprint Triathlon, where the run portion is 5 kilometers (3.1 miles). I decided it was time to get over my fear of running so I could compete in a triathlon.
Before my first run, I got in my car to measure a 5 kilometer route from my house. Keeping in mind that I had never run more than 1 mile in my life, and had not run a mile since 10th grade gym class, my fears lingered. But, off I went. Sure enough, before I got to the end of the block, despite being in very good physical shape, I was huffing and puffing and not sure I could run the whole distance. I told myself that if I got too tired, I could always stop or walk, but fortunately another part of my brain told me not to give in so easily, and slowly, but surely, I was able to run the whole distance. After a few months of training, I successfully completed a Sprint Triathlon on Father’s Day, 2007, just shy of 48 years old. I proceeded to compete in a Sprint Triathlon in 2008 and 2009, and by that time friends suggested that I move up a level to compete in an Olympic Triathlon.
I knew I could easily bike 30 miles and swim 3/4 of a mile, but my fear of running stayed with me and I did not believe I was physically capable of doubling my running distance to 10k (6.2 miles). Then, I found a book called, The Runner’s Body, which taught me the 10% rule.
The 10% rule is a way to increase your speed or distance without injuring yourself or taking on an impossible task. It is quite simple. In my case, since I was running 5k (3.1 miles), I simply increased it 10% at a time. So, I increased from 3.1 miles to 3.4 miles, building to 3.7, then 4; 4.4; 4.8; 5.3; 5.8 and in 8 steps I was running 6.2 miles, the Olympic Triathlon distance. I competed in Olympic Triathlons in 2010 and 2011, and since then have moved on to bike racing, now that I have effectively conquered my fear of running.
The 10% rule allowed me to overcome my fear of running and build my endurance in a safe and relatively easy manner. Next week, I will discuss how the 10% rule can apply beyond physical activities when engaging in systems change.
For more information on how Jeff Spitzer-Resnick can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems contact him through his web site: Systems Change Consulting.