Editor’s Note: ‘Shut Up and Run, Midwest Miles’ is part of an exclusive Undo-Ordinary series based off UNDO co-founder Robin Arzon’s book, “Shut Up and Run.” Through this 8-part weekly series, 27- year-old midwesterner, runner, writer, father and husband, Dallas Peterman, takes us through his transformational journey inspired by Robin’s book, and reveals how his life was reshaped through running. Start at the beginning here.
“There will come a day when your MP3 player dies in the middle of a race (or a rainstorm) and this will teach you the mental dance required to go inside.” -Robin Arzon, Shut Up and Run
Although I have amassed an arsenal of training techniques over the course of my journey, I wasn’t always so equipped. Like many things in life, trial and error played an important part in the learning process. On any given day, early in my running timeline, you could find me trying a new style that I read in an article or doing my best to perform a stretch that I saw in a YouTube video. I’ve lived through funny outfits, running with weights and some of the weirdest tweaks to my running posture known to man. Although comical in hindsight, these were all tips that were made available and promised improvement if added to my routine.
We live in the age of information. A quick Google search of running tips will provide you with so many answers your head will spin. Some results will contradict what you just read on the last website and some will be so beneficial that you can’t believe you ever did it another way. More than anything, you will realize that there is no right answer for everyone, and that different techniques work for different people. What works for me, may not be best for you. The lessons I’ve learned are tailor-made for my specific body type and surrounding variables, and it is important that each one of us find our own rhythm and develop our own unique style that works for us. Having said that, here are a few things that work for me.
I never run with music. I’ve tried it before and it is too enjoyable. Something about running to upbeat music or inspirational messages seems like cheating to me and it lacks the grit that I find so beneficial from being alone with my thoughts. When you watch the Olympics, you will never see a runner toeing the starting line with earbuds dangling from their ear, and I like to think that if they can face their demons head on, so can I. The mind is a powerful tool and no other activity in the world helps me sharpen that tool like running. When I add in other devices outside of my own body, it takes away the focus and the mental edge that I need come race day.
Something else that I’ve come to implement into my routine is change. The more you can keep your body guessing about speed, distance, elevation or time, the more beneficial it will be for long term gains. Our bodies have an amazing capacity for adapting to the environment around us, and it does not take long for it to develop a rhythm and start finding shortcuts. The trick is to train the body to be comfortable at being uncomfortable, and there is no other way to do this than time and variation. The body doesn’t like change and it will fight it as much as it can until it gets used to it, so patience is key with this technique. However, I can assure you, the changes that will take place when you are constantly mixing it up, far surpass the results of a set schedule week after week.
Another thing that I like to do is train in mediocre shoes. Of course, shoes do not make us faster or slower, but after training in a pair of cheap running shoes, you will immediately be able to tell the difference when you slip on your state-of-the-art’s come race day. Poorly made shoes are heavier, provide less support and with the right care, strengthen our ankles and feet to evolve accordingly. Don’t spend much money on them and buy multiple pairs at a time. As casual of a purchase as training shoes may be, do not use this same attitude for choosing your racing shoe. Running shoes have come a long way in recent year and we now have the widest array of choices we’ve ever had when choosing what’s best for us. From minimalist shoes that have absolutely nothing more than necessary, to shoes with support specifically designed to help us in any area that we need assistance. Regardless of what shoe you decide to train in, make sure you choose your racing shoes carefully and try to consider the things that are beneficial for your specific body type and racing style.
Push your boundaries. That’s probably the most important part of running evolution, in my opinion. One of the first things I did when I decided to travel down this road, was find Olympic training programs and college level cross country workouts, and pin them on the refrigerator. Of course, I was nowhere near this level yet, but I refused to limit my mind to the shortcomings of my own infancy in the running world. I knew that one day, I could run those distances. I could do those workouts. It takes time, and yet again, patience, but it is entirely possible to train at that level with the right program. One evening I went online and found all of Steve Prefontaine’s personal records, printed them, cut them out, and put them in my wallet. Although I still am far from achieving his greatness, I still carry those numbers with me today as inspiration. He too was once a beginner, but it was his fire and his limitlessness that allowed him to become eternal. This is a lesson I think we all can benefit from. It is not the limits of our body that bind us to mediocrity; it is the limits that we place on our mind that keep us from achieving our dreams.
I am still learning. There are many things that I discover on a run when I least expect it; things that I never would have experienced had I not gone out and tested myself against the elements. Even with the innumerable options provided to us today, there remains no better professor than first-hand experience. Sometimes you just have to get out there and see for yourself. Hopefully my experiences can benefit you in some way and provide you with an easy transition into your new life as a runner, but I wouldn’t count on it.