Hi, I’m Iron Simba and I like to blog on ironsimba.co.uk about how to gain muscle mass, lift heavier and so on. But I still like to add running to my training and this is how I got started at running.
I am an avid cyclist and started running because I wanted to be better at cycling and not be left behind when cycling with my friends. I remember there was a road climbing the foot of a mountain near my house and my friends cycled up that very steep slope while I had to get off and push my bike. What humiliation. There was another stretch of road parallel to the mountain and this one was flat, so I started running on that road.
Running for cycling
After starting running, I became more daring with my bike and went further and further. Until then, I was a teenager and used to do what I call Sunday cycling – taking out the bike on Sunday afternoons for a leisurely ride in the neighbourhood.
I ran 5 laps of that stretch of road for around 45 minutes and I always timed myself, right from the beginning, in order to monitor my progress. I would do the first lap very slowly as a warm-up, pick up speed and nearly sprint on the last lap. Eventually, all this hard running paid off, I managed to cycle up that steep slope in one go without getting off and running.
A few years later, I started going to the gym and ran on the treadmill after my session. I was new at running on the treadmill and managed to keep it up for over 30 minutes. Nowadays the boredom factor kicks in after 10 minutes and that’s how long I can keep running on the same spot. But between now and then, there is a lot more to talk about.
There is a whole discussion about whether to run before or after a weight-lifting session. I believe that it is a matter of priority. If running is more important to you and you prefer to gain the benefits of running, i.e. better cardio level, then do that first. But if your goal is to pack on muscles on your skinny frame, then save your energy for heavy lifting first.
At that time, I was seriously into weight-lifting, like all newbies, so running was not my priority.
Shift in priority
Time went by and I was still religiously going to the gym but slacked off on running. Then I changed my training routine slightly and decided to pay more attention to warming-up, something which I neglected because I was young! So I spent about 10 to 15 minutes on the treadmill before my weight-lifting sessions this time. I didn’t push myself too hard, just in the last minute or so at a sprint as this was just to warm up. I did this for a few months and felt pretty good about it because I found it easy.
Then one day I had to run after the bus. Remember, I was and still am an enthusiastic cyclist, so I cycle to many places and try to avoid taking public transport. But this time, there was no avoiding it and imagine my surprise when I found myself huffing and puffing after the bus. All this easy running on the treadmill did not pay off! Somehow, I decided that running on the treadmill was not the real thing because you simply bounce up and down on a springy rubber carpet with no wind in the face. So I went out in the field and ran on the grass. I had to give up after 2 minutes like a beginner. It was too hard.
That really opened my eye. Despite my regular cycling, intense weight-lifting and the short run on the treadmill, I was really unfit running out in the open, especially on a shock-absorbing surface like grass. I had never run on grass before. I decided I wanted to get fit enough so that I could run easily after the bus and as I am not one to take the easy road, I decided to train by running on grass.
I only picked this surface when, on my second stint of running outside, I ran on an asphalt path and the next day had sore ankles. I was no longer young and had to look after my joints now! I was not this teenager running on the road in order to be better at cycling anymore.
But I used the same principles I did when I was running at that time: first lap slow to warm up and then more or less sprint on the last bit.
I’ll be honest here: I don’t like running. So why do I run? Because I find running a very intense and demanding physical activity. You must have heard of the “no pain, no gain” maxim in the gym, especially for demanding exercises like the squat. It’s the same for running I find – I see my fitness level improving rapidly. To get the same buzz at cycling as I would during a 20-minute run, I would need to spend 2 hours in the saddle. That’s not a very time-efficient activity.
When I started ‘training’ at running in that field, I mixed walking and running as you’re supposed to and did just one lap. One lap is around 8 minutes of running for me. In the end, I was able to run 5 laps for around 45 minutes non-stop. Between that and my first 2 minute-run, a lot of things happened. I even found myself running before breakfast in a soggy field in the morning in winter.
But giving you the details of how I fine-tuned my running workouts and progress will be for another time. But it did pay off. I managed to run after the bus, get in, sit down and not be out of breath. Once I was sitting in the bus and saw a middle-aged man running after it. When he got it, he was wheezing so loudly and so long that I thought he was having an asthma attack. Guys, you don’t want to be that guy.