Beating the urge to take shortcuts

MICHAEL FOX AND VICTORIA ROBINSON
Last updated 05:00 24/02/2012

MICHAEL

Some runners crack me up.

I've got a draw filled with old gym and training clothes. It consists of well-worn tee-shirts that no longer pass muster for casual wear, stubbies and the odd singlet.

Some are shirts that I would still wear but which have been commandeered by my partner for her own exercise - because apparently she doesn't have enough clothes of her own.

Coupled with ankle socks and runners that are falling apart, I'm not what one would consider a paragon of fashion when I'm lugging myself along the roads.

For others, however, exercise seems to be a chance to make a fashion statement.

I drove past a bloke wearing a bright-yellow long-sleeve compression top and long black tights the other day. All he needed was fluorescent sweatbands and he would've passed for a box of felts.

The North Shore is littered with women in outfits that look like they've never been worn before, complemented by perfectly straightened and styled hair, make-up, Gucci watches and dangly earrings.

Come on, love, you're exercising.

Gyms are the worst - are you there to push tin or pull stares?

Admittedly most people are there to train but gyms are also full of people in the latest training gear who spend more time staring at their reflections and trying to draw attention to themselves than putting their $35 a week to good use.

Other runners like to get their shirts off at the first opportunity.

I'm mixed on this - if you're in the 'burbs or on quieter roads then I reckon it's okay and it's a good way to stop yourself overheating.

If you're running through the CBD shirtless then you look like a plonker  - unless you have man boobs and a paunch. Then you're a hard case.

As for training this past week, it's been a bit of a mixed bag as life has been getting in the way. I've logged about 16km and progress is slow.

I'm finding 5km fairly straight-forward but I need to clock up some more race-length runs.

Admittedly, at least once I've set out for 8.5km only to retire hurt after five.

My training route takes me past my street and around 1500 metres down the road to the corner of Esmonde and Lake roads before I double back to finish up and it is awfully tempting to turn into my street on my way past.

From next week I'll have to start getting more serious and I'm aiming for three 8.5km runs and maybe a couple of fives.

» Follow Michael Fox on Twitter

VICTORIA

As I suspected when I began this running slog, my childhood exercise-avoidance tactics began gearing up for the challenge when they found out there would be a bit of pavement-pounding going on.

What scared me was when I became aware that I subconsciously use them to trick myself, without even realising it.

I figured out the other day that, for me, setting an exercise goal like "40 minutes running" is not the most effective method. Simply because I know that the slower I go, and the more I walk, the more time dwindles down, until the point that I can head home and declare "run over!", without ever having worked up a proper sweat.

It's way better to set a distance because then the faster I go, the sooner the whole ordeal is over.

Luckily, my iPod has turned out to be the hardest of taskmasters - far more savvy about exercise aversion than any of those PE teachers who were so easy to fool back in the day.

Despite being just a cheap little number, it has a handy "fitness" function so I can find out how far and quick I have gone. I was pretty stoked to discover it a week or two back, and it's been awesome to have all of my runs tracked since.

But the first time I was using it I was happily waiting at some traffic lights listening to my show-tunes playlist (you'd be hardpressed to find a geekier runner than me) when the iPod barked: "workout stopped" and cut the music clean away. I was shocked that it had actually figured out my strategy, and there was no longer any point taking it easy and stopping to enjoy the view.

A friend told me the other day that you really only need to be able to run a third of the race beforehand because the adrenalin on race day will carry you through. My inner slacker likes this piece of information and wants me to use it to my advantage (ie cut down on some training, grab some chocolate and take it easy on the couch).

I'm guessing it's probably not the best thing to rely on though. Having got through the slow-burning muscle torture things do seem a little bit easier each run. I went for almost 20 minutes, almost non-stop the other day (you know, not counting traffic lights and a couple of metres where I walked for a tiny bit, just to catch my breath...).

Now I just have to cut out the unnecessary breaks, and somehow try to triumph over my worst natural instincts...

» Follow Victoria Robinson on Twitter

* How's your Round The Bays journey going? Are you struggling in your training? Leave your comments and fitness tips below.

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