It was 07:52 am, Sunday, 20th October 2015 – I just crossed the finish line after running 02 hours and 52 minutes. For the first time ever, I run the length of a half marathon, but even better, I completed it without stopping, resting or walking. Man, I could have hugged the whole world in that moment – a happy, proud and glorious moment in my life!

But I wasn’t always in shape like that (and I still have a loooong way to go to until my time gets competitive, but hey, I completed it and proud of it!). In fact, I started running just little over a year ago, back in October 2014. I started mainly because I was not only out of shape, but because my endurance sucked like hell and I realized that I needed to change something immediately.

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So, how did I make it from barely finishing 500m to 21km, at no cost, within a year?

1. Mindset

I knew I was out of shape and I knew that I had to change something ASAP. The next gym was a bit far, so I looked for a way that didn’t let me procrastinate in any way. And so, I decided to run. Honestly, I was never a big fan of jogging, but another point disturbed me as well and eventually kicked my butt – back in January 2011, I completed 10K at the Standard Chartered Marathon in Dubai, back then, a huge milestone for me. I trained pretty hard for three months, went regularly to the gym and swimming, but I gave it all up after the race. How stupid, but biiig lesson learned!

2. Small steps first

At first, my goals were quite low. I just wanted to increase the distance every week for a bit.

3. Persistence

The probably most important point. From the very beginning, I set a certain time per week aside and prioritized that fully. No meetings, no friends, no Sri, no this and that. It would be just to easy to fall back and start procrastinating. If you have a spouse, family, etc., let them know your goals and simply talk open about why you’re doing it. I started by running every two days, usually in the morning around 09:30. After I got a bit of routine and increased my endurance, I was running about 1,5 km each, followed by stretching and push-ups (50x), which took me about 30-35 minutes in total. By now, I’m training 3x per week, every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. Mondays and Wednesdays are 5K days and on Saturdays 10-15K. I run 5K a bit under 30 minutes, followed by the same routine as mentioned before, stretching and push-ups (100x). The total workout time on Mondays and Wednesdays is about 45 minutes (running, stretching, push-ups and resting), speaking a time you can easily find twice during the week.

4. Sign up for races

That helped kicking my butt a lot. By signing up and paying a fee, I had no choice but to run. Who wants to loose money? Me definitely not! Furthermore, it served as a motivator, because I kept on training harder even. My first race was a 5K race around the scenic Huay Tung Tao Lake in Chiang Mai in January 2015. I admit, I had to do a small 2 min break (but I kept on walking) after about 3K, but I was more than happy when I run through the finish line.

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5. Diet

Yes, dieting is important. No fried stuff, no sweets, no junk food, no booze, no bread, no white rice. Quite some difficult stuff when you live in Asia, I know. Here’s the thing: drinking no booze wasn’t hard anyway, as I drink only occasionally.

– Change from white rice to brown, it keeps you full and has less carbs.

– No bread means no bread. I changed from white bread to brown bread, kept on snacking here and there, but it was a mistake. I didn’t realize it for some time, but my weight reduced in small steps only and I was wondered why. So I quit bread  entirely for a few weeks. I only recently started eating it again, but only 1 piece of wheat toast a day, usually in the morning.

– No fried stuff. This is where it gets a bit difficult here in SE Asia. I know, all the food vendors in Thailand, Indonesia etc. I know, I know. Nasi Goreng, fried noodles, etc. But again, if there is a will, there is a way. I changed to eat boiled vegetables and began to visit vegetarian restaurants, whereat I have to say that Chiang Mai (where we currently reside) has an entire vegetarian sub-culture with many restaurants to choose from (and yes, the prices are affordable). Even at home, we only cook boiled veggies, with rice and meat.

– Organic food. Well, that’s not always possible and in some countries a bit expensive, but you will thank your body later for that.

– No junk food. A big NO NO to our friends at McD, Burger King, KFC and so on. Just leave it. If you know that you’re out until late (even if you’re ”not so sure”), don’t even consider it. Buy or prepare your meal before, keep it in the fridge and put it in the microwave once you’re at home.

– No sweets. A small Kitkat (seriously, I mean SMALL) doesn’t kill you, but not one every few hours. One in a few days is fine. Instead, I started eating one bowl a day with fresh low fat yogurt, along with chunks of an apple and a dash of honey. There are

– No Starbucks, Cola and so on. Drinks black coffee with low fat milk, no sugar. Better even, drink green tea.

– Check your weight on regular basis, I do it once per week. Write down your results and whether you in -or decreased. If you maintained or increased, try to see what may cause it. Don’t expect great results in the beginning though, every metabolism reacts differently.

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6. Implement a weekly cheat day after your first 4 weeks

I know, the last point is tough, but you will quickly notice how fast you and your body can adapt and once you’re loosing your kilos, it will continue and continue. I started implementing a cheat day, usually on a Sunday, speaking I treated myself with an ice cream or piece of apple pie (but no fatty fast food, I maintained eating sweet stuff on my cheat day). You will see, after just a few weeks, how positively your mind reacts when it comes to sweets, pizzas, burgers, etc.

7. Stop reading Men’s Health, blogs, etc.

Seriously, it doesn’t help. Any program from some internet marketer for 47 $ doesn’t help either. Go out to the park and run. If there’s no park, run around the city, a moat or sign-up for the gym. There isn’t much you can do wrong. If you have concerns however, consult a doctor before.

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8. No iPhone, iPad, Kindle, etc.

Just leave that bullshit at home. Oh, you wanna do a fucking selfie and post it on Facebook? What for? Do you need the ‘likes’ of your ‘friends’ ? Unless you had certain successes such as finishing a race, reducing significantly your weight (generally, you want to help and inspire others), leave those devices at home. If it helps and motivates, listen to music but don’t even think of checking emails, Facebook, etc. Investing a few bucks in a simple MP3 player helps (I use my old iPad Nano). Stay focused!

9. Allow resting time after your workout

Although your workout may just last 45 minutes, it’s important that your body and mind rests afterwards. Give yourself at least 30 more minutes before your jump on your next task. Again, make sure to have a tranquil surrounding, listen to music, mediate or simply lay down and close your eyes. You gonna have a lot more power and motivation later!

So, there you have it! These nine simple steps allowed me to run 21K and I’m certain that it will help you as well. As said, I’m not a doctor or nutritional-expert, please seek consultation if you’re really not sure. Otherwise switch of your laptop or phone now, change your clothes and run! Leave a comment below and tell us about your journey! Did you run 21K, maybe even 42K? Maybe just 5 but it was a huge personal achievement? You’re just starting out? We’re looking for inspiration!

Love & health,

Kian

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