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Adopt a Japanese running mindset

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Movement sparks progress. For high-performers, this forward momentum is powered by currents in science, technology, and subculture. To celebrate the launch of ASICS METARIDE™, Furthermore and ASICS have partnered to harness the power of these currents and show you how to channel them into actual results.

If you’ve already Kondo-ed your closet, consider looking east to refresh your fitness mindset.

You may be familiar with the strong running traditions in Kenya and those of Tarahumara, the Mexican ultrarunning tribe made famous in Born to Run. But the Japanese have been getting more recognition than ever since Yuki Kawauchi won the Boston Marathon in 2018. His gold garnered so much press because unlike the typical World Marathon Majors winner, he is not one of the elite. Now, Americans are taking notice of a people who have been running longer, faster, and with more joy than the rest of the world has.

In his book The Way of the Runner: A Journey into the Fabled World of Japanese Running, author Adharanand Finn cites recent race results that prove that the Japanese have speed. In 2013, for example, 12 American men ran sub-2:15 marathons. That’s relatively few compared to the 52 Japanese men who did so, especially considering the country’s much smaller population.

While people in the US rarely tune into marathons other than Boston or NYC, running is first and foremost an elite spectator sport in Japan. “The top long-distance runners are big stars, household names, and the sport is taken extremely seriously at an elite level,” Finn explains, adding that there are about 60 professional men’s and women’s teams.

History may in part explain their dedication to the sport. The Eastern running boom happened well before the Western one, post-World War II. “Japan was looking to rebuild, and long-distance running was just the sort of character-building activity that was encouraged and supported,” Finn says. “It required discipline, mental strength, perseverance—all qualities that were generally lauded and promoted in that period.”

In the US, that boom didn’t happen until the 1970s. That’s also when products from brands like ASICS, which was founded in Japan, were first offered stateside.

Starting with proper gear like the ASICS METARIDE™ to improve your running performance, a healthy mindset is also crucial.

Here are a few aspects of the Japanese culture you can apply to make every step faster and more enjoyable.

Make it a group effort.

In Japan, there’s a stronger emphasis on collective success and an individual’s responsibility to their team than there is on personal glory. “This changes quite a lot both in training and the attitude and approach to the sport,” Finn says.

Joining a club can breed the same sense of community. The more you surround yourself with people who love to run, the more inclined you are to participate, adds Alex Figueroa, a Precision Run coach at Equinox Sports Club Boston. Plus, studies suggest that training in a group releases more endorphins and nearly doubles your pain threshold compared to going solo.

Embrace the void.

Our lives are a buzz of app notifications, meetings, and family obligations. Sometimes, it’s helpful to just tune out, which is what the famous Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami often does while running. In his book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, he puts it like this: “I run in a void. Or maybe I should put it the other way. I run in order to acquire a void.” The thoughts that pop in and out of his head on foot tend to be valuable ones, he says. If you always run listening to music or podcasts, consider taking one run to just revel in the void, allowing thoughts to come and go as they please.

Choose your battles.

In a 2017 interview, Kawauchi explained that he doesn’t run well in the heat. For a while, he thought about specifically focusing on training to beat it. But then he realized that it made more sense to pick races that suited his preferences since he was unlikely to win Olympic gold or take the world championship time. You can do the same. If hot races make you miserable, for example, sign up instead for one in a climate that you prefer.

Quit while you’re ahead.

In his book, Murakami puts it like this: Whether he runs long and slow or short and fast, he always quits before the workout becomes a drag. That way, he ends on a good note rather than a bad one.