6 Secrets to Becoming a Runner
Have you ever tried to take up running but just could not stick with it? Read on below to see how to make running part of your normal routine and love it!
The Reluctant Runner:
Running is not in my blood. I was the kid in high school who avoided any team sport. I walked the mile run every year in gym class and would start wheezing with any type of cardiovascular activity. If you ever watched the cartoon Daria and saw her in gym class, she was my role model.
So what happened?
It started out with karate. I had always wanted to learn karate. As a child, I had a bit of a temper. Fearing for my younger sister’s life, my parents would not let me enroll in a martial arts class. By high school, my temper had waned and in 11th grade I enrolled in Ishin Ryu Karate.
It turns out I was really good at karate and I loved it. The workouts were not too hard, but I would still wheeze and get dizzy. Sparring was super fun but again, very cardiovascular and I often struggled. Slowly my endurance improved.
In college, I joined the karate club. The workouts were much more intense and the sparring was as well. There was no running involved but overall my strength and cardio were improving.
Running was still unattainable in my mind. Even though I was in the best shape of my life all I could remember were the stitches, burning lungs and dizziness that running induced during high school.
The First Mile:
I was a member of my college equestrian team. For some horrible reason, our crazy team captain decided to institute mandatory mile runs each week. She thought it would encourage team “bonding.” I was horrified. I showed up to the first team work-out miserable and sure I was going to come in last. To my surprise the mile run was easy. I was actually one of the faster girls on the team! It turned out running could be mildly enjoyable, especially the feeling of accomplishment you get when you finish.
Falling for Running:
I ran periodically throughout college but did not become truly addicted until veterinary school. I went to vet school on a small island in the Caribbean. It was an intense experience. I often spent 13+ hours a day in classes or studying. Early on I adopted Zante, an island mutt. As a pup, he was full of energy and I needed an activity that was fast and would tire him out so I could study. Running was the perfect option.
I would take him for two to three mile runs when it cooled down at night, then drink a pot of coffee and study until I passed out. As time progressed the runs became longer. My neighbor asked to join us and I got my first running partner. We would push each other to go faster and farther. I started running Zante a few miles, then rotating through my roommate’s dog, then my neighbor’s dog Jessie. The locals on the island would watch me run loops through the neighborhood, a different dog every few loops. I am sure they thought I was nuts.
I also notice my studying became better and more focused, and my stress level dropped significantly. Hiking the volcano on the island became easier and my energy level was through the roof. I was addicted.
After Vet school my running addiction has spiraled out of control in a good way. I have completed two half marathons, various 5K and 10Ks, trail runs, and I am training for my first full marathon!
6 Secretes to Becoming a Runner (in my opinion!):
1. Start Slow
Running is hard, both mentally and physically. There is an impact on your muscles and joints every time you run. You need to condition your joints, ligaments, and muscles to take that impact. It might be tempting to just run three miles your first time out, especially if you are excited and ready to go. This will likely lead to pain, stitches, cramps, and/or an injury that will put you off running!
I recommend you start with a walk/run program. Run 60 seconds then walk three minutes, or whatever works for your fitness level. Get your body used to the impact slowly before you pick up the pace and distance! There are a lot of good couch to 5K programs available to look into! You want running to be enjoyable so you keep doing it! Don’t burn yourself out trying to run too far, too fast, or too often at first.
2. Invest in Shoes
This may seem silly, but buy a high-quality pair of running sneakers. In vet school, I was a poor student and the island had limited shopping opportunities. I found the cheapest pair of Nike running shoes I could. I did OK with them as I was young and mostly running on dirt, but it did not last. Once I was back in the states running on pavement and running more frequently, shin splints and subtle aches and pains set in. As soon as I got a good pair of shoes and changed them every four to six months, my feet and shins improved.
Go to your local running store and have them measure your feet, look at your gait, and take their advice on which shoes to get. It is a bit of an investment but it is well worth it! You only have one pair of feet; you need to protect them! Also, you will be more likely to stick with running longer if you make a financial investment!
3. Get a Buddy or Join a Group
My running buddy on the island helped a ton. We would pushed each other and held each other accountable. If one of us did not feel like running we would push ourselves to do it anyway because we knew our partner would be disappointed.
Runners are like drug dealers, we want you to become addicted to! We will run with you and cheer you on. Running in a group can be invigorating and motivating. Check out your local running store, meet up groups, or Facebook groups to find a running club. You can probably also ask your crazy co-worker or friend who is training for their 12th marathon (you know the one). They will be happy to point you in the right direction.
My current running buddy is Quinn, my youngest Border Collie! A dog can be a great buddy. Once they are well trained they are a joy to run with. Avoid longer runs and running in the heat with them. Quinn’s disappointed face when he doesn’t get a run was enough to keep me running through the entire winter! This is impressive given how much I hate the cold. If it is cool out and I am running five miles or less, Quinn generally gets to come.
4. Focus on the GOOD
Try to focus on the good feelings you get during and just after running. Running is very mental. Every run has highs and lows. If you think about the pain, the struggle, and the stitches before you run you will be less likely to go. I always try to remind myself of that amazing rush you get after you finish a tough run. It is a combination of accomplishment and dopamine that happens every time. Try to remember the good parts of each run and accept that there will be some pain and struggle, but it is well worth it!
5. Do Not Put Too Much Pressure on Yourself
I can’t tell you how many times this winter I did not want to run. I made a pact with myself that I would run three miles three times a week through the ENTIRE winter. Each time it was freezing out I would just tell myself, “get started. You can always stop if it is too hard.”
Quinn and I would head out, sometimes with spikes on the bottom of my shoes because it was that snowy. We stopped early ZERO times. Once you get moving and you warm up, your body is used to the routine of the run and finishing the three miles seems easy.
Do not put too much pressure on yourself to complete every workout. If you miss a day or are just not feeling it do not beat yourself up. Just get out there the next time and you will probably go farther than you think! Running one mile is better than running zero miles!
6. Sign Up for a Race
Just do it! Whether it is a 5K Color Run or a half marathon, pick a race and sign up! I never thought I could run more than five to six miles. I signed up for my first half marathon on a whim. The thought of completing 13.1 miles kept me motivated and scared enough to train hard!
Running in a race is super fun! Everyone is cheering, sometimes people are throwing colorful packets of dust at you, sometimes people are dressed as Santa holding a funny sign with a running pun on it. Either way you have a great time, make friends, and generally get a medal, prize, or yummy food.
Having a race as a goal is a great way to stay focused and feel accomplished!
Now get out there and adventure/run on!
Let me know about your running story in the comments below!