What do you think of when I say the word “running” or “jogging”? Does it elicit thoughts of freedom and strength? Your mind clearing as you hit the open road and push yourself to go faster and longer? Or do you think of miserably trying to push yourself a few more steps while every part of your body screams at you to stop? People often say that you either love running or you hate it. We tend to talk about it like there is no in between. I would like to suggest that there can be more of a gray area. If you don’t absolutely love it you do not, in fact, have to hate it. You might even grow to enjoy it!
If you are on a mission to get healthy and fit it can be overwhelming trying to decide where to start. There are so many options, but running can be one of the cheapest and most convenient places to begin. Some people may cringe as they read that, but stick with me! It is a great way to burn calories and improve cardiovascular fitness as it boosts confidence and eliminates stress along the way.
I have been a runner for most of my life even though I also enjoy lots of other forms of exercise. I’m rather tall and lanky, uncoordinated, and lack a certain level of agility and grace that often makes athletes successful. Combine that with the fact that I’m very introverted and let’s just say that team sports were never really for me. At some point I realized that running was a sport that I was completely in control of myself. It was just me with my thoughts and my body. I could push myself and constantly set new goals to strive for. That rush of accomplishment and feeling of pride after a good run or a race is very hard to beat. I have always thought of running as a metaphor for life in general. Sometimes you have really great runs, sometimes they are just ok, and sometimes they are awful and you just want to hang up your shoes for good. Either way, you know you have to just keep showing up to try again. The positives far outweigh the negatives.
I decided to ask some of my running friends for insight into why they love running, just to make sure that I wasn’t too biased. Here are some of their answers. “Running is my sanity. It keeps me healthy inside and out, mentally and physically.” “It clears my mind and gets me centered. Gives me something to be proud of.” “It helps me focus on goals and provides a sense of control and accomplishment.” “Running is my escape, makes me feel strong, makes my worries disappear!” “It represents freedom, and discipline, and provides an outlet for all of the stress and negativity in life.”
Doesn’t that make you want to lace up and hit the road right now?
You may be wondering how to get started If you are brand new to running, out of practice, or have always disliked it. How can you work running into your life safely to see if you can possibly enjoy it? Here are a few steps that anyone can follow, provided of course that you don’t have any physical limitations and you have checked with your doctor!
- Find a friend who is willing to give it a shot with you: Running with friends can be a fabulous experience. It is a great way to bond and spend quality time together, but it is also helpful to have someone holding you accountable. If you have both individual and collective goals you will be so much more motivated to stick to your plan. We are way more likely to show up for someone else than we are to show up for ourselves.
- Look online and register for a nice 5k race that is 3 – 4 months away: It is critical that you set a goal for yourself. You aren’t trying to set any world records, but having that date on the calendar to look at will go a long way towards keeping you on track.
- Make sure that you have a good pair of shoes: If you are just starting out and jogging short distances you do NOT need much equipment, but a pair of good shoes that are designed for running is critical. The support and stability of quality running shoes will go a long way towards keeping you injury free.
- Check out one of the many free running apps, like Couch to 5K: There are lots of websites and apps that can offer simple training plans for getting to a 5K from scratch. The most important component of all of them is to start easy and build up over time. Start with 2 – 3 days a week and begin by alternating walking with jogging for 20 minutes or so. Then you slowly start to increase the jogging time and scaling back on the walking, gradually increasing the time as you go. Don’t worry about your speed or your distance at first. Just do what feels comfortable and strive for constant improvement.
- Make it a habit: Stop procrastinating and just lace up your shoes! It takes time to build a strong foundation and really decide if you enjoy it, so be patient with yourself. The more consistent you are, the more you will benefit and the more likely you are to realize that you’re hooked!
Running takes discipline and commitment. It can be empowering and frustrating all at once. The key is to remember that the only person you are competing against is YOU. Put your blinders on and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Hadley Sorensen is a health and fitness coach who lives in Virginia with her husband and 3 boys. She is an avid reader, runner and fitness instructor who has a passion for helping others learn to enjoy exercise. Hadley uses one-on-one coaching as well as virtual accountability groups to provide support and motivation to her clients. Her guiding philosophy is that it’s never too late to take charge of your health and improve your level of fitness. Find her on Facebook @HadleySorensenFitness