Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, running becomes a pretty negative thing. We go from running for play and chasing our friends to running from our problems or avoiding running altogether (physically). If you ask most people if they’d like to go for a run they will look at you sideways, grunt and “run” for the hills. In other words, they flat-out reject you.
Then there’s me. I personally love running, especially track and field. I even took Beginning Jogging as my fitness class in college, where I finally ran a mile and got my time down to about 7 1/2 minutes. I ran all during college, for exercise or to clear my head when I was having a particularly stressful, bad or perplexing day. However, I always stayed just shy of a mile because that felt like territory I simply could not cross for the “fun” of it. NO ONE runs a mile for FUN, I told myself.
Where I live, if you walk or run around the main road in the community one time, you’ll hit one mile, so I often walked that distance, jogging at some intervals. Last year, I decided that I wanted to run a 5k, not for any particular reason other than it seemed like fun and it was a goal I wanted to accomplish. I logged onto my dusty Nike Run app, plugged in the date: November 12th, and hit the asphalt. And it HURT.
That one time around the block left me painfully sore. I was also painfully slow, about 12-13 minutes, in fact. Imagine doing that three times in a row? I wasn’t sure I was gonna make it. But I stuck to the training program as best as I could, running 3-4 times a week, logging as many miles as possible, whether on a Saturday morning or evening after a long day at work. A couple months had gone by before I realized that my times were down and one lap around the neighborhood no longer sent me into tears.
The first time I ran 3 miles straight I was in horrible condition. I found myself with about 5 runner’s ailments the next day: Nerve compression, Achilles tendinitis, shin splints, muscle strain, and runners knee. After this humbling experience, I kept plugging away, until 2 miles became a manageable feet, and 3 was a tiring, yet fulfilling endeavor. Before I knew it, my stamina was higher and I was ready for my race.
You’re probably wondering HOW I was able to change my attitude about distance running. It wasn’t easy. It took a few crucial steps: dedication, a good training spot, a support team, and a little bit of positive mind tricks.
- When you make the decision to run, be intentional about it and committed. Committed means whether you’re “in the mood” or not. I completed most of my runs when I was tired, and done with running. At the onset, running is something you tell yourself you’re going to do.
- Having an accessible running location that works to YOUR advantage helps running become easier. It helps to have a place to run that’s close to your work or job, so you don’t have to trek to log in miles. Also, choose a place that makes distance running less monumental. The 1 lap around my neighborhood was great, because I knew one time around was a mile. For someone else, a track with 4 laps or 8 laps to reach a mile may be more manageable (smaller bites) than 1 large circle. Some people prefer a treadmill while others like the scenery of a trail or city.
- Get at least ONE person to encourage you, whether it’s a positive reminder text, a running buddy, an online community or a local running club. If you have someone to be accountable to, you’re MUCH LESS likely to skip a run and eat jalapeno chips on your sofa. Find someone you trust, near or far who believes in you running and is willing to share the journey.
- The most fun part is what I call the playful “brain tricks” that get you through the tough days. You know, when you tell yourself how much fun you’re having even though your calves are tightening up (more stretching!) In all seriousness, what I really mean is positive thinking, even when you’re not feeling positive at all. Tell yourself, “I’m running a mile today, it’s gonna be great.” Tell yourself, “that was amazing,” that first few times, even though it won’t feel that way. Infuse your mind with good thoughts instead of bad ones (“Running sucks!”) and your body will start to remember the good things and not the pain or perceived hardship of the activity.
YOU can run, even if you think otherwise. You should run because you CAN. When I realized that many people aren’t fortunate enough to run on their own two feet, I felt an urge to relish in this thing I take for granted. I have never regretted a run. I’ve been sore, hurt, pained. But I’ve never regretted it. Isn’t that what healthy living is like? In 2017, why don’t we do more of the things we never regret?