Written by Heather Albright
“I really want to be a runner...
I want to LOVE running the way others seem to.
What is this so-called ‘runner’s high’ that so many people speak of, and how do I experience that?”
I hear this quite often from friends, family, and acquaintances. When I start talking about running to people who do not run, I often bewildered looks or blank stares. Like, they just cannot fathom how I’m able to - or why in the hell I’d want to - run as much as I do.
Yet, sometimes, people will say to me, “I wish I could do that”. My response is always, “Of course you can!” But we both know, that in order to become a person who runs for fun/exercise/meditation/mindset/overall health and wellness (there are tons of reasons why people run) … you first have to get through the initial period where running sucks.
Before you are conditioned for it, running is hard and sometimes downright miserable. Here are a few tips that can help you through that initial phase of suck and into the holy grail of being a happy runner.
1. Join a group. Don’t just join and then stalk the Facebook Page. Get involved! Introduce yourself with the intention of making new friends who you might be able to run with once a week. A support network is always a key component when looking to make lifestyle changes. You may find a whole group of new friends, or you may find just one person that you will link up with to run occasionally. Both will be a WIN in helping you enjoy the process of becoming a runner. If the meet-ups don’t work well for your schedule, commit to hosting your own meet-up each week. Generally, these running groups are always looking for volunteers to step up and help expand the opportunities for the group to get together.
If you’re unsure where to look for a group, try searching Facebook, local running stores, or possibly even gyms. Many cities have local running clubs that are often registered at rrca.com. There are also national groups such as Moms Run This Town, Team Red, White, and Blue and Stroller Warriors. If there isn’t anything in your area, start a chapter!
2. Set small, achievable goals. When you’re just starting out, the thought of running three miles can feel impossible. Instead, set a goal to jog for two minutes followed by a two-minute walk break. Repeat for 20 minutes. When that feels easy, aim to jog for five minute increments. Once you can do that, aim for ten minutes, and then twenty minutes. Continue bumping up your goal jogging time until you can complete three miles.
Make sure to celebrate each step up along the way. When I was first starting out, this is exactly what I did. When I hit my goal of jogging an entire three miles without needing to walk, I celebrated by entering my very first 5k race. It gave me such a sense of pride and completion, as well as a major boost in confidence. From there on, I was hooked... except the races kept getting longer and the goal times got shorter!
3. Find your why. Anytime you’re about to do something hard, you’ve got to get clear on WHY you want it. If you can’t channel that why, that vision you have for yourself, your brain will definitely stop you. It will find the first reasonable (or sometimes unreasonable) excuse as to why you and running don’t pair well together. “Oh no, I just remembered that right after I finish this run, I need to go to the grocery store, and people will see me looking sweaty and gross, so I guess I better stop.”
At first, my why for running was to lose weight. Then, it turned into my “me-time” where I could leave the kids with their dad and just go be Heather, not Mom, for thirty to sixty minutes. Later on, as I got faster, I realized that I still had a competitive side to me and running races was filling that void in adult life. My why has changed and evolved, and many runners will offer different reasons to why they love to run. What’s important is that you ask yourself, “Why do I want to be a runner? What will I get from that? How will I feel when I am?” Take those reasons with you when you lace up your shoes.
4. Do it for a purpose bigger than yourself. This sort of ties into my last tip, but what if you couldn’t quite put your finger on your WHY at this time? (It might take time to develop that). If you really want to run, and can’t quite find the motivation within to do it for yourself, how about dedicating your miles and training to someone else? There are thousands of races that benefit various charitable organizations. A simple google search for a cause you’re passionate about will likely find you a race, whether virtual or somewhere nearby, and often times a platform to raise money on. You can also bring the cause a little closer to home and dedicate your miles to someone in your community or network who may be fighting a battle in life and could use some support.
Hopefully, one of these tips will be something that you can grasp onto and use to jumpstart your journey as a runner. But I also have two little tips for once you’re into it, really “doing the do” and putting in the time.
Tip #1 - Use visualization.
When you’re in the middle of the suck, the hard part of the run, visualize yourself completing the goal. When I run, I think often about myself crossing finish lines… What race will it be? What music will be playing at the finish line? What will the weather be doing? Who will be there cheering for you? What will your time be? Most importantly, how will it feel? Those thoughts get me through some tough training.
Tip #2 - The one-mile rule.
There will be many days when you don’t want to run. Your mood isn’t right, you can’t connect with your why, the weather outside is terrible. But the one mile rule says that no matter what, you have to at least do the first mile. At one mile in, if you’re still hating life, you can get off the treadmill or turn around and walk home. But you HAVE to do the first mile. Only twice have I ever actually stopped at that first mile, and both were in extreme winter conditions that I had not properly dressed for. The ‘one-mile rule’, once it becomes a habit, will get you out the door more consistently than any other piece of advice I have to give.
I hope that thru these tips, you find your why and your way to incorporating running into your life. Short distances or long, fast or slow, this sport is good for the mind, body and even the soul.
Post by SiS Coach Heather Albright
Heather is a Coast Guard spouse, mother of 2, and personal trainer. In addition to strength training and nutrition coaching, Heather also specializes in coaching running clients.
"My goal here with SiS is to help my running clients train for their best performance by addressing all of their needs to become a better athlete, combining smart nutrition, strength training, and a customized running plan."
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