If you're not a runner, you probably hate running.
It's one of those things you love or hate (and even those of us who love it have a complicated love-hate relationship).
But maybe you want to not hate running.
Maybe you have healthy running friends whose joy and muscles are inspiring you to lace up your running kicks. Or you yearn to experience the high of running through a finish line at an organized race.
Yesterday, my sister-in-law posted on Facebook, asking how to enjoy running.
This got me thinking ...
When did I start enjoying running? How did that happen?
I started at the beginning. Because that's the logical place to start, duh.
I was never a track star.
I wanted to run track but my doctor wouldn't allow it because of a heart condition. Have you ever failed a physical? I failed a physical. Not only that, but this silly heart condition caused me to fail the mile run test in eighth grade. I passed out, couldn't finish, and my first "B" ever was in eighth-grade gym class. So much for valedictorian. Pfft.
Clearly I'm still bitter about that.
Anyway, the point is that I didn't come out of the womb running. In fact, running and I didn't have a good start to our relationship.
I started running because all the cool kids were doing it.
Every summer, all my good friends participated in this awesome and free community fitness program called Dog Days. You don't only run in Dog Days, but there's a lot of running. A LOT more than I had ever done.
I started going to Dog Days with my friends. The first day, I thought it was horrible. People do this for fun? I'm pretty sure we went to Pizza Shuttle afterward which made it almost worth it.
I kept going, and it got easier each time. I kept going because I knew it was good for me ... and because my friend would pick me up every morning and force me to go. She was a good friend.
Then I ran a 5K, which was a turning point in my relationship with running.
Dog Days promoted a 5K. It was for a good cause — a fundraiser for a child who unfortunately lost their battle with cancer — and I decided to give it a go.
A 5K is 3.1 miles — which was much further than I had ever run and seemed like an impossible feat. I felt good about running a mile. But again, my friends' p̶e̶e̶r̶ ̶p̶r̶e̶s̶s̶u̶r̶e̶ ̶ encouragement motivated me to sign up and convinced me that I could do it.
It was hard. My legs were tired. But watching my friends and strangers run together for a good cause made my heart so happy that my legs didn't really matter. Crossing the finish line felt good. I felt like I accomplished something big. I surprised myself — I didn't think I would ever run a 5K.
It was fun.
I started to get it. And I wanted to do it again. This was a big step (no pun intended) toward enjoying running.
So I ran more.
I started doing the weekend runs with the Dog Days crew. I ran around my block with my dog. Gradually, I started running more and walking less. One mile became effortless and then two, three, four ...
Before I knew it, I was signing up for my first half marathon.
OK, that's a lie. It was my junior year of college, four years after I first started trying out this running thing at Dog Days.
For me, it was a slow progression. I know people who go from non-runners to half-marathoners and I know people who are super fit but have no desire to run unless its for survival. We're all different.
From my running journey, here are the tips I can offer if you're new and trying to learn to enjoy it.
- Try it with an open mind. A lot of people have asked me for running tips only to say, "I just hate running." Or "My body wasn't meant for it." If you keep saying those things — internally or externally — you'll never like running. The mind has a powerful effect on the body. Think like the Little Engine That Could and open your mind to the possibility that you could love running.
- Make it fun. For me, making it fun meant making it social. I ran with friends. Maybe that means you start running with one friend, or multiple friends. Maybe your dog. Your neighbor's dog. Or Beyonce blairing in your headphones. (I like to listen to audiobooks as well.)
- Don't be too hard on yourself. If you're a newb, you probably aren't going to be able to run a marathon tomorrow. Listen to your body and run what you can. That might be down the street. Next week it could be around the block and the next it could even be a mile.
- When you're ready, set a goal. Training for a race is a great way to stay motivated. I like Hal Higdon's training programs, but there are tons of options out there. I recommend starting with a 5K and working your way up from there.
- Do it for the right reasons. If you're doing it to be skinny, you probably won't like it. I find that anything I've ever done strictly to "be skinny" was not enjoyable. Ask yourself, "Why do I want to run?" Is it to improve your health? Relieve stress? Calm your nerves? Give you energy? In yoga, it's common to set an intention for your practice. I think we can take this habit off the mat and into running as well. If you focus on your intention for running, you are more likely to be successful and gain more from it.
Those are the tips I gathered from my running experience.
I'm not an expert at running and I don't win races. But I do enjoy running and I used to hate it.
Not all of us instantly love running and I totally get it if you don't. But have you given it a real chance? (Lacing up your shoes and going out with a "I HATE RUNNING" attitude is not a real chance.) Give it a sincere go. Who knows, maybe you'll be one of those ultra-marathoners one day.
Did you dig this? Check out my other posts about running here.