I am a running NOVICE.
It’s true. Until a few months ago, I would adamantly avoid anything that required traveling at a quickened pace via foot. My workouts consisted of wonderful aerobic/dancing/weight-lifting videos I’d sweat through in the privacy of my living room.
So, why did I start running?
Well, because I wanted to lose weight.
And I had heard that running burned a lot of calories.
And since the weight was REALLY creeping back on, I figured I would try my hand at jogging to see if it was even possible.
I was very reluctant to start, because all my life I had seriously considered myself a non-runner.
Part of the reason was because I majorly sprained my ankle senior year of high school (by not seeing a cement step and rolling my way down a miniature flight of stairs), and, ever since, that ankle had ached every time I tried to run on it.
The other (more influential) part of the reason I never ran was because running is so HARD.
It is! Continuous exertion without slowing down or stopping? Lots of people hate running for precisely this reason.
But, running does burn lots of calories. Because your body is constantly propelling you forward.
So, one day, I threw on a sports bra, laced up my shoes and went for a VERY SLOW run.
I actually alternated walking with running, because constant running was proving to be too much of a challenge, at first. I did do a few sprints (just to get home faster).
I finished a 3-mile loop around my block.
It wasn’t easy, but I was impressed with my ability to actually foot my way around our neighborhood.
So, a week later, I laced up again. This time, when I wanted to walk, I told myself to just slow down my jog a little bit more. But to keep jogging. And this is how I forced myself to jog all the way around the block.
There were stretches where I was running so slowly that my breathing was completely under control. Like, too slowly.
But I ran all the way home!
A full 3-mile jog! ME!
A week later, I did the same thing. But this time, I ran for four miles straight.
I just kept going until I reached four.
Mostly because I wanted to be able to say I could run four miles straight.
And when I returned to my driveway at the end, I threw my hands up in the air in a victory “V.”
Here I am after that four-mile stretch. I was so proud of myself, I documented the moment with a photo.
Then, a few weeks later (I was doing my living room workouts in the meantime), I laced up again, and this time, I KNEW I wanted to go the distance.
I wanted to run five miles.
And guess what?
I ended up running SIX miles.
Here I am after THAT achievement.
To date, six miles is my longest distance.
I now run every other day. At least three miles. Sometimes four, and sometimes five. But always at least three.
It occurred to me one morning that I had developed a running habit out of thin air.
I am a runner, now!
It’s still so weird to realize this.
Because I used to laugh at people who suggested that running was something I could do.
And I thought to myself, if I can start a running habit, then anyone can.
So I am going to tell you how I did/do it! Because a running habit is actually quite a handy exercise habit to have. You can do it anywhere, the faster you run, the faster your mileage is over with, your results and improvements are completely measurable, and you feel like a million dollars EVERY TIME YOU COMPLETE A RUN. Hellooo, runner’s high!
I LOVE that I can run for thirty minutes straight. It’s a simple workout solution for days I don’t feel like lifting weights or leaping and soaring around my living room.
And did I mention that running burns a TON OF CALORIES?!
Here are some tips to help you start (and stick with) a running habit.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, nor am I your kneecaps. Obviously you should not attempt any strenuous physical activity without talking to your doctor first about your own ability. Also, if your joints or muscles start to scream in protest, STOP RUNNING. You’ll get stronger the more you run, and your limits will reveal themselves to you. Only when you KNOW your limits can you push them. Start slow and use common sense, please!
Speaking of slow starts….
Tip 1: Start by running your SLOWEST MILE EVER.
Deliberately run as slowly as you possibly can. I mean it. SLOOOOW.
I suggest this because running very slowly will show you how possible it is to regulate your breathing while you’re running.
Non-runners get panicky and think they’ll be “out of breath” when they run. No one wants to be short of breath. That’s why people stop running and start walking to catch it again.
The thing is, though, that you can catch your breath while STILL running. You just have to run very slowly.
Like a turtle.
Slow down and watch your breath slow down. Eventually, you’ll be breathing like you would be if you were walking at a quickened pace.
If turtle running is too much, then walk. Don’t kill yourself (see disclaimer above).
But, if you do walk, try to walk at a very rapid pace.
And then start running again once you catch your breath.
Because the only way to start a running habit is by actually RUNNING as much as you possibly can.
You might walk a lot, at first, and that is perfectly acceptable.
Tip 2: Once you realize you can run a mile straight, run two miles straight.
You don’t have to do it the next day. In fact, wait a few days. Or wait a week, like me.
My running habit developed on Saturdays. Every Saturday, I’d stay at my parents’ house. They live out in the country. Country roads = hellish hills, but also beautiful scenery, minimal traffic, and infrequent fellow runners/bikers. You know I don’t like people. That’s why country running is my favorite kind of running.
Remember: always be vigilant of your surroundings while you’re running. There are a lot of weirdos out there. Better yet, run with pepper spray. I’ve faced and warded off an attacker before, which makes ME very vigilant of my surroundings. This is why it’s so important to me that YOU also take safety precautions. Do not run in shady/sketchy areas. Drive to a park if it’s safer than your neighborhood.
Anyway, on Saturdays, I would run at my parents’. That’s how this whole thing started.
And every weekend, I’d try to run one mile further than last weekend.
Sometimes I’d succeed, and sometimes I’d run less than the weekend prior.
The point is that I was always TRYING to push myself to run greater distances.
Because a runner runs for long periods of time.
So, once you master one mile, go for two. And once you realize that you can run two miles, go for three!
Because that’s how you become a runner. You run for multiple miles at a time. Work your way up to it. It WILL get easier.
Tip 3: Play mental games with yourself.
It is important to remember that you will tell yourself just about anything to allow yourself to STOP working out.
That’s because we are all biologically programmed to conserve energy. Seriously! We are. It’s a bodily mechanism to ensure we’ve got enough juice left over to bolt should we encounter a threat.
Obviously, in order to be fit, we must ignore/fight this sloth-like urge DAILY.
If you’re running, the urge to STOP running will be ever-present. If it’s not screaming in your face, it’s at the back of your mind.
This is why it’s important to remember that YOU are the dealer in the game of running. You’re in charge.
Unfortunately, you’re also the lazy sack who wants to sit on the side of the road and stop moving.
The only way to defeat the lazy sack is by tricking the lazy sack.
When the lazy sack starts to win you over with promises of relaxation, you have to be READY. You have to be ready to outwit him/her.
By negotiating with yourself.
When you want to quit, you tell yourself something like, just up this hill. Or just another quarter-mile. Or just to that mailbox.
And when you get to those places, you tell yourself, just to that next mailbox.
And that’s how you successfully run significant distances without stopping.
If you feel like you’re going to DIE, you slooooooow down. You run so slowly that turtles pass you in the grass.
Sometimes, telling yourself to run faster works, too. Because the faster you run, the faster your hellish run is over with.
Here are some other ridiculous things I tell myself/fantasize about while I’m running to distract myself from the fact that I want to die:
Oh, I smell water. I’m running on the beach, and I’m in Florida, and I am running because I’m a fitness guru. I can’t give up on my fellow beach-running gurus.
I can’t wait to tell everyone that I ran six miles straight. – This one is huge. You might think it’s a vain reason to keep running, but so what? It keeps you running, doesn’t it? Plus, everyone tells everyone else about his/her fitness accomplishments, anyway. Join in! People love fit people. It’s really weird. More people like my Facebook status updates about running than they do about anything else. It’s bizarre, really, except it’s not, because people really do love hearing about fitness achievements. And you SHOULD tell everyone how far you’ve run once you’re done. It’s inspiring for others to watch you meet your own goals. Most importantly, sharing your accomplishments pushes you run that extra mile, which inches you evermore forward toward your becoming-a-runner goals.
Oh, look, a power line. I’ve never noticed those before. Have those always been there? Jeeze, they swing so LOW. Is anyone concerned about that?
Oh, look, a squashed carton from a case of beer. Classic hometown. I really do love this town. It’s kind of weird that trash makes me nostalgic for my people. These are my people thoughtlessly tossing cardboard out windows.
Oh, look, a dark forest. I wonder what’s in that forest. I will scan that forest. What would happen if someone were hiding in th-OKAY too scary ignore forest run faster.
Oh, look, a pile of decaying animal carcass. Time to run a wide loop around that nastiness-oh god I smell it anyway-run run run faster, faster.
Oh, the gas from that car smells like gas from a boat. I remember boating and knee-boarding and man summer is seriously awesome it smells so good out here.
Look at those Hydrangeas. The only reason I know what a Hydrangea is is because my sister wanted them at her wedding. That wedding was so incredible. Planning it was fun, too. Way more fun than planning my own wedding. Why is that?
OH GOD A HILL ALL RIGHT SLOW AND STEADY PICK UP THE PACE JUST GET IT OVER WITH GOD THIS SUCKS YOU’RE ALMOST THERE ahhh you’re there, now it’s downhill which is so easy and look you’re catching your breath again see you’re fine!
Mind games. They’re going to happen anyway. Might as well use them to your advantage.
Tip 4: Stretch afterward. Stretch really well.
Your muscles will cramp up and running will be impossible for DAYS if you don’t stretch well. It’s very, very important. Stretch those hammies out! And those glutes! And those quads! And especially those calves.
It’s really important for runners to stretch their hip flexors, too. Those are the muscles that run from your hip bones down the fronts of your upper thighs. Here area few great stretches for your hip flexors.
Also, do a few jumping jacks before your run and stretch your muscles then, too. This will help prevent any muscle pulling mid-hill-climb.
Tip 5: Run on the grass sometimes.
This is a great tool if your calves start to cramp up, of if you get bored, or if you want to quit.
I find that I actually run a little faster on the grass. And, actually, distance and time pass more quickly when I’m focused on the ground before me rather than the horizon.
This is because you have to focus on the grass while you’re running on it. Little bumps and dips are ankle-rolling haven. Pay attention to the ground you’re trouncing over if that ground isn’t perfectly flat! Safety, first.
Running on the grass is more challenging for your body, too, because you have to constantly guess where your next step will land, and your body has to adjust with each footfall.
Tip 6: Run in the mornings. Before the sun.
Because there is a WORLD of a difference between running when it’s 80 degrees outside and humid and running when it’s 75 degrees outside and not humid.
Also, running before the sun makes my runs POSSIBLE.
I’ve tried to run in the sun and FAILED.
I can run for miles if it’s dark outside. Darkness = cool temperatures = body doesn’t overheat.
As soon as that sun breaks over the horizon, though, man oh man, do I want to immediately give up.
Breathing is more difficult, sweat pours, and my overall incentive to keep going takes a nosedive.
I am a morning person. Big time. So much so that I wrote a post about it.
If you’re NOT a morning person, then I highly suggest running at nighttime. AFTER the sun goes down.
Trust me. Your abilities skyrocket when the sun isn’t out to roast you like a little piglet on pavement.
Tip 7: Stick to your routine.
I told myself I would run every other day, and I’ve been doing that since I told myself I’d do that.
You’d better believe that MOST DAYS, I don’t want to go out and run on “run days.” But I do it anyway because that’s what I promised myself I’d do.
The quickest way to start a running habit is by sticking with a running habit.
When I REALLY don’t want to run, I tell myself I only have to run a mile.
I always end up running more, but by committing to just getting my a** out there, I get my a** out there. Then, I decide how far I want to run.
Honor thyself! If you make a commitment to yourself to run/work out every other day or every day, stick with it! It’s a form of self-respect, it is.
So there you have them! My favorite running lessons and tips gleaned from my experiences with jogging.
I’ll add more to this list as the tips arise.
Have you got any running tips of your own? Please share them in the comments below!
And if you know someone in your life who wants to start a running habit, please share this post with them!