Here’s the thing: I don’t like running. I never really have. In high school, I audibly groaned whenever our PE teacher announced that we had run the mile. During soccer practice, I once suggested that we all adjust our jogging pace to a more manageable mosey. I’m not lazy, I promise. But — for me — running is uncomfortable, sweaty and painful. Plus, it’s hard to breathe. So, what’s to like?
I remember telling my friend, a long distance runner, that there were two kinds of people in this world: people who are designed to run (her) and people who are designed to stop people that are running (me). I’m built like a human wall. Walls don’t run.
At the same time, I’ve always admired runners. Running is a good, high intensity workout — and a great way to get your whole body toned up. Plus, as terrible as it feels while you’re doing it, all those endorphins make you feel great after you’re done. Running feels like an accomplishment.
So a few years ago, I made an effort to teach myself how to run. I was starting from absolute zero. Full disclosure: It wasn’t terribly fun. But it was worth it. Knowing that you would be able to outrun a fully ambulatory zombie during an apocalypse is very rewarding.
Eventually, after a lot of hours on the road, I worked my way up from zero to half marathon. And while I’m not sure I ever got to the point where I loved running — I think running and I came to a good understanding.
So here’s a few running tips you can use to get started — even if you hate it:
It’s okay to take baby steps. It’s okay to go slow. Make your first run exploratory. See how far you can run comfortably and make that your baseline, then work up from there.
For my first run, I went to a local middle school and started running laps around the track. At first, I ran one lap, walked one. As my cardio improved, I increased the number of laps I ran. I was painfully slow and I panted harder in the hog in heat — but every time I went, I got a little better. I was able to run a little longer, breath a little easier and go a little faster. Eventually, I was able to run two miles straight through without walking. At that point, I decided to leave the track behind me and start running around the neighborhood.
If you want a little more structure than, try out apps like C25K or 5K Runner. They can help you build up your run length over time.
Your poor ol’ feet take a lot of punishment as you pound the sidewalk. Problems with your feet have a tendency to travel up the line to your ankles, legs and, especially, your back. Everyone’s feet are different: narrow feet, flat feet, high arches. The right shoes give you support where you need it.
After I started putting in real distance, I decided to invest in a real pair of shoes — so I headed down to the running store. I ran on a treadmill and they analyzed my footstrike. It turns out that I my foot has a tendency to roll inward — or pronate — so they recommended shoes with a lot of ankle support. I’ve been wearing running shoes with a lot of ankle support ever since — which has probably prevented a lot of twisted ankles.
Running is a great work out, but it’s not the only kind of workout. When I started training, I ran two days a week. Eventually, I added more runs to my week but initially that was enough for me. I had to mix in other workouts that I enjoyed more so I didn’t burn out my muscles and my interest.
In between runs, I worked with a personal trainer — both online and in person — once a week to do a mix of strength training, upper body workouts and core work. You could even mix in some yoga or swimming to give those tired running muscles some time to rest.
When it came to making progress, for me running was definitely a marathon — not a sprint. Getting better took a long time. And usually, those improvements were really small — like shaving a few seconds off my mile time or feeling a little bit stronger on the hill near my house. I remember the first time that my legs tired out before I my lungs did, and that felt like a huge accomplishment.
Of course, all those tiny changes can be hard to quantify, so I recommend using an app to track your runs. Apps like RunKeeper and Strava log your routes, your runs and your mile times.
When you first start running, it’s easy to feel like you’re not making a ton of progress. So whenever I felt like I had a bad run, I would pull out my phone and check my run log. I could see all the runs I’d been on since I started, and how far I had actually come. Literally.
All the time, I see couples running and talking together. Honestly, they look like they’re having a great time. If that’s you … I envy you. That doesn’t work for me. I’ve never been able to comfortably hold a conversation while running. I’m too busy using my lungs to suck more oxygen into my body — I’ve got no time to chat. That said, having running buddies — even if they aren’t running right next to you — can really help. They can commiserate with you, share milestones with you and keep you accountable.
When I first started running, I joined a group of co-workers for a 5K. All of us were beginners. None of us wanted to train together. But all of us wanted to complain about running together. After I started jogging regularly, I set up weekly run dates with my friend. We had a shared route, but we each ran at our pace. It was just enough encouragement to keep us both accountable (it’s a lot harder to cancel your run when you know you’re going to be canceling someone else’s run, too).
Drink water. Like lots of water. And drink it all day, not just right before your run. Chugging water right before you hit the road will leave you with a ton of water sloshing around in your belly. Water throughout the day keeps you properly hydrated — especially for longer runs. Your body is an engine. Being dehydrated is like trying to run that engine without oil. Everything feels wrong.
I would drink at least 8 glasses of water a day — a lot more if I knew that I had a longer run the next day. Eventually, I added electrolytes into my water to help replace all the stuff I was sweating out on the road.
For me, having a goal was key. I needed that push to make progress. So, I signed up for a 5K way before I was ever able to run the miles. I planned out a training schedule that got me to the distance I needed to run the race. I knew, every week, exactly how far I needed to run. I built enough time into my training schedule to have some mess ups along the way. And while I put pressure on myself to meet my goals, I knew that even if I couldn’t quite run the whole distance — the worst thing that could happen was that I would have to walk for a few minutes during the race.
When I finally crossed the finish line of my first 5K, I was incredibly proud. I will always remember that moment. And after that, I was hooked. I signed up for another 5K right after I finished the first one. Then I signed up for a 10K. Then I signed up for a half marathon.
So I swear to you all, it is possible for someone who hates running to run. And while I don’t think I’m ever going to be the kind of girl who loves running — I do think that it’s worth it. And that’s enough.