Fitness, Health and Wellness

A (Brief) Guide to Getting Started with Running

New to running and not sure how to get started? Here are some ideas for beginners. #fitness #running #runningforbeginners
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Those of you who know me (or have read my previous post on the subject) know that I am a big proponent of running. Maintaining my health has always been a priority for me, but I also have come to love the character-building aspect of this sport and the community I’ve found through doing it over the last few years.

With all its challenge and intensity, I really enjoy and appreciate running. And I say this to you not as someone who’s been doing it her whole life, not as someone who was ever a natural at it, but as someone who long thought of herself as a “non-runner”. It’s unfortunate that so many people identify with this label. After all, beliefs about what we are not tend to be self-fulfilling. My old swim coach used to tell us that “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” And it’s absolutely true; if you’ve created the story in your mind that you can’t do something, most of the time, you won’t do it. Not unless you’re open to changing that story.

Perhaps you, too, feel like you are “not a runner”, and yet you are curious about how people get into it — and that’s what drew you to this article. Perhaps there is some small, crazy voice within you that asks — what if I could do it? Well, what if I told you that it’s absolutely possible? Even if you’ve never run before in your life, it can be done. I didn’t start running seriously until I was almost 30 years old, and I’ve known other people who started even later. It’s never too late. And if you’re in good health and take care to avoid injuries, you can keep it up well into old age; I have a friend whose 80-something-year-old mother still runs marathons. It’s pretty incredible, really, what the human body and mind are capable of.

My partner, an ultramarathoner and coach, likes to say that our bodies already know how to run. There is an innate wisdom in our bodies that knows how to execute the necessary movements without having to think about it. It’s just a matter of fine-tuning our form and harnessing natural momentum to carry us forward so that we are efficient and light on our feet. Remembering how to run this way, actually, is a joy; it doesn’t have to be purely “hard work”, and if you think of it as something that can be fun, it will be.

So, where do you begin with this sport? Here are just a few of the many ways you can get started as a runner.

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Create a positive mindset around running.

When you think of running, what comes to mind? For me, for most of my life, the answer was pain. I truly, for the life of me, couldn’t understand the appeal of this sport because anytime I tried it, it would kick my butt. Even in my swim-team days, when I was swimming (literally) miles each week and in excellent cardio shape, I struggled to run more than half a mile. So I got it in my head that I was a “non-runner”, and it was years before I dropped my negative attitude about it and finally gave it a fair shot.

If you want to become a runner — or anything else in life — you have to at least be open to the idea that you are capable of it. You don’t have to know that you are yet, but you must be willing to entertain the possibility. If you dismiss the mere idea of it out of hand, you won’t try — and you won’t come to know your full potential.

Decide what your goals are and start small.

Becoming a runner does not mean you have to run ultramarathons. If running a 100-mile race is on your bucket list, by all means, go for it. But there are many different levels of runners, from pro athletes to race runners to recreational “weekend warrior” types who just do it for fun — it’s totally up to you to decide how far you want to take it and how serious you want to get. When you’re just starting out, you might try a 5K. Once you’ve done that, you could work your way up to a 10K or half marathon. If you still like running after you’ve done those distances, you might just be hooked for life.

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Try a running app.

If you’re new to running and aren’t sure where to start, I highly suggest trying a running app. Couch to 5K (C25K) is the one that I used when I was first starting out, and I have sung its praises to anyone who’s ever asked me about it. What’s great about C25K is that it assumes you are starting from zero running experience and gives you structured workouts that gradually increase in difficulty. So you’re not going to go out and run a mile in your first workout; you’ll start by alternating, say, one minute of walking with one minute of jogging for 20 minutes. 

New runners can get intimidated by thinking that they have to immediately start running long distances, but that’s not really how it works. You work your way up to the longer distances. With C25K, you’ll start with jogging for one minute at a time, and over a few weeks’ time, you’ll gradually increase your ratio of jogging to walking until you are able to jog for 10, 15, and eventually 20 minutes at a time. The workouts are challenging but doable, and you can complete them at your own pace. You’ll be amazed at how fast you can progress.

Join a (real or virtual) running group.

Joining a running group can be a great way to get into running, especially if you’d like to meet some new runner friends. Running is a great social activity, and there are so many groups out there — if you’re looking for an in-person group, you can find anything from serious running clubs to laid-back social groups who meet up once a week to jog around the park and then grab beers at the neighborhood bar. Virtual groups and apps like Zwift allow you to run with people from around the world. Regardless, many of these groups welcome runners of all levels (including newbies), and having some running buddies just makes it all the more fun.

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Commit to doing a race with a friend or family member.

Signing up for a race can be a powerful motivator to keep up with your workouts. My mom was actually the one who decided she was going to commit to doing her first 5K; I just decided to jump on her bandwagon and do it with her. And honestly, I loved it. There was something beautiful and life-affirming about being surrounded by throngs of people who were all out there, running alongside me, challenging themselves and being part of something positive. And when I saw the finish line coming up ahead of me, when I fully grasped that I was about to achieve something I’d never done before and didn’t think I could do, it was a very emotionally powerful moment.

Now, granted, this was a few years ago, before the time of COVID-19. There are fewer in-person options for races at the time of this writing, but there are still virtual races and other creative events being offered for those who would like to participate.

“Racing” can have a negative connotation for some people who don’t consider themselves competitive by nature, but the truth is, a running race doesn’t have to be a competition at all. There will always be the elite athletes striving to be at the front of the pack, but in most races, most of the runners are just out having fun. If anything, they might be racing against themselves, trying to beat their best time from before. But a lot of people don’t even pay attention to their times, and there’s no rule saying you have to.

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Keep after it.

When you first start running, it will probably feel hard. It might feel like a slog. There is an initial hurdle you have to clear as your body adjusts to the exertion. But once you do adjust, it starts to get a little easier. In my case, once I could run 15-20 minutes without stopping, I felt a noticeable shift; my body seemed suddenly able to tolerate running better than ever before, and I started enjoying the whole experience a lot more.

Even if you’ve never considered yourself a runner, you might be surprised at what you can do. Sometimes, the hardest part of doing a new thing is just getting started with it — and if you start running and stick with it, you’ll add a great new mode of activity to your repertoire that can keep you healthy for years to come.

What about you? Are you curious about running? Or, if you already are a runner, how’d you get your start? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

Fitness, Health and Wellness

How Running Changed My Life (and Could Change Yours, Too)

Think you’re not a runner? Here are some ways it could change your life if you give it a chance. #running #fitnessgoals #healthyliving #selfimprovement
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Running can be a very polarizing sport. On one end of the spectrum, you have diehard fans who compete in ultramarathons and races throughout the year, and on the other end, you have haters who say that it’s a sport for crazy people who enjoy pain and suffering. In my life, I have been both a lover and a hater of running, and trust me when I say that I was a hater for a long, long time before I finally came around.

I had (sort of) tried it a couple of times when I was younger, but it never came naturally to me the way it seemed to to other people. Don’t get me wrong; I was plenty active growing up — I was on a swim team as a kid and teenager — but even so, running was always my Achilles’ heel. We’d do dryland training from time to time and while the rest of my teammates seemed to be able to run without a fuss, I struggled to keep up. Even half a mile felt like a lot for me. And a whole mile? Forget it.

So, I made up my mind early on that running was “too hard” and not something I could ever enjoy. I wrote it off, and regrettably spent most of my life telling myself the story that I was “not a runner”. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I finally tried challenging that notion. How I got into it is a story in and of itself, but after training and running my first race with my mom, I was hooked. 

The thing is — and most runners will readily admit this — running is a little insane. It has an intensity that scares a lot of people away. Sure, usually you feel great after a run, but during? It’s work. It can be grueling, hot, sweaty, even miserable work. Sometimes you feel like stopping; other times the hardest part is dragging your butt out to get started in the first place. Simply put, it ain’t for sissies.

But looking back on the last few years of my life, I can see that running has been hugely influential on the person I have become. It might sound dramatic to say that it has changed my life, but I believe that it has. And if it left such a strong imprint on me, surely it could do the same for others. Now, I’m not saying that everyone in the world has to become a runner; if it’s truly not for you, then it’s not for you. But if you’re open to giving it a try, here are just some of the ways that running can transform your life.

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You’ll get in amazing shape, and possibly live longer. Running is one of the best cardiovascular activities out there. It will keep your heart strong, your lungs healthy and your muscles toned. Like any form of exercise, it can reduce stress and lower the risk of long-term diseases, potentially increasing your longevity. Of course, running is also high-impact and can be hard on your body over time, but running in the right gear (especially shoes) and working on your form can help minimize the risk of repetitive motion injuries, falls and sprains.

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You’ll become stronger through pushing yourself to do things that are challenging. What if I told you that a huge part of the value of running is the difficulty of it? For me, running isn’t worth doing because it’s easy; it’s worth doing because it’s hard. It toughens you up on so many levels. You’ll quite literally “feel the burn” of your muscles and lungs as you start to fatigue. Your feet, your legs, your hips and your back will get sore.

But the real challenge is more mental — and the real question is, can you keep on pushing and striving towards a larger goal even when things are starting to get really uncomfortable and hard? Can you move through layers of physical, mental and emotional resistance and keep going anyway? Can you ignore the negative, self-sabotaging voices inside that tell you you “can’t” do something and then proceed to prove them wrong? Running will push you to do all of these things and more, and you’ll be better off for it.

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You’ll become better at sitting with discomfort and prioritizing long-term rewards over short-term comfort and ease. I wish I could say that running gets easier over time. It does, in a way, as your body adapts and becomes stronger, but you’ll always be riding the edge of discomfort. While running shouldn’t be painful, when it’s done right, it should bring you up against your edges and push you out of your comfort zone.

This may not ever feel entirely easy or pleasant, but when you practice doing that on a regular basis, you’ll at least get more used to being with discomfort — observing it, noticing it, and letting it pass without attaching any meaning to it. Sooner or later you may even find you’re less attached to “being comfortable” and that it feels more natural to make decisions that benefit you in the long term rather than resorting to doing whatever is easiest in the moment. Running is a perfect example of how sometimes, the difficult things in life are great teachers for us.

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You’ll become more in-tune with your body, mind and surroundings. As challenging as running can be, it can also feel oddly meditative. Especially being outdoors where you can breathe the fresh air and feel the sun on your face. Your senses are engaged, perhaps even heightened. You might find yourself marveling at the beauty of the scenery that you normally breeze by without a second thought while you’re driving in a car. If you go without music, you hear sounds you normally don’t notice — the sound of your feet hitting the ground as they fall into a rhythm with your breath is borderline hypnotic.

Some people run to distract themselves, watching TV on their treadmills or listening to music as they go. But I run to practice being more present. It’s amazing how rich the experience of just running can be on its own, and being free of distractions (even for a few minutes) is wonderfully liberating. Running without distractions is also safer because you stay more aware of what’s happening around you, which makes it easier to avoid dangers like oncoming cars and bikes.

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You can make new friends. While there’s an incomparable peace and stillness that comes with running alone, running with others can be a lot of fun. Running is a great social activity to do with partners, friends, family, and fur babies. One thing I really enjoy about running is the way it brings people from many different walks of life together. And there are always exceptions, but in my experience, the running community is generally made up of positive, upbeat, supportive people who will encourage you along in your journey. There’s a real kinship among runners — a shared understanding that we’re all a little crazy in the same way, we’re all pushing ourselves to see what we are capable of, and we’re all in this together. And there’s something special about that.

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You’ll expand your sense of what is possible for you. Running is incredibly empowering and a huge confidence-booster. At least, for me, it has been. I believed I could never in a million years become a runner — and then I proved myself wrong. I went from struggling to run half a mile to running 5Ks, 10Ks and even a half marathon. My “limitations” with running had been entirely self-created, and once I realized that, I felt like I could do anything.

The same could be said for any challenging thing in life — anything you’re telling yourself is hard or impossible, anything that seems out of reach. I don’t know you, but I can tell you this: you are strong, and you are capable of so much more than you realize. So start questioning and challenging those stories that are holding you back in life, and I can almost guarantee you’ll surprise yourself with what you can do.

Running may not be for the faint of heart, but it is quite the journey. If you choose to go on this path, know that it will challenge you, it will help you grow, and it will take you to places you wouldn’t expect. And if that doesn’t make it a worthwhile pursuit, I don’t know what does.

How about you? Are you a runner? If so, what do you love about it and why? Feel free to let me know in the comments below.