Sunday, March 25, 2018

So You Hate Running... Now What?

First things first, I'm going to dish up some hard truths.

Running is hard. It can be boring. You might feel like you're going to die. Maybe you used to be able to run all day, but now you're a half mile in and you're sucking wind. A woman with a cane hobbled by faster than you and offered to call you a cab. When you declined, she offered an ambulance.

When your first run feels like this, it's understandably easy to throw your running shoes in the closet and swear off the treadmill/track/roads forever.
 
I will fully admit that running has only recently become enjoyable. I've always enjoyed running, because it was a means to an end. I got places faster. I became fitter. I didn't feel like an unathletic sack of potatoes on horseback. I loved how I felt after a run.

I didn't, however, love how I felt during a run... and that is an important distinction! 

There are a few things I did to make myself hate running less while I was in the throes of those first few weeks of training. I found that by doing so, I stuck with it (and am still doing so today). These days, I see running as one of the purest expressions of freedom and joy that one can experience. There's nothing else except for you, your two feet, the open road, and bliss.

1. Find a pair of shoes that are comfortable and fit well

I can't stress this one enough. If your knees and back hurt because of ill-fitting shoes, you are much less likely to want to continue to run or exercise. You can go the route of having a shoe specialist at your local running store fit you for a pair, or you can do what I did -- buy a few pairs of different styles and run in them. The ones that didn't work for my running form were used as work shoes, so it ended up being an overall win. After plenty of running and researching, my current favorites are the Nike Free RN Flyknit for track work (it is a super-minimalist shoe, and I love how light and flexible it is) and the Under Armour Charged Bandit 2 for long runs and races (this is also a very minimalist shoe, with just a small amount of support in the heel cup). These are both shoes in the $80-$100 range, but the comfort they provide is (to me) well worth the up front cost.

2. Listen to music, a podcast, or an audiobook

This practice involves disassociation, or taking your focus away from what your body is currently doing and experiencing, and can work wonders to help you stick it out during a hard workout. The best way to make this work is to listen to something you only allow yourself to listen to while running. Are you hooked on the Serial podcast? Don't let yourself listen to it unless you are running. This gives you something to look forward to on your run, and is a positive association for exercise. It does take quite a bit of self-control to make this work properly, though. I used to listen to the old Runner's World podcast on long runs, and would eagerly look forward to Friday/Saturday each week so I could finally listen to the newest episode.

3. Set a goal to work towards

Are you running with a specific goal in place? Pick a race, sign up for it, and mark it on your calendar! Holding yourself accountable to a goal is a great way to motivate yourself to get out and get moving. It's not so easy to put off a training session when you look at your calendar and realize your goal race is coming up in six weeks.

4. Find someone to spend time with

Do you have friends who are already runners, or who have expressed interest in starting to run? Form a group! It's easier to show up when you know other people are relying on you, and if you can carry on a conversation while running then you might just notice the minutes and miles starting to melt away.

5. Or... go it alone!

I am a registered nurse and an APRN student. I spend a lot of time surrounded with people, and all the problems and stresses associated with that. For me, running is my sacred alone time. I get a chance to experience quiet, and I have time to reflect on the day and to think about my plans for the upcoming week. Without my alone time on the run, I would be quite a bit more stressed!

6. Take it easy

The first few times you're out on the road, you might be tempted to relive your high school glory days, where an 8:00 mile was a breeze and when you could play a full soccer match without needing oxygen and medical attention. Unfortunately for you, not all things get better with age. I used a Couch-to-5K program to get started, and it involved a lot of walking, interspersed with increasing run intervals. It took me a while to get to the able-to-run-3-miles-continuously phase of training, but once I was there it was considerably easier to continue training. Yesterday, I ran 9 miles and it felt easy. Two years ago, I couldn't run for a continuous mile. Don't set any sort of pace expectations for yourself, at least until you are a little further along in your training.

7. If it hurts, don't do it

This is another one I can't stress enough. Yes, running is hard and your legs and lungs might be sore and shouting for air, but nothing should be hurting. If something is hurting so much that it is affecting your stride, then you need to stop (and potentially seek medical attention). Up to 79% of all runners will potentially sustain running-related injuries each year (source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2465455/); most of these injuries could have been prevented by training smart, taking it easy, and listening to what the body is saying.

8. Stop comparing yourself to others

Celebrate your own milestones! It doesn't matter what other runners are out there doing -- if you've never been able to run, and you just completed your first 5K then that is a reason to celebrate. Don't let the fact that other runners might be faster or covering more miles be intimidating, and don't let those accomplishments diminish your own. What you are doing is just as amazing.

9. Look to others for inspiration

I am a big reader, and one of my new obsessions is autobiographies. Reading about other people's accomplishments inspires me and helps me continue to dream big. It can also help me put things in perspective -- reading books about training for ultra-marathons makes regular marathon training seem completely reasonable! Keeping tip number 8 in mind, be careful to avoid unfair comparisons between yourself and the author.

I can't make you love running, but these tips should help to make you hate it at least just a little bit less. Let me know if you have any other tricks, or if any of these tips have helped you out!

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