“I’ve recently been thinking about starting a running program. I have never been terribly athletic, but I think it would be something I’d enjoy and would be a great way to get some much needed exercise. I just don’t have a clue where to start and how I would keep motivated doing something that kind of scares me a little.”
That’s wonderful! If it makes you feel any better, I totally understand where you’re coming from: I was never the athletic type either, and was quite intimidated when I first decided to take up running. Here are a few of the lessons that I’ve learned along the way – hopefully these tips will help you reach your goals!
Make a date with yourself – and keep it.
Exercise is an important part of keeping yourself healthy, and you need to treat it that way. Make it one of your priorities by choosing a time of day that works for you, scheduling it in like any other appointment, and sticking to it. Are your afternoons frequently disrupted by meetings that go late? Make your date in the morning. Do you get a bit of peace in the evenings? Schedule your run after supper. Do it at lunch if your days are flexible! It doesn’t matter when you choose to write it in as long as you do it.
Start slow. Then slow down.
I find that one of the most common mistakes among new runners is to try to go too fast, too far, too soon. You think if you’re running, you need to run hard – and you end up flaming out, feeling disappointed (or getting injured!), and quitting. But there’s no rule saying you have to go fast! Or far, for that matter! In fact, when I first took up running, I ran for one minute, and then I walked for one minute. I did this 10 times for a total of 20 minutes. I was getting in a solid 20 minutes of exercise, which I would not have made it through if I tried to run the whole thing. And remember the “talk test”: you should be able to carry a conversation without too much difficulty – if you can’t, slow down. If you can sing a song, however, you could probably take it up a notch.
If you really don’t feel like going for a run when you’re supposed to, just get dressed. Get a really cute running outfit that you like to put on if that’s what it takes.
Once you’re dressed, get out the door. Just run for 10 minutes. If, at the end of 10 minutes, you still would rather poke yourself in the eye than run, turn around and go home. Most of the time you will find you feel perked up and ready to go by the end of 10 minutes, but even if you don’t, you’ve put in 20 minutes. Every little bit counts!
Focus on the process and the results will take care of themselves.
Many people take up running because they want a specific result – to get fit, lose weight, lower their blood pressure…you get the idea. The problem with focusing on the result is that in this age of instant feedback, people get discouraged when they don’t see the result right away.
But what if, instead of focussing on the outcome you’re looking for, you set a goal around the process? A good goal might be to run 20 minutes a day, three days a week, for 10 weeks. Unlike getting fit or lowering your blood pressure, you have direct control over it – either you run or you don’t. You can see your progress towards the goal and you know when you have achieved it. The best part is, when you’re focussed on the process, the results just sort of happen, whether you are paying attention or not!
Remember your reasons for running.
Maybe you’ve had a scary wake-up call from your doctor, or just want the health benefits of regular exercise. You want to improve your energy levels and cope better with stress. Perhaps you want to set a good example for your kids, or even just keep up with them. Improve your self-esteem. Raise funds for a charity dear to your heart, challenge yourself, step outside your comfort zone.
Whatever your reasons, make them solid somehow. Write them out, take a photo that reminds you of them, find a quote or an image. Then on those days when you just don’t feel like keeping your date, take out your reminder, and really think about all you have to gain.
If you are struggling at first, know that this is normal! In my opinion, getting started is the hardest part of running. You didn’t get out of shape over night, so cut yourself some slack, give yourself some time to get back into shape. Remember that this too, shall pass – if you stick with it, keep your dates, and focus on the process, you will find your groove and it will get much easier. It won’t be long until you are reaping the benefits of your hard work!
Karen Karnis is a running enthusiast and the “Endorphin Junkie” on iRun.ca. She writes from the heart, sharing her personal experiences and inspiring anyone who wants to run. Stay tuned for the launch of her brand new website at www.MyHappyPace.com.