I understand if you see the word ‘running’ and are getting an immediate allergic reaction.I was fairly active at high school (but don’t stop reading!) so for me, picking up running was not too out-of-this-world. However, I amnot crazy about running. I am not one of those who would say that I love it. I don’t. What I do enjoy about it is the challenge of it and achieving a goal I’ve set, but let’s be honest. It is physical exertion and it is hard work. I’d SO prefer be sitting and eating oreos.
I started running five years ago. I started because I had hardly been doing any kind of exercise right through four years of uni and had just gotten married… and thought it’d be a good thing to try and keep up some kind of fitness. Even though I say five years, I’m not consistent. To make myself feel better, I call it having running ‘seasons’ (haha). A running season for me is when I have a two or three month plan to gradually work towards an event or goal. Off season is when it is too hot, like summer, or when I’m just plain lazy for weeks.
I’ve learned that I have a tendency to be obsessive about things and have the potential to have unhealthy motives for running (or any other activity). Motives like desiring unnecessary weight loss or simply to be ‘thinner than everyone else, whatever it takes’. Now, don’t get me wrong, weight loss for the right reasons and in the right context is not bad, but I mean it from the point of view where it commands a large portion of my thought life and life goals in general.
So in these last few years, as I have grown in figuring out this area of how to have a healthy and realistic body-image (and am still figuring it out), running has actually become a psychological exercise for me, to learn some self-control in the sense of conciously doing it moderately and being careful of obsession, and yet still knowing when to be disciplined and persevere. Does this make sense?
Anyway… here’s what I’ve learnt
1. Just start somewhere, anywhere.
If you can only run for 2 mins on your first try, that’s great! Try adding another minute next time. Or walk for the next minute, then run again. Slowly extend it.
I know not everyone will grow to like it but why not give it a go. (If you have been inactive for a while, it would be best to check with your doctor first of course!)
2. Patience- Give it time.
It takes a while for your body to get used to running, don’t give up after a first try. Sadly, it is not an instant thing, so be patient. It does take a while to notice any changes in fitness, but your body does learn! You will be surprised!
Doing a little bit regularly is generally better on the body than doing a massive run or workout sporadically.
3. It can be helpful to track what you are doing and celebrate every little bit of perseverance or progression.
Write down how long you managed to run or run/walk. This is so you can see how you are progressing. Don’t use this to tell yourself how crappy you are, but as a positive thing of what you are doing. Even if things plateau, keep going out there. If you are running 5 mins, three times a week, that is still 15 mins and better than doing nothing.
4. The mind is powerful, even in physical exercise.
Don’t let negative thoughts paralyse you. When running, focus on things around you. Look to the next road sign, the cars, the beautiful weather, the people around you, God’s creation, etc. Don’t focus on ‘how much longer’ or ‘I probably look like an idiot running so slowly’ or ‘Are my shorts riding up?’… When I’m running up a hill, I actually say prayers, (because I actually do want to pray but also) to distract my mind from wanting to give up!
5. I like having a goal because it also sets me off on having a plan.
Whether it is just getting round the block, enduring a certain time or doing an event like a 10km, I’ve found that it helps me have something to work towards and feel good about after. If not, it is easy to not push yourself or not even get out of the door.
6. Flexibility is your friend. (As wisely noted by famed philosopher B Staveley.)
Learn to walk if you are tired, to be okay if you skip a run you wanted to do, or to run at a different time than you planned, etc. If you aren’t meeting your goals (like in point 5 above), that’s okay. Move on, tomorrow is a new day. Or if you are setting goals that are too hard to reach, re-write them. Don’t focus on the idea of failing, but don’t be afraid of it either.
7. Be sensible
For example, listen to your body. If you have injury-like pain for example, in your knee or heel or ankle, then stop and walk instead. See a professional to figure it out. Physical pain, like sharp pains are an obvious signal from your body that something could be wrong, do not ignore them. You want to be able to walk and run for life, so stopping for a few weeks or months is small in comparison to injuring yourself for years. I have a knee issue so I am careful to work on making it better or not running too much when it starts to hurt.
8. Motivation is always going to be an issue.
Fit or not, fast or slow, running (and exercise in general) needs motivation. It is always going to be too hot or too cold, too late or too early, and we’re too busy or too tired. Even ‘hardcore types’ struggle with this somedays. Find out what makes you tick.For some, a running goal is good enough, for others, they find running with someone else makes it so much better. What else might motivate you? Or conversely, examine what you might be afraid of. For me, when I started, I was self-conscious and nervous that people will stare at me and this became a deterrent or excuse. So, I liked running in the right outfit, sounds geeky but at least it made me ‘fit in’ and look like a runner! (A bit of ‘fake it ’til you make it’.)
9. It is always good to have VARIETY and REST.
Change things up in terms of where you run, if you are running longer, do some shorter runs but maybe make them faster, etc. Cross-train or do something else. Go for a swim, a walk, a fitness class, do weights, park further away at the mall and carry your shopping to the car, etc. This just helps you use other muscles that you may not use much during running, which are indirectly helpful for running, or general fitness. Running resources also always advise you to have days off to rest.
For me, sometimes ‘not running’ makes me guilty (which I personally feel can become unhealthy over time) so in doing something else, it is still moderately active but forces my mind to learn that I will not suddenly gain 5 kgs if I do not run that morning. I don’t think obsession is always bad, it just needs extra attention to be kept in check. At times, I have intentionally had a day or days off, or spaced out my running days, so that the running schedule does not rule my life and it reminds me to keep my motives in check.
Evaluate it from time to time. Like other things in life, it is good to ask yourself how it is going, is it having a positive or negative impact, and why we are doing what we do.
For me, like I touched on in the above, point 9, my motives or intentions for running can start off as good and healthy, like to keep up a level of fitness and be challenged physically, but as time goes on it can start to veer off to just wanting to impress others to think that I’m a dedicated runner or gets tangled up in weight and eating issues, etc. So it is helpful for me to take a step back and evaluate.
So that’s me, I know it was quite a broad overview, but I think these points can be applied to other areas of life, not just running. For more specific running advice, feel free to ask me, or there are tons of resources out there on the web. I hope it was insightful and helpful.
Meawhile, writing this post just took over my running slot for this morning. Oh well. I’m a bit tired anyway. (haha.)
Sarah – Fit 4 Life Staff