I wish you could’ve heard me laughing when I “flexed” for that pic above!! :)
Okay, first thing’s first. I should really call this post “How to Become a Jogger” or “How to Become a Wogger” (walker/jogger – anyone?) ha! But that’s not very inspirational, is it? The truth is, if you’re looking for an article to help you get prepped for your marathon, this is not it. But if you’re sitting on the couch thinking about how your jeans keep getting tighter and wondering what to do about it, keep reading!
Also worth noting: I am the most unlikely person in the world to write a post about running, because I’ve never enjoyed it. My disdain for the sport started early! I was on the track team in middle school because my girlfriends did it, (is there any other reason to do anything when you’re in middle school?) and one day at practice got so tired of running that I ran around the track, through the school parking lot and into my Mom’s waiting car… and never looked back.
Until 6 years ago.
I was working a desk job and noticed that the more I sat on my butt, the wider it got. #truetalk One night I was telling Anderson that I thought my metabolism was slowing down, and he told me to simply “start running.” I looked at him like he was crazy and explained to him that I couldn’t run. Like it was physically impossible. He knew I didn’t like to sweat and only ran if a dog was chasing me, so it was really weird that he even suggested it. But Anderson is persistent and thinks anyone can do anything if they try hard enough, and he eventually wore me down.
Things started slow. Really slow. I was a hot mess. A large part of our neighborhood is an oval shape and at first I could only run the curves and walk the straights. And I complained the WHOLE TIME. My feet hurt, I couldn’t breathe, my sides hurt, my shins burned, and several times I was convinces that I was in the middle of a heart attack. After every run I would collapse onto the driveway and pray I didn’t die. I was pathetic. But Anderson pushed me and within a few months I was running regularly by myself.
It’s been 6 years, and I’m still running! And even though I wouldn’t really say I enjoy it, I do enjoy how it makes me feel – healthy, energetic, and tone. Sometimes if I’m in a funk or just tired and sluggish I make myself go for a run, and it completely transforms my mood. That alone is enough to keep my lacing up my shoes and taking a few laps around the neighborhood!
We’ve already established this, but if I can do it, anyone can! So I want to share a few tips to help you get started:
1. Just Start – I know. This is pretty lame advice. But for most of us, starting is the hardest part. You just have to stop listening to the voice in your head and get outside! Begin with a mix of fast walking and running. Channel your inner mall walker! If you’re anything like me, it will be a lot of walking and a little running. But don’t get discouraged! If you try to do too much too soon, you’ll be sore and frustrated. Gradually lengthen your running and shorten your walking until you are able to run the whole time. Also, be sure to stretch before and after your run. I know you don’t have time to stretch. It feels like it takes for-e-ver, but it really does keep you from feeling sore. Okay, you’re going to feel sore, but stretching helps a lot.
This is also a good time to try running at different times of day to figure out when you prefer to exercise. I like running or working out in the late afternoon or early evening. I’ve tried starting my day with a nice run (it sounds so invigorating!) but have found that no matter what I try, I hate morning runs.
Another helpful tip for starting out is to get yourself an Anderson. Get your own. You can’t have mine! Find a friend who is already a runner, or one who really wants to start. Make sure they’re serious about it though, you don’t need a chatty friend who will waste time with you, but someone who will push you until you daydream about poisoning them. :)
2. Set Some Goals and Have a Plan – A lot of new runners are motivated by signing up for a 5K race. It provides a specific goal on a specific date. Great motivator, right? If you think this might be helpful for you, download the Couch to 5K app. It’s been around forever and is a great program that times your runs and gets you on a training schedule. If you stick with it, at the end of the 9-week training, you’ll be ready to run a 5K! That’s huge! But if you’re more like me and aren’t motivated by competition, you might set different types of goals. Races aren’t the best motivators for me. But I do like distance goals or trying to increase the number of days I can run each week. For a long time I’ve run an average of 4 days a week, so this year I’m trying to do at least 5 per week. Another app you might like is Runkeeper. It helps track your running habits – distance, pace, etc.
3. Invest in the Right Tools – I don’t like spending a lot of money on working out. That’s one of the reasons I’ve never enjoyed the gym – there’s just something really unappealing to me about paying to do something I don’t particularly love! I also don’t spend a lot on workout clothes. When I started running, I basically wore my pjs (leggings and t-shirts). But at some point I realized that my look good=feel good philosophy applies to working out too. So I started buying running clothes at thrift stores. I’ve found lots of brand new Nike shorts and tanks and some lululemon pants for less that $5! Not bad, right?! There is one piece of gear I always spend money on though – good running shoes. They make a huge difference. And can mean the difference between feeling extremely light on my fight vs. feeling like my feet are made of lead. I really recommend that you don’t try to run in cheap shoes, or you might end up with blisters and sore feet. My favorite brand is Mizuno, and I get a new pair every year. Of course they change the models, so I never buy the same exact shoe. But I’ve been really happy with all the ones I’ve owned!
When I first started running alone, I enjoyed the silence. It helped me focus on my pace and breathing. But Anderson told me he thought I’d enjoy it so much more with music. And he was right (AGAIN.) He bought me an itty-bitty iPod shuffle and loaded it with a bunch of fast music. Listening to the music makes it so much easier for me to zone out and power through longer runs! If you use your phone or iPod for music, you might want to get some nicer earbuds. I’ve found that the more expensive ones stay in my ears better.
4. Be Consistent But Don’t obsess – Consistency is so important in exercise! I try not to miss more than a few days in a row, or it’s hard to get back at it. When I take longer breaks I find that I feel sluggish and weighed down when I start back. Anything more than 3 days is too long of a break for me. But you have to give yourself a little leeway too. Life happens! Some days you just can’t run, and that’s okay. If you obsess about working out it’s not as enjoyable. It will definitely become a habit, but if you find yourself freaking out about getting your run in, it’s probably an unhealthy obsession. Same thing with food/diet, but that’s a different article!
5. Mix it up – It gets hot here in Florida! But the heat isn’t the workout killer for me, it’s the humidity. During the summer it’s so humid that you can feel the dampness when you walk out of the house. I don’t like to run in that mess, because it’s really hard to breathe, and I almost always get a headache! I’ve found some indoor workouts for those days that I just can’t handle the heat. They are also a good fall-back for rainy days. (And really just for the purpose of mixing up your exercise routine.) Two of my favorite workout videos are Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred and T25. They’re both high intensity programs that last less than 30 minutes. Did I mention that I usually don’t run for longer than 30 minutes? That probably should have been up top with the disclaimer list! I start getting bored after about half an hour, so that’s why I love these shorts videos. If you’re not used to high-intensity, I suggest starting with the 30 Day Shred program before moving onto T25. And another great form of cardio that you might not think of is swimming! It’s so hard. But I like that you’re in the water the whole time, so it doesn’t feel as hot!
One bonus tip that I don’t want to focus on too much is diet. Here’s the thing: it’s really important to eat clean and drink a ton of water (around half your body weight per day). Eating right makes working out easier. There’s just no way around it. BUT. I think it’s also important to not be overwhelmed when you’re starting out on a workout program. And in my mind adding a diet while starting to work out can be totally overwhelming. So maybe just make a couple of small changes to the way you eat at first. Switch out soda for water. Then as you get more comfortable working out, you can gradually change your diet too.
So what do you think? Are you convinced that if I can run, you can too?! I know some of my workout guru friends are probably reading this, and I would love to hear your suggestions/pointers too. I’m obviously not a diet or exercise pro! These are just tips that have helped me over the years.
Do you have a favorite running app or a great playlist you’d like to share? Please do!