Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How I Started Running (By Someone Who Couldn't Run)

"I can't believe you run," a family member recently said to me.

I smiled back at her. "I can't either," I said.

I was never a runner. I can still remember deciding that I needed to be involved in sports in middle school-- this from one of the most uncoordinated, unathletic people you've ever met. I decided that perhaps running would require the least ability. It didn't require hand-eye coordination like soccer or softball so maybe I had a chance. I circled the tryout day on my calendar and devised a training scheme. That afternoon I attempted to run from my house to the fire station that was near my house. It was, at most, 1/3 of a mile away. A good start.

I made it half way and had to stop. My lungs burned, my legs ached. I went home with my head hung low. I would never be a runner, I decided. My short foray into "training" proved it.

What I didn't know then-- and because I never told anyone about this until, umm, just now-- was that that was only day one of training. I should've kept it up. I should've run just a bit further the next day, and so on until I was actually running distances. Perhaps I would've become a track team star. Instead I gave up and adopted the "I am not a runner" mentality that would follow me into my late 30's.

Fast forward to a few years ago when I decided that, no matter what, I was going to get in shape. I tossed aside all of the excuses I had used as a crutch up til then. All modes of exercise and training were fair game. Over time I circled back to running. It was cheap, it was accessible and it didn't require me driving to a gym. My kids had gotten old enough to watch themselves long enough for me to run around the neighborhood (to this day my route still takes me back by my house several times that they can get me if they need me). So I got a good pair of running shoes and set out, full of hope and promise.

I ran about as far as I did that fateful day in middle school. My legs burned and my lungs ached. I was not, I remembered, a runner. Who was I kidding?

The difference is that this time, I didn't go home a quitter. I went back out the next day and the next and the next. Each time I pushed myself to run just a little bit further than I had before. I still built in walking times, but they just got pushed further and further apart.

Today to miss a run is a huge disappointment to me. I have been known to run in crazy heat, in rain, and in the midst of really busy days just to get it in. I was talking to a guy this summer who told me that the reason why he runs is so he can eat. I slapped him high five on that one. That's pretty much why I do it. Plus I like the health benefits. And I also like the feeling-- I won't lie-- of strapping on my headphones and literally running away from home with the support and permission of my family. It just feels good for a lot of reasons.

So if you are not a runner, but you've always wished you could be, don't throw your hands up and say it'll never happen. Make it happen by doing it every day, little by little. At first you'll walk more than you'll run. But gradually you'll see your endurance increase, your distance lengthen and your commitment to keep getting out there growing.

Here are a few tips I've arrived at from my experience:

  • Get good running shoes. Some fitness equipment type places have experts who will watch you run and advise you on the right shoe for your foot. These shoes are not cheap, but they are worth every penny.
  • Figure out a time you can go-- early morning, mid afternoon, evening. There are lots of options. Barter with your husband, an older child, or a friend or neighbor to let you go if you have small children who need watching. Husbands, I have found, are surprisingly supportive of this endeavor if they see you are serious about doing it.
  • Get an iPod or Mp3 player with a good set of earbuds or headphones to keep you company while you run. Stock it with your favorite music and treat yourself to a soundtrack of your favorite songs while you run. My husband likes to listen to podcasts while he runs. Another friend I know listens to books on tape. Whatever makes the time go faster. I, of course, prefer 80's music. My son recently told me that it's proven that people will run longer and faster if they have music going than if they don't.
  • Don't quit. Just because it gets hard doesn't mean you aren't meant to run, it just means you're going to have to do what I didn't do back in middle school-- keep getting out there in spite of the pain and resistance you are encountering. You will be so proud of yourself if you do!
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collettakay said...

I have never been a runner, but I want to be. I am in "training" and right now have upped my walking miles from 10/week to 15/week.

Eventually if I keep upping my miles, I'll have to run to squeeze it all in. Hopefully I'll be in better shape and more inclined to run.

I started "A Better Walk" blog to help me stay motivated with my exercise and daily First Place 4 Health devotion.

I'd love for you to stop by:

Thanks so much for the great tips!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the post. I have never been a runner either but have been training for a 5K for a month now with my oldest (10 year old) daugther. It has been so much harder for both of us then expected, but it has been more wonderful than I could have ever expected. I am not sure if I will ever be bitten by the "Running Bug" my running friends tell me about, but it has been a great way to connect with my daughter on a different level and have an accountability partner!!!!!

Momof5 said...

I love this post! It totally speaks to my heart. I really want to do this. Please pray for my aching lungs now! I love the part about the feeling you get when you run away from home. Hehe. Life with 5 kids here, so I can totally relate to the chaos of home. I love it though! Thanks for your words of encouragement today! God bless.

Terri said...

Thank you for this post! It is very encouraging. I am not active at all. I also have thought I could never be a runner. Our house backs up to a road where dozens and dozens of runners go by each day... as I sit here in my chair, on the computer or with my nose in a book!!!! I need to start moving... and I'm sure the Ipod would be a huge help. Thank you! Blessings!!

amandatdodson said...

I needed to read this today. Thanks for the encouragement!

Caroline said...

Great post. I'm thankful you included the importance of quality running shoes! While it's hard to pay that much money for shoes sometimes, you are right that it is incredibly worth it for your own health and support to keep going while running!

Ever since I got into running, I've loved the benefits of this endurance sport and felt I've learned so much from it. With an endurance activity like this, I feel you can learn so much about perseverance, dedication, will power, and finding out that you need encouragement (whether it comes from a friend or from God's voice cheering you on when you feel like you can't run another step)! Plus, it's great time to spend with family, or if you run alone, a great chance to enter into a constant conversation with God while you run!

Thank you for encouraging others in this sport.

Lisa said...

I 'became' a runner (quite reluctantly) about 2 years ago. I quickly caught the bug though, and got the good shoes, the Nike + for my ipod and was making great strides...until an IT band injury waylaid me. I'm now on my second round of PT for this stupid injury and haven't been able to run in what seems like forever. More like 6 months, but you know.
I miss it. Never thought I would, but I see people running and am actually jealous. I need to be more diligent about my PT so I can get back to it.
Thanks for the encouragement.

Melanie said...

I run for the LOVE of Andrew.

I enjoyed reading why you started and why you continue.

Melissa Milbourn said...

I read your blog while I was running.

Not really. I just thought that would sound good.

christa said...

Okay--you convinced me that even someone almost old enough to be your mom might be able to make it through a mile without an oxygen tank. I'll persevere.

Pam said...

Well, the running bug has bitten me for sure! I was also one of those who said, "I'm not cut out for running - it's not for me".

A milestone birthday this summer and a certain reality show were the motivating factors for this girl to get up and get movin'! I absolutely love it and I can hardly believe I'm typing that! A friend suggested and their Couch to 5K Running Program. It's a 9-week program that will have you running 3 miles in 2 months - woohoo! Just what I was looking for. I find myself on week 8 of the program running 2.75 miles, and this is a girl who couldn't run from her front door to the mailbox without her lungs screaming for air! It can be done and this 3-day-a-week program will get you there! My ipod is essential in helping me go those extra steps when my body is screaming for me to stop.

Oftentimes inspiration for my blog posts come while on my morning run. I love, love, love the way it makes me feel inside and out and the time going on those runs gives me with the Lord - well, that's priceless.

Can't wait for Wednesday - it's running day!

Elizabeth said...

I just started running about 4 weeks ago and absolutely love it! Like you, I am not athletic and didn't play sports. Last Friday, I hurt my foot (I think I aggravated an old ankle sprain by doing too much too fast), so I'm a little discouraged because I was just getting into a groove. Have you fought off injuries before with running? How did you cope with it? Thanks!

Kim said...

Funny that you posted this as I have just recently started running...tonight was my 5th run. It all started with the disappointment of me not following through with a dedicated exercise plan and having trouble getting these 15lbs off that I'd like to loose. A good friend of mine walks/runs on a treadmill daily and runs 5k's all the time...she looks UNBELIEVABLE. I got an invite in my email box for a 5k that's taking place on my 40th birthday for a ministry that we support ( I had surgery on my knee 3 years ago so I wasn't sure I'd be able to run but my husband had surgery in June and running is the only activity that they've ok'd him for. Needless to say I started running and on the 3rd time he joined me...we've been running together every's been fun and we are enjoying the one on one time we are spending together. We are looking forward to doing the 5k to celebrate!!!

mommyof2sons said...

I have never been a runner either. But recently did the Couch to 5k program. What a GREAT program.

Proud to say that I just did my first 5K last weekend!!!!!!

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