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!