Happy 2015! Many of us woke up today ready to take on new resolutions. I personally did not set a resolution but for the past 2 weeks I have admittedly had some pretty terrible eating habits that included dessert with every meal (yes, even breakfast). Every night I claim that tomorrow will be the day I kick this holiday eating funk and since it is a new year I figure now is the time to finally stick to my word!
In the spirit of the New Year many of us opt to ditch bad habits or take on new healthy goals. Thus why the gym is a mad house in January! For many of us, getting in shape is often a major goal at the beginning of the year and running is a wonderful way to reset your body. However, the thought of running can send many of us racing back to the couch or away from the gym. But I am here to share with you some simple ways to get into the running habit.
First of all it is important to remember that nobody picked up their first pair of running shoes and just went out for 3 easy miles. Don’t worry! You have to ease into it. One day of running did not an athlete make! Start nice and slow. Pick an achievable goal. Start at the end of your driveway and run to the first light pole, stop sign, or other landmark. Give yourself a pat on the back. You just went for a run.
Start nice and slow and build up in increments. Once you make it to your first landmark allow yourself to walk. Tomorrow pick somewhere a little further and push yourself to get there. Once you make it to your new goal, go ahead and walk. Slowly build up over time and before you know it you will be running a mile or two or even three!
There is nothing wrong with walking. I repeat: There is nothing wrong with walking. In fact, over the years I have coached many runners who successfully used run/walk programs to finish half and full marathons. There is no rule that says you must run constantly. Pick a time increment. Start with 2 minutes of running and 3 minutes of walking. Over time you can spread those increments out and, if you wish, end up running without walk breaks. But always remember that it is okay to walk.
Accept that you are going to get winded and uncomfortable. Even the most accomplished runner gets winded. Any time you do an aerobic activity your body briefly goes into an anaerobic phase in the first few minutes. That means you are going to feel like your lungs need a break. Give it a few minutes, let your body settle in, and it will go away. But you must also recognize that with any new activity you do and by pushing yourself to a new level, discomfort is inevitable. Relax, breath in and out, and it will go away.
Be your best friend/running coach. When things get rough I talk to myself. Sounds a little Sybil? Seriously, it works! As you struggle with your running it is important to talk to yourself and say the greatest of things. “Good job.” “You are really improving.” “I can’t believe I just did 3 miles.” ” I am amazing!” You will be surprised how much this can lift your spirits and push you forward.
During the Chicago Marathon last year I came across one of my own athletes struggling at mile 18. When she saw me her eyes lit up and she said, “Coach thank goodness. I need your help. I hit a wall.” I chatted with her for a mile and told her that I couldn’t run the rest of the race with her but that she could help herself get to that finish. I told her to be her own best friend and talk to herself like I would. Cheer yourself on. Urge yourself to keep moving forward. It makes a world of difference.
Below are a few hints to help you get started:
Go to a running store and ask an expert to help you find the proper footwear. Getting yourself in the right shoes will help you start off on the right foot (pun intended). Don’t set yourself up for disaster, or an injury, by wearing gear that isn’t appropriate for the sport or your body.
Listen to some music. Throw some headphones on and listen to some good music. It helps you keep a pace and distracts you too. Music can help turn your focus away from how difficult you perceive the activity to be. By changing the focus you might find this to be much easier!
Join a group. There are a ton of running groups all over the place and I think you would be most surprised to see who joins these groups. Most people are hesitant to join because they are concerned that they are “slow.” But more often than not, these groups are full of newbies looking for the same thing you are. We runners are a friendly bunch and when we chose to run as a group we are looking to do just that. No one attends to race. We want some company! Any good running group will divvy its runners up based on pace and have leaders to help you find the right fit.
See out a charity. I am of course biased because I coach for Team Momentum but from my experience charity running is a perfect fit for new runners. You will find lots of other new athletes looking to get some help while fundraising for a great cause. Most charities offer coaching, training plans, group runs and great gear. I for one would be happy to tell you about our program. We have both local and virtual training and offer great run/walk and first time running programs!
Find a great read. One of my favorite running books is “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. Many people take away different lessons from this book, such as topics on ultra running and barefoot running. But I personally believe the title sums this read up perfectly. We are all born to run. I didn’t say we are all born to run marathons or to break a six minute mile. However, by nature we are all born to run. With a little patience you can find yourself out on the track, a treadmill, or a trail enjoying your miles.