I’ve heard variations of these statements many times when running comes up in a conversation. I try to respond in a convincing way that anyone can be a runner, because running has been such a life-changing sport for me. When given the opportunity (which is rare because many non-runners are vehemently anti-running and don’t want to talk about it), I share these five insights:
#1 Be Patient
The first mile is terrible. Whether you’re a runner or a non-runner, that first mile feels kind of awful. You’re stiff because you’re not warmed up, and each step feels like a struggle. I think most non-runners have never gotten past that first mile and to the point (in later miles) when running starts to feel good. Because I know this now, I just anticipate 10 minutes of not feeling great, knowing that the good stuff comes later.
#2 Go Your Own Speed
If you want to start running, ease your way into it. Try walking for 3 minutes then running for 1 minute, for a total of 15-20 minutes. Then, add another minute of running the following week and keep adding more running into the walk/run mix until you’re running the whole time. If you go out and make yourself tired and sore on day 1, day 2 is less likely to happen. It’s so much better to get out consistently for a short, easy walk/run than to wreck your legs and your spirit on the first day.
Once you’ve gotten started on your run-walk plan, sign up for a local race. I find it super motivating to have something I’m training for. Start with a 5K (3.1 miles) and make that your first race goal. Even better, find a friend who wants to train and run the race with you. There are tons of great training plans available online, and it’s helpful to have a plan that tells you how far to run each day. There are some great “couch to 5K” training plans you can follow. Having a plan makes your daily distance one thing you won’t have to make a decision about.
We’ve all heard about the importance of living in the moment and being aware of our current experience. I find it easiest to be mindful when I’m running. I usually listen to some great music (changing my playlist every few months to mix things up), and I prefer to run on a local trail where I don’t have to cross too many streets. I can feel the cool air and smell the scents, and smile and wave at fellow walkers, runners, and cyclists. My run is often one of my “highs” of the day; for sure, it gives me a high.
#5 Make it a Family Sport
So much of our time as families seems to be focused on watching one family member do their sport while the rest of us spectate. Running is great exercise that the whole family can participate in together. While we’ve had some groans (including mine) on early Saturday mornings as we head out for a local 5K, we are always happy during and after the event, celebrating at the bagel shop together and reminiscing about the race. We’ve gathered friends and co-workers to join us and have made running a fun social event. Many of our happy memories revolve around races and trips to out-of-town races.
Why do I Encourage Others to Run?
I feel so much better on a day that I run than when I don’t. Counter-intuitively, I have more energy on a day when I’ve gone for a run than when I don’t get any exercise. And I can really think through things and clear my brain while my feet are pounding the pavement. I get lots of ideas about things I’d like to do, conversations I need to have, and articles I want to research and write. I like to exercise other ways, too—like taking a class at the gym or going hiking—but running is simply the easiest and fastest for me. I can go for a run any time I have even 20 minutes, so I can fit it in to my already-full life. And, of course, the mental health benefits of exercise are well known – Yay endorphins! The running shirts that say, “Running is cheaper than therapy” are no lie!
My own running history started at age 13 with distance events on my 8th-grade track team (will an event called the 1380 date me?). I’ve run off and on ever since, but I got a lot more into it 10 years ago, when my husband shoved me out the door to a local 5K. In the past decade, I’ve racked up countless 5Ks, 10Ks, and even a few marathons (26.2 miles for those of you who don’t run), including two Boston Marathons. My favorite distance is the half marathon (13.1), and I think I’ll end up running five of them this year. So I’m hooked on this running thing.
If you’re a non-runner who read this, thank you for letting me try to convince you! If you’re inspired to lace up and give running a try, let me know. I’d love to hear how it goes!
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35 Amazing Health Benefits of Running, According to Science
Couch to 5K: For new runners, a great ease-your-way-in training plan.
Running in the USA: Look up races by location, date, and distance!
Runner’s World : Great resource for training plans and everything running-related.
Hal Higdon’s Novice 5K Training Plan
Sunshine’s “Run” Board on Pinterest