I started to write this post last week, but I got too wordy, so I decided to split it up. I’ve come a long way in my journey to becoming a runner, and I want to share some of the things I’ve learned along the way. I’m hoping this will help someone else out there, who wants to push themselves, but isn’t sure they can.
First, start small. If you are not a runner, don’t try to do too much too fast, or you’ll quit. A lot of people like the Couch to 5K training program, which is an 8 week program to get you running a 5K. I needed something more like, “The lazier than the Couch to 5K program” LOL So, I started out with a program called “3 Weeks to a 30 Minute Running Habit”. It starts off slow, running only 1 minute at a time. When I did, I committed to myself to finish the program. I decided I could do 3 weeks of anything.
Second, be flexible. As I got going on the program, I found that even IT was difficult, (especially the jump from 2 minutes of running to 3 minutes of running at a time), and I took a couple of extra weeks to complete it. If I got to the end of a week, or training session and it was just plain too hard, I redid the week or training session until I felt comfortable moving to the next level. This training program ends at the point where you’re running 5 minutes and walking 1 minute for multiple sets. At the beginning of the program I had NO idea how long it would take me to get there, but I determined I would.
Third, set a goal and stick to it. But when you set the goal, BE SURE IT IS REALISTIC. I set the goal to complete that training program. I didn’t care if it took more than 3 weeks, and I didn’t even care if I never ran again afterwards, but I set the goal to complete it. It took me about 5 weeks to complete it, but I did.
Fourth, don’t be afraid to push yourself. Pushing yourself too hard and not pushing yourself enough are very difficult to balance. That’s why I like using training programs. It’s more of a controlled setting. But, even they need to be altered occasionally to fit your body. When the training program I was on went from running 2 minutes at a time to 3 minutes I really had a hard time. I even took a week and ran 3 minutes and walked THREE instead of 1 in between to build up my endurance a little more. That jump in time, for some reason, was very difficult for me. I learned some things about myself pushing through it, though, and I can’t even tell you how it helped my self esteem to do it!
Fifth, rest when you’re supposed to. It’s so easy to get going and not rest, or not rest as much as you’re supposed to. This leads to injuries. When I started out I started getting shin splints. I had a couple of options at this point. I could just quit, or figure out how to keep going. I ended up taking almost a full week off of training to try to help them to heal up. I’m NO stranger to shin splints, I had them real bad in the Army too. While I was resting I decided to REALLY focus on running. I started reading about running, reading several blogs, and articles. I spent time pouring over alternative training programs, and I read about shin splints. I also have “exercise induced asthma”, which has always made it difficult for me to run, and been a major reason I never have. I started reading about that too. Guess what I found???? The best thing to do for “exercise induced asthma” is to EXERCISE. Doesn’t make sense, because it aggravates it, but after a while it actually works itself out! WHO KNEW???? So, that excuse is gone (and I can attest to it working itself out, too--- I’m not even using an inhaler anymore). I read that taking a bath in Epsom Salt after a hard workout will help with shin splints and other muscle pain. Guess what? IT REALLY WORKS!!! Since I rested and let my shin splints heal enough to start going again I take a bath in Epsom Salt after just about every run, and I’ve not had any pain since. Something so simple is the solution that I needed to push on.
My final piece of advice is this. Don’t underestimate what you’re doing for yourself. If you go out and walk for 30 minutes and you haven’t done that in a while, you are doing a huge thing for your body. Own it. Don’t look at the person who is running for 30 minutes and say, “I can barely walk for 30 minutes, I suck”. OWN that you got out and walked for 30 minutes! You never know, that person probably started just where you are. I did! I stared with a 20 minute walk. I was hot, I was tired, my feet hurt etc. Then I worked up to 30, then 40 minutes, and before I knew it I was walking 5 miles a day, and then 10 on Fridays. My first 10 mile walk was a KILLER! Over time it got easier (never easy, but easier). My first time running for 1 minute and walking for 1 minute 10 times I thought I was GOING TO DIE. Seriously. I was dizzy, tired, sick to my stomach, sore etc. From running 1 minute at a time. I could have said to myself, “see, this is why I don’t run”. But I said to myself, “I committed and I’m not going to stop”. The next time I ran 1 minute and walked 1 minute 10 times it was a *little* easier. I almost thought I could do 2 minutes LOL Then I ran 2 minutes at a time, then I hit another wall at 3 minutes, I needed more than 1 minute to rest and let my heart rate come down before running 3 minutes again. I couldn’t do 8 sets, only 5, then did 6, then moved back to run 3, walk 1, and just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Yesterday I ran 3 sets of 12 minutes of running and 1 minute of walking. And you know what? I almost believe I can run a full 5K. But I didn’t start out running for an hour. I’ve walked several 5K’s now, and I’ve walked and run a couple. It’s been a process. At any point I could stop because I didn’t think what I was doing was good enough. I think that’s how a lot of people stop. They get discouraged because they’re not “there” yet.
When I was at the 3 minute level and struggling so much I learned something about myself that motivated me to keep going. I came to a place of understanding at that point that I didn’t like running. I didn’t like it all while I was running. While I’m running I’m sore, tired, hot, out of breath etc. BUT, I love the feeling afterwards. The feeling that I can conquer the world because I pushed myself and DID IT! I LOVE THAT FEELING, and I RUN FOR THAT. Find something to run for and GO!