It’s Saturday morning and I just finished an intense 5K. No personal best, but I showed up to run. And I did it before most people were even awake. If you know me well, you would have thought it was absurd only a couple years ago.
Running and I have had a very interesting relationship my entire life. Naturally, growing up playing basketball competitively, I was a sprinter – 94 feet would be all I ever needed to run in a hurry. Running any sort of long distances was usually a punishment within another sport. Although I very much enjoyed sprinting in track in field, I typically stayed in the 200-400 meter sprint range.
Fast forward quite a bit and you would be surprised by the number of times I get asked, “how do I start running?” My knee-jerk reaction is just to give a dumbfounded look and say, “What?! Just start running.” But to be completely honest that doesn’t help anyone and I know it didn’t help me either. There are a lot of people out there that are interested in getting started with running or maybe looking to start running again that are struggling with where to start, what to do, or how to approach it.
I used running as a bit of motivation to get into shape when I signed up for my first marathon back in 2013. I didn’t do well. I did learn quite a bit in that process, but I didn’t build any real habits around running.
In fact it wasn’t until summer of 2014 that I decided to really focus on incorporating running into my exercise routine. Chances are I will never win a longer race, or even be the front of pack for any sort of long distance, but through consistently showing up and making it a habit, it’s getting easy and a lot more fun.
So, how do you start running? You make it a habit. Here are some of the things I focused on doing (and not doing) in order to build running into my routine and make it work for me.
1. I focused on getting out the door, not how far I was going to go.
I remember always feeling the need to run a certain (minimum) distance. Usually this was the 5K mark since most long distance runs start at this length. This was a huge hurdle for me ever to get started and get out the door. I had no idea how long a 5K would take me or even if I would be able to finish it all.
All this unknown always stopped me from even putting on my sneakers. So instead of worrying how far or how fast I would go I only focused on putting on my sneakers and getting out the door. Only then would I make the decision on how far depending on how my body felt at the time.
Try this next time you’re debating on a run – in fact, give yourself permission to do it. Instead of letting the thought go to how far or how fast you need to run, just focus on putting on your sneakers.
2. I don’t set a number of required days a week that I need to run.
People would rather think about running three times a week than actually running once. It’s crazy. “Well what good would that do me?” is something that I recently heard when someone was asked why they don’t just get out once a week when they could.
Most weeks I only fit in one run into my fitness mix. I aim for somewhere between 5K and 10k and usually strive for around a 5M 30S pace per KM. It normally happens some point over the weekend – usually either early morning Saturday / Sunday, or in the evening Friday / Saturday. If I get out during the week, great, but I don’t beat myself up if I choose to do something else instead, or am just too busy to get out.
Many people feel as though there’s no benefit to their health if they can’t get out multiple times per week. They’re wrong. Sure, if you want to train for a marathon then you will need to devote more time towards running but if you’re just looking to get started with running, then once a week is a great start – and way more than most people. I’d rather consistently show up and run once a week than sporadically run three.
3. I didn’t give myself time to talk myself out of it.
You’ll find every reason to not go running if you let yourself. I know I have. As soon as I think that I should go for a run or have a feeling or urge to do so I just go put my sneakers on. I make sure I always have clean running clothes and that my sneakers are close so that I can just get out there before I have time to talk myself out of it.
The first two points help me with this a lot. Not worrying about when or how long or how far I run helps me just go. But I also try to focus on how great I know I will feel afterwards. I encourage you to keep a little running diary if you don’t already – I just use the standard notepad app on my phone. Just jot down how your run went, if anything was bothering you, what felt good, and how awesome you felt after you were finished.
Reflect on this as time goes on and you’ll notice how great you feel after every run. Not only that but you’ll see how much better things get as you keep going. Once you know how great you will feel it will make it easier for you to just get out there once you think about it.
4. Walking some is okay.
Get over your ego. Walk if you have to. This was a struggle for me. I’m stubborn and overly competitive when it comes to sports so it was a real challenge to slow down a lot, and even walk if I needed it. But do you know what happened when I let myself? I got faster. Want to know why? Because I ran more.
I always start my runs slower than I finish them. Whenever I got out the door and got started I always started with as slow of a run as possible – well within a pace in which I could have a conversation with someone beside me. Granted since I run alone my test would be whether or not I could talk to myself without being too winded at the same time. This was the pace that I felt great starting a run with and usually stayed there for the first few minutes if not longer before making a decision to set my pace at something else.
Surprisingly I still use this during a race. It might cost me a bit of time but I find it puts me in a good place when I get started and ensures that I never get out of the gate too quickly and burn myself out right away. Once I decide what I want to run at I’ll adjust my pace from there.
5. Technology is a nice-to-have (well, sometimes) but certainly not a necessity.
“I didn’t go running because my RunKeeper wasn’t working.” Really? You only go for a run when you can publicly broadcast the fact that you did on Facebook?
For me, the only reasons I bring technology with me on a run is if I’m training for something longer than a 10K, or if I want to confirm and align my pace with how my body is feeling.
The main reason I do this is because I find technology is a huge barrier to actually getting out and running. Finding the right phone sleeve, ear buds that fit and will stay in my ears, making sure I choose the right play list, wait do I even want a play list?, and making sure the GPS stays active the whole time seems like a lot to think about when all I want to do is get out for some fresh air, a brisk run, and some fun.
Now I should mentioned that if I had a running watch (Garmin, if you’re reading this feel free to send me one to test out, okay?) I would likely use it all the time because of it’s sheer convenience to have on during the run. But if I didn’t have it I wouldn’t let that stop me from going out.
The data you get from technology while out for a run can be really beneficial if you’re competitively training for something. But what I find about most tech – especially bringing out an iPhone – is that it’s more hassle than it’s worth and another barrier to getting started in the first place.
6. Don’t rely on technology for pace. Learn how your body feels
To extend the previous point as another reason I think it’s good to run without technology often is so that you can really focus on and learn how your body feels while you run.
I find this particularly helpful for when you’re just getting started with running. Learning how your body feels and listening to that will help make your runs more enjoyable. You’ll slow down when you’re pushing yourself too hard, you’ll speed up when you know you can be handling more, and you’ll react better to potential injury.
I’m pretty good now at knowing what pace I’m running at while I’m in the moment – which is another added bonus to running without technology often. My breathing, ability to speak, amount of sweat, and heart rate all play into this equation for me – things that I wouldn’t have paid attention to necessarily if I was deep into the newest sound track and listening to my phone tell me exactly how fast or slow I was going.
Your body is capable of telling you some amazing things that technology might overlook.
There are a lot of people that are looking to get started with running. It’s a great activity to incorporate within a healthy lifestyle and I really enjoy my time spent out on the road. It helps me refocus and bring my attention to what matters while at the same time allowing me to clear my mind and relax a little.
I hope you can copy some of the things I focused on when I was learning how to get started with all of this. I would also love to hear what has worked for you when it comes to running, staying with it, or getting started? Leave a comment below – I’d love to hear from you.