BOARD OF CONTRIBUTORS: Once you start running, you won’t want to stop
For me, exercise has always been a means to an end.
Pre-kids, my husband and I were very active. We lived in Boston and didn’t own a car, so we walked, inline skated or rode our bikes. After marriage and a move to New Hampshire, kids, work and life got in the way, and I just haven’t made exercise a priority.
My kids signed up for karate, and Bodyworks offered a kickboxing class opposite their classes. I was there anyway, so I could either be active or lazy. I opted for active.
At first, it was brutal: I could barely manage 10 sit-ups, but I kept showing up and I got better. Unfortunately, the class was discontinued. When exercise stopped being easy to schedule, I stopped. And I definitely felt it.
I never thought I’d be a runner. I’ve always really hated running, and the way some people talk about the benefits made it seem almost cultish.
I’d walk anywhere, but running – ugh. No. Just. No.
Famous last words.
This spring, I joined the cult. My friend Cammy and I worked our way through the “Couch to 5K” app. C25K is a program designed to do exactly as it says: It gets you off the couch and gradually builds your endurance by alternating walking with jogging until you can run 5 kilometers (roughly 3.1 miles).
It was awful. I ached. I struggled for breath, and I felt like I was moving through molasses. Neighbors would see us out and congratulate us, and I’d laugh and tell them I was slogging.
The only positive was Cammy’s company. Around week five, we stalled. She got sick and life chaos overtook us. But we got back to it and repeated the same work out – a 5-minute warm-up (brisk walk), an 8-minute run, 5-minute walk followed by one more 8-minute run and a 5-minute cool down. Eventually, we got ourselves back on track.
The next hurdle was a 20-minute run. Ugh. It felt big and looming. Our last 8/8 run felt awful. I was out of breath and miserable. I was begging Cammy to switch to cycling. The weird part was, as much as I hated life while I was actually running, I really looked forward to it.
We ran the 20-minute run sort of on the spur of the moment. We’d planned one more 8/8 but decided at the last minute to just go for the 20. We gave ourselves permission to slow to a 2-minute brisk walk at the 10 minute mark, but when 10 minutes popped up, we felt okay, so we kept going. Then we had 6 minutes left, and hell, we’d run for 8 before, so we could handle 6.
Then it was 3 and oh my God this sucked, but dammit we were so close we weren’t quitting now.
Not gonna lie. I counted to 10 at least 12 times in the last minute, but we did it. We ran for 20 minutes. I was out of breath and beyond red in the face, but we did it.
At that moment, I felt like I’d crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon. We whooped and high-fived and WOW that felt good.
Running for 20 minutes was a huge psychological threshold. A day and a half later, we ran again and the program had us do three 8-minute runs with short brisk walks in between. The third 8 minutes sucked, but it was easier to chase the “you can’t do this” voices away by reminding myself, “It’s only 8 minutes, you’ve run for 20. You’ve got this.”
These days I can run for 25-30 minutes. The end still sucks, and sometimes it is still miserable, but when it’s done, it’s awesome. The high is real, as is the sense of accomplishment.
I’m a little lighter, and I definitely feel better. I actually feel compelled to run, and it’s moving up on my priority list. I do find I’m affected by the weather. I. Do. Not. Like. Heat.
In daily life, I’m grumpy over 85 degrees. When it comes to running, 70 is hot as hell and don’t even talk to me about humidity.
If you are going to run, start slow. There are a number of great apps out there for your smart phone. I highly recommend using one of them; they help you stay safe and motivated.
Speaking of motivation, if you can, run with a partner. We always want better for others than we do for ourselves.
Knowing that you might be letting someone else down is good motivation to get out there and tie your laces. It’s also nice to have someone to share the successes with and push you through the struggles.
Without Cammy by my side, there is no doubt in my mind I would have quit.
I also recommend music. I’m currently working toward running a 12-minute mile. I Googled “12 minute mile playlist” and found several sites that offered song suggestions and then constructed my own playlist to meet my tastes.
One last recommendation: Find a running mentor, in person or online. Someone who is ahead of where you are. I follow Jenna Hatfield (@Firemom) over at stopdropandblog.com.
A little more than two years ago, she was practically immobile and diagnosed with a chronic back condition. This spring, she ran the Pittsburgh Marathon. I don’t have the time or desire to train for a marathon, but like me, Jenna is a writer and a work-at-home mom juggling multiple priorities. She struggles to fit runs in between editing jobs, baseball practices and laundry.
She shares her experiences running (both good and bad), and she’s even fielded a few of my questions along the way. In general, the running community is very helpful and encouraging, so find someone to watch and from whom you can learn.
Unfortunately, Cammy had a major schedule change, so most of my recent runs have been solo. I’m so grateful to her for seeing me through the beginning of the process and look forward to getting some weekend runs in come fall.
When you start running, you’ll probably hate it. From my experience, most people do. It will be easy to quit and say “running’s not for me.” Been there, done that. Don’t quit. Listen to your body, but push yourself. Stick it out, and you’ll be amazed at what you can do.
Running is 10 percent physical effort and 90 percent mental fortitude.
(Lee Laughlin of Loudon is a freelance writer, social media marketer, wife and mother of two.)