There you are, in the office break room talking casually with your co-workers. One of them brings up her training for an upcoming running event. “Geez, you think. I wish I could run. Wouldn’t my boss be proud of me? Maybe that cute guy in accounting will be impressed! I’ve always wanted to try out those short-shorts!”
It’s decided. You’re going to be a runner.
There are plenty of cliché tips on how to start running. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s not starting that’s the problem. It’s the “keeping going”.
I have been running for almost 20 years. I’ve run marathons, half-marathons, 10Ks and the like. Yet, I still find it a challenge to stay in a “runner’s state of mind”.
Maybe this is why people new to the sport of running get discouraged. You look at that seasoned runner, out there on the sidewalk, gliding along like a gazelle and think of how easy it must be for that person to run. “Well, they’re a runner. Of course it’s easy for them.”
Running is hard. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Getting in shape is a lot harder than getting out of shape. Sounds obvious, but it’s true. And, in this instant-gratification-there’s-an-app-for-that society, getting the fit just takes a whole lot longer than it appears in the movies.
You know the scene. Movie star picks an admirable, plot enriching task. Win the boxing match, start a fight club, get sexy. Then, during a 3 minute musical montage (insert Rocky Theme here), said star “sweats it out” in various scenes -running, doing sit ups, boxing, whatever. And bam – the star is transformed. Our hero prevails and we learn that hard work pays off after all. He gets the girl, she gets the guy, and the endearing old coach that “always believed in you” sheds a proud tear just before the credits roll.
Of course it’s not that easy. For anyone. So, to start (and keep running), consider these mental must-haves:
- A GOAL. I caution against setting goals that focus on your physical appearance. Transformation takes time, and let’s face it, waiting is not easy. Set a simple goal. Commit to run a certain number of times per week, join a running club, sign up for a race, or just move for 10 minutes without stopping. It doesn’t matter, other than it should be an attainable, meaningful goal for YOU. Worry about those skinny jeans later.
- A PLAN. Running is not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-spandex pants sort of sport. Do some research, hop on the internet, talk with your friends, read a book. There are all sorts of plans out there, and no doubt one that works for you.
- A ROUTINE. Sound like the same thing as a plan? Not so. You know that old saying… “The best laid plans...” I forget the rest, but I know that having a plan in hand is not the same as execution of the plan. When does running fit into your life? What time of day? With whom? Make running so much of your routine it’s like brushing your teeth. (And yes, I’m assuming you brush your teeth at least once a day.)
- A SUPPORT SYSTEM. If there’s one person that is good at finding reasons not to run, it’s you. So, hold yourself accountable. Make plans to run with a friend. Or, if your friend isn’t a runner, make plans to run to her house, drink her coffee and get a ride home. Join a running club. Use an app on your phone to connect with others.
- A HEALTHY DOSE OF SELF-FORGIVENESS. This is real life. We aren’t perfect and sometimes things come up that interfere with running. Be flexible. Can’t make run club one night? Make a date with a friend to run another day. Too rigid a plan is a recipe for giving up when daily life sets your schedule on a different track.