Although I’ve been running for all my memorable life, I certainly haven’t always considered myself a “runner.”
I’ve been a sprinter, a hurdler and a jogger. But, in my mind, being a “runner” required more speed, more endurance and more determination than I had.
I didn’t used to think this was a big deal. I was able to shine during track season and then pass cross-country season off as training. That way, no one was going to get too upset if I decided to walk up a particularly steep hill or stop to catch a breath.
In the back of my mind, I knew I could do better. I knew I could run farther. I knew I could run faster. I knew I could do it — Yet I still couldn’t make my body believe the same thing.
One day, sometime before sophomore year of college, I decided to change all this; I decided to teach my body how to really run.
Now, a year and a half, a few 5Ks, two 10Ks and one half-marathon later, I can proudly say that, yes, I am a runner.
1. Start small and don’t get discouraged. This is my #1 tip for a reason — You have to start somewhere! My problem used to be that I wanted to run more, so when I couldn’t automatically do it, I would get frustrated.
When I decided to take running seriously, I told myself that it wasn’t going to come easily right off the bat. In fact, for the first week, I could only run three minutes without stopping. Then, I would walk for a few minutes and start back up again. By the next week, I could run five minutes without stopping… This progress continued until I could do a full workout without stopping.
As a basic rule, aim for adding 10 percent more distance to your long runs. Of course, however, this is more about how your body feels than getting preoccupied with a rule. For example, if you do one mile, you can probably do more than 1.1 miles the next week — Just don’t try to do six!
2. Find a running buddy — Or don’t. I’m sure that sounds thoroughly confusing, but the thing is this: Some people are better to run with than others. If you find a person with whom you feel comfortable running with, then this can be a very useful thing. You guys can help motivate each other, keep each other on track and help each other pass the time during long runs.
One of my best friends and I joke about how we are each others’ running match. We always fall into a comfortable pace and spend the runs chatting (or not, depending on how fast we are going). This is also nice because we are able to relate to each others’ pain!
However, there are other people with whom I am simply not as comfortable running with. This may be because of pace, distance or whatever. Just know there’s nothing wrong with this either!
3. Cross train! I’ve definitely learned the importance of this throughout time. When I first decided to become a runner, that was all I focused my attention on. It was as if other forms of exercise just didn’t exist.
Now I rarely do simple running workouts two days in a row. Instead, I alternate with bicycling, ellipticalling, strength training and circuit training.
Not only does this keep me from getting bored, but it’s how my body works best — I’m toned and strong all over!
4. Also know the importance of rest days. Taking a full day of rest used to really unnerve me. It was as if I thought I would lose all my conditioning within the course of a day! Reality is actually contrary to this, because by allowing my body to rest, I am able to work harder, longer and with more strength.
I must admit that throughout the week I am kind of impatient with stretching — I do a little, but then get distracted. Although it would be best to have a good stretch session after each workout, I really take advantage of my rest day by doing some good, slow stretches.
5. Set a goal. When I first began running, my goal was to run 20 minutes without stopping. When I achieved this, I then turned my sights to running a 5K without stopping. And so on and so on.
Nonetheless, it was still a big jump for me to sign up for a half-marathon. Unlike my other races, I really had to stay dedicated to a training schedule so that I could make it through the race. This was fun and challenging for me; there were definitely days that I questioned why I was doing it. Ultimately, it all paid off and I felt such a sense of accomplishment.
Now I’m training for another half-marathon!
My experiences will most definitely be different from the experiences of others — That’s why it is most important to just get out there, push yourself and see what your body can really do!
Questions: Do you consider yourself a “runner”? What’s the biggest physical feat you ever set out to accomplish?