Maybe “hate” is a strong word, but running has never really been my thing. (Unless of course you count the years I spent unsuccessfully trying to run myself skinny, that is.) I’m a yoga instructor and a powerlifter. I find much more satisfaction in hitting a new bench PR (145lbs yesterday, thank you very much) than I do spending long periods of time running for no apparent reason other than I “should” for my “health” and “cardiovascular system” or what have you.
I’m kidding… Obviously I was aware of the many reasons to begin running again even if I personally preferred other types of exercise. It also irritated me that people seemed to believe I couldn’t run (I couldn’t) or that clients thought I didn’t understand the joy of running (I didn’t) because I wasn’t currently a runner. I must also acknowledge that the idea of not being able to do something makes my skin crawl and made me more determined to do it if only to prove a point.
So, emboldened by being slightly embittered, I decided I’d start running again and signed up for a 10K. Here are some tips on how to start running from a non-runner who hates running! Enjoy your run!
Like, really small. If you start small you have a better chance of building a habit and staying injury free.
This wasn’t the first time I’d decided to pick this hobby back up, but it was the first time I learned from past mistakes. Previously I’d lace up my shoes, go out, and just run until I was exhausted. These were typically two-to-three mile runs that I’d feel so proud of when finishing. I’d think “Oh, running isn’t so bad. No problem! I can do this every day.” Then like clockwork, the next day some sort of injury would pop up. It could be my hip or my low back, once my knee, once my ankles… Whatever hurt would throw off my natural gait and cause altered-recruitment patterns. This of course resulted in more pain in other places, and an inability to lift weights comfortably. So time and again, I’d get mildly hurt and stop running.
This time was different. I started small, even though I wanted to do more. I needed to complete each distance twice, injury-free, before adding another half mile on to the previous run.
With this method I went from running one mile to running seven in three-and-a-half months.
If you’re thinking “Oh good, I’m already slow!” Me too! I used to run 12+ minute miles. My only goal for this 10k was to run it in under a 10 minute mile. So, I also made sure that as I increased my mileage, I was able to incrementally increase my speed.
The first 5K I ran on the treadmill took me around 38 minutes. The second time I attempted that speed, I did it just slightly faster. Over time as my pain-free mileage increased, so did my running speed. After a few months all of my training runs were clocking in around 9:40 p/mile. I am happy with this pace for now. Or, as my sister-in-law proudly proclaimed on her Facebook, “I am Immortal!”
Get Off The Treadmill.
I liked the treadmill because I could keep close track of my speed and distance (there’s an app for that…) My client Nilda, an avid runner, told me time and time again: “Get off the treadmill!” Not only was the treadmill painfully boring, she also pointed out that I needed to get used to running outside if I was going to run a race somewhere other than in a gym… One day I finally listened and ran the Williamsburg Bridge.
I expected running outdoors to be harder, but it was so much easier! No staring at the clock, no futzing with the speed or incline because I “should” be going faster, just running. I find that I often want to high-five other runners when we pass or cheer on people when they are running up a hill I am running down, but sadly social norms preclude me from doing that.
The bridge is beautiful, and now I also run along the waterfront in Brooklyn.
Sign Up For A Race With A Friend.
Look at upcoming races in your area and pick one that’s three to four months away. Tell people you signed up for it, people that will care and ask how your training is going. If you have a friend that runs regularly, ask them if they’ll do the race with you!
If you have no running friends, convince a fellow non-runner to sign up with you so that you can commiserate about how awful running is. I’m kidding. Not only can the buddy system make you more likely to commit to training, but the exercise habits of those close to you can positively effect your own exercise habits. If you train together, you could even withstand harder runs as a result. Training with one or more people offers benefits that training solo doesn’t, according to Jean Fain, LICSW, MSW, a Harvard Medical School–affiliated psychotherapist and published author. Fain states:
“[It helps you] come to the realization that you do not have to tackle life’s challenges alone. Research shows people are more successful at reaching their fitness goals with group support. They also have fewer major health problems overall. Psychologically, social exercise also leads to a greater sense of well-being, better self-esteem, improved body image and less depression.”
Create A Great Playlist.
If you really enjoy the music, it can feel like you’re just dancing in a very specific style for a long period of time. And if you do occasionally throw a fist-pump or other dance move in there, you’re just running right past people, so who cares? No one cares. Dancing is fun.
In the end I ran the race with a 9:22 p/mile pace. I immediately ate several ice pops (pictured) because they were free and post-run nutrition is very important.
You know what? I actually enjoy running now. I’m planning to sign up for the Brooklyn Half Marathon next year. I like that you can just throw on your shoes and go. No equipment, no class, just you.
There are many other important tips. Perhaps even more important than creating a good playlist so that you can dance all over Brooklyn. Finding the proper shoe. Stretching before and after a run. Using your abs and proper posture while running. This post was just to tell you how I got going, and how you can, too.