I have zero athletic ability. Not an athletic bone in my body. Part of this stems from my crappy, old person knees. I had to start going to physical therapy in middle school, and went throughout high school. When everyone else was running the mile in 8 minutes during gym, I had to walk the whole thing because my physical therapist wrote a note saying I was NOT to run. My gym teacher (understandably) didn’t want a lawsuit, and would stand on the bleachers and watch carefully to ensure that I wasn’t picking up the pace too much.
Because of this, as well as my general lack of athletic talents, I’ve never really considered myself skilled at any type of athletic pursuit. In a baseball game, I’ll stand in the outfield praying the ball doesn’t come my way. Friends who played three sports in high school were awe-inspiring to me. But lately a lot of friends of mine have gotten into running. They do The Color Run and other events that look like fun, and I always wished I could join them. I have always gone to the gym regularly, but usually just power walk or do other low-impact activities. But a few weeks ago, I decided to try a little experiment. I wanted to see if I could start running. I wasn’t expecting much of myself, given my history and my knee issues, but I wanted to give it a shot.
I started running two minute intervals at a time. I would walk reallyyy slowly at first, then a normal speed, then a bit faster, then I would jog. For a while, I could only do two or three minutes without feeling winded and having my knees ache. After gradually increasing the length of time I ran, I was getting up to six minutes or so. Well fast forward to yesterday, when I was able to run a mile without stopping.
This was a huge accomplishment for me. I know it’s just a warm up for my runner friends, but I honestly never thought I’d be able to cover that distance without taking breaks. Becoming a runner (or something like that) is not easy. I don’t know that I’ll ever be a person who loves running itself, but I love the way I feel after I’m done. If you’re looking to get into running and are starting from square one like I did, here are some strategies I used to keep myself going and improving:
- Invest in a good pair of sneakers: When I started my mission, I was trying to run in my crappy sneakers that I bought at Target in tenth grade. I couldn’t understand why I was icing my knees with bags of frozen peas for two days after a workout. Now I have a pair of hot pink Asics that really cushion my feet. It also helps that they’re cute to look at. No one wants to feel grosser than you already do when you’re sweating your face off. Some cities have specialty stores that can help fit you for the perfect pair of running shoes. If yours doesn’t, talk to other runners and find out what they wear. Also, try on a bunch of different pairs before making your pick.
- Purchase some cute workout clothes: As I said before, it’s hard to stay motivated when you feel frumpy in your workout gear. Target and Forever 21 have workout clothes that are cute and not too pricy. Also, I’d suggest investing in leggings/capris. I’ve found that when I wear shorts, something happens with the blood flow in my body and my legs get itchy and numb. The capris help to keep your body the proper temperature, and I no longer have this problem. The Champion line found at Target fits well and is affordable.
- Set reasonable goals: I think if I had said “I’m going to run three miles next week” I would have gotten really discouraged and given up. Instead, I set REALLY manageable goals. For example, I’d increase the length of time that I was running by a minute each time. This was usually something that I could accomplish, so I finished my workout feeling proud, instead of focused on how far I have to go.
- Choose inside or outside: Some runners swear that running inside/outside is better than the other option. To be honest, I haven’t run outside yet because I was so embarrassed that I could only run for two minutes at a time. Now that I’m able to run a little further, I’m going to start taking my workouts outside. There are benefits to both options. I know some people hate on treadmill runs, but I like that I can look at my progress without having to check an app on my iPhone. In anticipation of my outside runs, I’m getting this SPIbelt, where you can easily store keys and other small items to make outdoor running better.
- Drink properly: Before I head to the gym, I drink a cup of coffee and an entire bottle of water. The coffee helps to give me a little energy boost, and obviously the water is important for preventing cramps. Before, I would try to run without getting fully hydrated first, and as a result I would frequently get cramps that were so bad that I had to stop. When you drink plenty of liquid, you’re free of side stitches. Don’t worry about the amount you drink, because once you start sweating you won’t feel like you have to stop and pee nonstop. I bought this pink Contigo water bottle. It’s fun to use, doesn’t leak, and it’s easy to keep refilling it without having to pay for cases of water. I drink it all day and bring it with me to the gym.
- Choose the right songs: When you first begin running, you’ll find yourself looking at the timer on the treadmill every three seconds and feeling discouraged that more time hasn’t passed. To avoid doing this, I choose a song and then set markers throughout it. For example, when they hit the chorus the second time, I can look to see how much time has passed. Then I can’t look again until the song has finished. Seeing the progress makes it easier to keep going, but I’m not looking so much that it gets depressing. I like to choose upbeat songs that I know well. Some of my favorite include: “Before He Cheats” and “Blown Away” by Carrie Underwood, “In Your Honor” by Foo Fighters, and “Sail” by AWOLNATION.
- Don’t worry about how you look: I know that I ridiculous when I run. I turn bright red and probably flail, but at this point I don’t care. Instead of worrying about what everyone else is doing, just focus on yourself and your progress.
Are you a runner? How did you get to where you are today?