I’m fairly certain it’s clear from my blog that I’m not a passionate runner. I am an accidental runner and one who continues to run almost exclusively for the fitness factor, and corresponding ability to increase my candy intake. At any rate, I am the least likely person to tell you that you should learn to love running, in part because I don’t think running is for everyone, but also because I do not love running. I do it, and I have learned to appreciate it. So if you want to start running but fear the hard sell from uber running enthusiasts, let me give you an honest, no-holds-barred take on learning to appreciate–not love–running.
There are a lot of ways to get fit and build cardiovascular endurance. The best thing you can do for yourself is find some means of exercise that you love and stick with it. Running is good because, theoretically at least, anyone can do it and you can do it anywhere and with almost no specialized gear or equipment. If that’s why running appeals to you, but you can’t seem to find a way to like running, this post is for you.
Here are my simple rules for learning to like/appreciate, but never love, running:
1.Don’t expect to love it: Seriously, forget all that crap you hear from your uber runner friends who tell you it’s the greatest high and the most fun you’ll ever have and how utterly and completely fantastic running is. These are lies, or at least they are lies to non-runners. You know that expression “to each his own”? It means that different people have different ways of seeing the world. Those that truly love running see it in a way that non-runners simply cannot. If you let go of the expectation to love running, you can learn to respect and appreciate it for what it is: one of many good ways to get and stay fit.
2. Accept that it will not be easy at first: It’s likely that either your cardiovascular endurance or your muscle strength is going to be a barrier at first, depending on how active you have been and with what types of activities. But let me save you wondering if you can easily go from one type of activity to running without it being a difficult transition. The answer is no. Nothing makes running easier except for running. The simple recipe is that the more you run, the easier it gets. Lower your expectations and accept that your muscles and/or lungs will not be happy at first.
3. Don’t try to run with your runner friends: Nothing has quite the same de-motivating effect as running with fleet-footed and fit runners. Even if they slow their pace for you, you’ll know you’re holding them back and the fact that you’re practically wheezing while they carry on a full-blown conversation like they’re not even moving will fill you with inner rage. Okay, maybe the inner rage part is just me, but certainly it’s not helpful, nor are there attempts at cheering you on with plucky motivation. You do not need a cheerleader to make you feel like a less fit or capable runner. Go out on your own, or at least with other running newbies.
4. Start slow, build slow: We all have that friend who’s run a half marathon without training and without ever really being a runner. Guess what? That’s not most people. Start slow. You’ll feel a lot better about running 2k when you aren’t aiming for an unrealistic 1ok run when you haven’t run in years (or maybe ever). When you have a good 2k run, don’t try to jump to 10k. Early confidence is great, but build your distance slowly and you’ll be more likely to avoid a demoralizing setback. Most humans take time to build up to 1/2 marathons. That friend of yours (and mine) who went couch to half-marathon is a freakish anomaly.
5. People will pass you and you will feel like a tortoise and that is normal: I get that no one wants to feel like the slowest runner on the planet. For the longest time, I was so self-conscious of my loud breathing (read: wheezing) and plodding footsteps, that I would actually stop running in the presence of gazelle-like runners. Everyone has to start somewhere. Ultimately, this too is about managing expectations. Don’t expect to be the fastest runner out there on day one. Know that you’ll be passed, a lot, and especially when you’re going up hills. One day this may not be the case, but even if it is there’s no law that says runners have to be fast. I am the shining example of this. I’ve been running for over a decade and I am still slow as molasses.
6. That endorphin crap is…crap: Okay, that’s not a fair statement. I genuinely believe that some runners experience the “runners high”, otherwise known as an endorphin rush. Personally, I have yet to finish a run feeling anything other than tired and glad it’s over. Sure, I have felt a sense of accomplishment and pride for being disciplined enough to run when I don’t really want to, but I don’t consider that the same thing as a euphoric high. Once I accepted that feeling accomplished was good enough for me, I let go of my desperate search for positivity inducing endorphins (whoa, that was a mouthful).
7. Don’t make running your only thing: Even runners will tell you they occasionally suffer from running fatigue, which can be either physical or mental. They say it’s best not to put all your eggs in one basket, and that’s just as true with running. Find another activity to use on the days when the thought of running makes you want to set your running shoes on fire just so you have an excuse not to run.
I can’t promise you these rules will work for you, but they may help you get to a place of accepting running as a part of your life more than just expecting running to be your true love. Join me in tolerating running like you tolerate that weird co-worker who means you no harm, and who you actually learn to appreciate over time, but is never going to be your best friend. It’s really not as bad as it sounds.