I decided to start running in January.
Any way you slice it, I’m not a runner. I have wide hips and short legs (attractive, huh?) and my stomach has always been miserable and cramped and uncomfortable whenever I tried anything related to running.
But I was overwhelmed at work, and I needed a way to manage my anxiety and fit in a workout without having to wake up earlier (I was already exhausted) or take away from the little precious time I had at night to cook dinner, work on freelance projects, and be with Chase. More than anything, I was beginning to feel claustrophobic - I loved my boyfriend (now fiance) more than anything, but between a desk job and a home life and him I didn’t have any of the independence I had been used to for the 26 years prior. I was getting anxious. I was drinking too much wine. I was losing my core – literally and figuratively.
So running during my lunch hour was my solution.
I came to work one morning about two weeks into the new year and told my boss that I was going to start spending my lunch hours running. “Good for you!” he said. That was the end of it.
I don’t think anyone thought it would stick. Where would I change? Wouldn’t I be sweaty? Didn’t I want to spend my lunch hour, you know, going to get lunch?
The sweaty thing wasn’t a problem. I started running in January, which meant that it was freezing. I ran many times in 5-9 degree weather, and I began to see 40 degree runs as a delight in the sunshine. I love, love, love running in the cold. I bundled up in big ratty sweatshirts, some gloves, a hat, and some leggings and took off right outside our office. I ran around downtown and got to swoosh past all of the people, see the local restaurants and shops, and climb the hill by the Capital. It was like a mini-vacation in the middle of the day – taking off my dress and heels and just getting to be comfortable and dirty, coming back with a fresh surge of endorphines and the clarity that felt like I had just woken up for the day.
I had a couple rules. One, weather (besides blizzards) wouldn’t be an excuse. Two, this wasn’t about anyone else, this was going to be the one thing in my life for me. Three, I wasn’t going to go on any crazy diets or turn this into “just another regime” that eventually depressed me and broke me. No way, I was in this for the long haul. I envisioned running 50 miles a week in a few years- being one of those people that can take off no matter how they’re feeling and always keep their weight, mood, and attitude in check. I was going to focus on how to become a runner instead of losing weight or doing too much too soon and burning out. This was going to be about something where I wasn’t accountable to work, or Chase, or to anyone else – I could listen to my music, take it at my pace, and have something special to go to that was my own.
Long story short, it’s June and I just finished this morning’s run. I’m not a marathoner or anything incredibly impressive – I run between 3 to 5 miles a day, 4-5 days a week (more or less). I also take bike rides with Chase, go to yoga (either COREPOWER Fusion or Sculpt) 1-2 times a week. I don’t do double workout days (i.e. yoga AND a run) and if I’m feeling sore listen to my body and replace a run with a yoga class or a bike ride. We also do some light weights around the house, walk to the store instead of drive, and try to walk Bella and run with her around the park most days. It should also be noted that I didn’t run for 6 weeks when we were in Europe – but we didn’t stop walking for about 10 hours a day and I’m confident we walked 10+ miles/day (my favorite workout yet!). We both came home with baggy clothes even though we ate more than we ever have in our lives, and it was fantastic.
So, I ran for the rest of January and quickly fell in love with it. The break from work in the middle of the day, the confidence that working so hard brings, the fact that my clothes were getting loose and my appetite was getting more refined and my waist was getting tighter… I had never felt better. So by the beginning of February I got a bit more serious. I got the Nike running app on my phone that worked with a little chip in my shoe to monitor my workouts. This was a game-changer – I now knew my pace, how far my runs were (they had been 4 miles), and started tracking my progress. For Valentine’s Day Chase gave me a $200 gift certificate to Nike, and I got real clothes that were able to breathe and not rip. After I threw my back out during a run I went to Boulder Running Company and had them look at my stride on a treadmill and learned that I over-pronate (my feet turn out) and that my shoes didn’t have the support to keep my body in alignment – ripping my back apart (one of the most painful experiences of my life). So I got the right shoes that hold me upright, and I’ve never had an issue with my back again. Those same shoes carried me through Europe, and are covered with color patches from the Color Run we ran earlier this month. It’s weird the kind of relationship you can develop with a pair of shoes.
Since I started tracking my runs in February, I’ve run 170 miles on my Nike app. Of course that leaves out the miles we trecked through Europe, the daily jaunts with Bella, the walks to the store and yoga classes and bike rides. It also leaves out anytime I’ve had to do a recovery workout of walking/running intervals – I don’t want to track those since they’ll bring down my pace averages and screw up my metrics on the app. But straight, hard runs – 170 miles since February.
I got to throw away all of the clothes and jeans that I’d been living in the last couple of years, and I’m back – comfortably – to my college clothes. I don’t weigh myself – once I learned that 5 lbs of muscle looks like a tangerine and 5 lbs of fat looks like a grapefruit weighing myself became a puzzle; I had no idea what the numbers meant. My pace is respectable although I’m still by no means “a runner” – if it’s early morning and I’m not fed/hydrated or feeling sore I’ll run a 10:00-10:15 minute mile. My normal “in shape regular day feeling fine” pace is around a 9:30 minute mile. My fast miles are anywhere from 8:00 – 8:44 minute miles. Once in awhile I’ll have an adrenaline-filled mile that comes in under 8 minutes, and I feel like an Olympian.
How to Make Yourself Run
I have a few tips if this is something you want to try, and I highly recommend you do. Most of it is mental, of course, and involves the way you talk to yourself.
1. Make an identity shift instead of a physical or aesthetic goal
I loved the idea of “being a runner.” My whole life I’ve been a gym rat, or an eating disorder patient, or a dieter. Runners are such a cooler breed than those – they are strong, they’re empowered, they’re healthy. They glow. I loved the idea of having running be something that can carry me into these next phases of life – getting married, having kids, having a career. It felt like if I could get myself to the point where I could always throw on a pair of tennis shoes and “self-medicate” through the stress and trials of everyday life, that I would have a much better shot of having a happy adulthood. I liked the idea of having something to turn to that was my own. But running is hard, and I knew my biggest threat to success wouldn’t be each run itself, it would be pacing myself and doing it in a way that I got stronger and was able to run daily without injury or burnout.
2. Focus on the how easy it really is
I’ll be real – running is hard. And every time, that first mile is a bitch. But, here’s my biggest secret to getting out there: if I run 3 miles, it’s really just leaving my house and running for 15 minutes, then turning around and heading home. If I run 4 miles, it’s stepping out and running for 20 minutes, then turning around and heading home. When you think about that in perspective to the whole day that lies ahead of you, the idea of running for 15 minutes and then turning around and heading home is just… well… easy. I have done much harder things in life than run in a straight line for 15 minutes. Life is hard, but running is really pretty simple. And then, you’ll feel great the whole day. You’ll eat better, your mood will be better, you’ll sleep harder, and you’ll feel better about yourself. The payoff is so huge, that to look in the mirror and think I can’t go run for 15 minutes and then head home is just ridiculous.
3. Don’t think about the calories
If you look at the calories you burn running it’s actually sort of depressing. My 170 miles on the Nike app add up to a grand total of 18,095 calories. That’s like 5 pounds.
But the truth is, it isn’t just 5 lbs. First of all, running makes you eat better. You become more sensitive to what feels good in your system. Your stomach shrinks and the abs get tighter, so it’s physically painful to eat too much. And you absolutely crave nourishing foods. When I first started running I went through a phase where literally all I could think about was ground turkey with avocado. Yes, some carbs are helpful on the road, but really you’ll just want protein and your body starts shifting and becoming more muscular. I haven’t gone on a diet since I started running, but I’ve gone down two clothing sizes and my diet is entirely different. Focus on becoming a runner – and eat the nourishment to support that – and I have a feeling you’ll be working so hard that you’ll naturally start reigning in the bad stuff. No one loves to eat more than I do, so I think you can trust me on this one :)
On the food note, it’s also worth saying (as obvious as it is) that you need to drink so. much. water. I’m always drinking water. This will not work unless you’re always drinking water. There’s really not much else to say about it, except just love water and drink it all the time. It’s the only way to help your body cope and adjust to the running and feel good in the process.
4. Run for 2/3 of your weekly workouts, max
You shouldn’t run in isolation – it’s really high impact, and you will injure yourself. You need to work in interval workouts (I like to do one song on my iPhone running, the next one walking, the next one running, etc for an hour or so), bike rides, strength training (the stronger you are the leaner you look and the easier the runs get, plus strength training torches calories) and please- for the love of God – do yoga. Chase’s mom is a longtime runner and validated my thoughts that yoga would balance out the impact, explaining to me that with all of compression on your spine that running creates yoga will stretch it back out and re-align you. It’s also the perfect way to stretch out the muscles and build up your core, balance, and built up the right muscles to make running easier. I would do COREPOWER though, or something intense like that, rather than just a sleepy relaxing yoga class. Those will help you meditate, but probably not your running.
5. Do it for your partner
I’m a firm believer that you need to hold up your end of the deal in a relationship (see: Is Love Blind? What He Thinks When You Start Gaining Weight and Letting Yourself Go in a Relationship). Running helps me be confident, keep Chase excited and proud about me, and keep my moods in check so that I don’t start taking things out on him or becoming an anxiety-ridden nag. Yes, we all have our moods and imperfections and part of being together is working through those things and being there for one another – but there’s also so much anyone can take. It isn’t his job to cope with every ounce of up and down I feel and have to work through, and if I can get 75% of it “out” during a daily workout home life is much more pleasant for both of us.
Just for fun..
My running playlist! Any suggestions for things I should add?? Put them in the comments or send them through Spotify!