How to Become a Runner When You’re Not One
In junior high during P.E. It seemed like all we ever did was run…well, running and dreaded push-ups. I remember feeling awkward and slightly embarrassed running with my peers, as I was always one of the slowest. And not because I was lazy, either! I always attributed being a slow runner to being short and busty, and not having a “runner’s body”. For years after my not-so-pleasant P.E. Days, I never even attempted running. I found other forms of exercise I enjoyed (yoga, Zumba, hiking), and just accepted running wouldn’t ever be for me, I wasn’t built for it.
Living in Southern California, where the weather is almost always nice and fitness is an integral part of our culture’s daily routine, I would always see people running. I am a morning person, and I covet being out and about early in the day, when it’s quiet and there’s morning mist in the sky. It gives me a kind of calm that I don’t get during the rest of my day in the exciting yet hectic So Cal society. When I would see people running during an overcast and serene morning, I would wistfully glance at them, thinking about how that looked so peaceful. I loved the thought of feeling my feet against the pavement or in the sand, the wind in my face, seeing my breath show through in the cold morning air. I wanted to run out my anxiety and recoup for the day ahead of me. Not only that, but I wanted to take up running since I wanted to work out, but with my crazy unpredictable schedule and a toddler I couldn’t do gym classes. I wanted a free workout routine that was fun, as well as something I could do anytime of day on a whim.
I would always see all sorts of shapes and sizes of people running, and knew lots of people via Facebook who participated in 5K’s, 10K’s, even marathons who didn’t have what I presumed to be the physique of a track star. I realized I may have sold myself short, that I was using my body type as a way of telling myself I couldn’t do something. I wanted to build the endurance to run, to feel energized, and achieve my runner’s high.
Where to Start
Plan a Route
Not knowing where to begin, I began my journey to become a runner (not a marathon runner, just someone who enjoys a morning run and can enjoy doing about 2-3 miles)….I began by, well….running. I wanted to have a destination, so that I had a goal of where to get to. So I went driving around my neighborhood and mentally planned a good route.
The First Run
Then the next day: the run. And I won’t lie, I was slow and did not enjoy it. But we all have to start somewhere. Even if you don’t enjoy your first run, don’t worry. The main thing about the first run when you’re trying to get started is figuring out where you are at the moment as a runner, and what parts of your body you need to stretch for your runs. You’ll want to look at those two things by asking: (1) How far you can go. If you made it to your goal destination easily, then great! Go for more distance next time. If you didn’t make it to your goal, you can try again each run to build endurance to make it there. If you made it to your destination but it was a lot of effort and struggle, keep working towards that destination until it feels enjoyable before increasing your goal distance.
And (2) Where are you sore? If you’re feeling incredibly sore in certain places, take note of it so that for your next run you can be sure to stretch those muscles and pay special attention to them before your next go.
The Next Steps
The Day After the Run
You’re probably going to be pretty sore, and possibly wondering why you wanted to try to get into running in the first place. Don’t give up! I promise you that once you start building more endurance you will achieve the love for running that you crave. The next day, I would recommend doing some yoga to help heal your sore muscles much quicker.
Other important things you’ll want to make sure to do in the day between your first and second runs is to drink plenty of water. I have often in the past made the mistake to not hydrate till right before or during a run, and I guzzle so much water I get a stomach ache. If you’re planning on going for your run in the morning, hydrate LOTS the night before so you can wake up feeling refreshed.
Also on this in-between day, take a hot bath to help heal your sore muscles even more quickly, and a bath can also help give you some mental clarity so you can recharge and reflect on why you want to achieve this goal.
If you have a hard time putting your goals into action, set out your workout clothes the night before, and set an alarm one hour before you plan to go running. If you run first thing in the morning, and you set your alarm only 30 minutes ahead of time it’s easy to hit the snooze button to the point where that whole 30 minutes you were going to use to prep and get going have now been slept away. Setting an alarm an hour ahead of time sets you up for more success, since you’ll still have time to stretch and get dressed, even after hitting the snooze 3 or 4 times.
The Next Runs
When you start a routine of running but would still consider yourself a beginner, keep setting yourself up with realistic goals by repeating the previous steps I laid out:
1. Plan a goal destination, hydrate the night before
2. Stretch, go running
3. The next day, do active rest by doing yoga or a long walk. Also hydrate well and take a bath or hot shower and reflect upon your goals and accomplishments.
4. Run and repeat the next day!
When you’re starting out, I like this routine of running every other day. After increasing your goal distances and getting in a routine of getting up and hitting the pavement, over time you’ll crave to run more. But starting out saying you’ll run 3 or 5 miles every single day is setting yourself up to feel disappointed and quit. Start out slow, build endurance, and thrive.
Everyone’s physiology is unique, so I know some people may fall into some challenges getting up and moving without some extra aids. Here are some little tips and tricks that have worked for me in my running journey:
1. If you have blood sugar issues, or you feel hungry when you wake up, I highly recommend eating a banana before your run. It’s light enough that it won’t sit like a brick in your stomach, has sugar to energize you, and will keep your hunger at bay until you can get home from your run. If you need a bit more protein instead of just natural sugar, adding some salt-free nut butter to your banana will help with your run a great deal. A little can go a long way when you choose natural foods! Also to assist with a growling stomach first thing in the morning, hydrating well the night before should help a bit.
2. If you feel dehydrated during your runs, and need to take water along, this belt from Amazon is very helpful. It holds two water bottles, and has a pocket for your keys and phone. The water bottles are very light weight, perfect for a run!
Another helpful tool is the Beachbody supplement Hydrate, it is an all-natural powder that slightly has a taste of Gatorade, but without all the added sugar.
3. If you feel fatigued, first and foremost assess your hydration level and your nutrition. Often people believe if you exercise enough, you won’t have to eat healthy. But, fitness and nutrition always have to go hand-in-hand, you won’t feel 100% without tuning into both. If you’re feeling fatigued or sluggish on a consistent basis, make sure first you are drinking the amount of water needed for your body (this can slightly differ with everyone, usually 8, 8 oz glasses are recommended).
In terms of nutrition, rather than worrying about eliminating food groups, try instead eliminating foods with added salt, unnatural sugar, and buy foods that only use natural ingredients. All the recipes here on my blog follow those guidelines, and following a program that simply lays out everything for you such as the 21 Day Fix can help tremendously, too. Portion control, and the elimination of artificial ingredients are the two most important diet rules in my opinion. And with tasty recipes, it’s not a struggle at all to eat healthy! Most people who have trouble eating clean just don’t have the right tools or recipes.
Another helpful boost is the all-natural Beachbody supplement Energize. It helps get the blood pumping and does just what it says it will: Energize!
4. Trouble with Motivation: If you’re having trouble still getting motivated, invest some money in your venture! We all want to get our money’s worth with anything we buy, so for when I got started in running, I registered for a Run Disney 5K. It was non-refundable, so I had to do it. Knowing I had that deadline to go running MADE me have to get up and go. And since I love Disney, it was the perfect motivator! You can register for a Run Disney race, or any local race near you! Running a race that supports a charity or spreads awareness for a cause you’re passionate about would also be the perfect solution to make your dreams of being a runner turn into a reality.
A Reflection Upon My Own Running Journey
Now that I’ve been a runner for a year and a half, I realize that my inability to enjoy running wasn’t because of my body type. Any body type can do anything with practice. It was because I didn’t enjoy it. In PE we were made to run, and it felt like mindless running. We didn’t get the chance to work and foster an appreciation for it, or focus on individual goals and challenges.
Now that I have worked to reflect upon my body’s individual needs, and my personal goals and dreams I have harvested a great love for running. I may not be a marathon runner, but you can bet that 3 years ago I would have never thought I could run a 10K, or even a 5K. I now have the joy of having my coveted morning run, where I can go and leave my cares behind me, and get recharged for a new day and a new dream.