Running For Beginners: One Person's Experience
I'm Not A Runner
I’m going to jump right into it. I recently started running and it has been tough. I’m not young anymore, I’m nearing forty. I’m not obese but I am not in shape either. I’m a soft-ish, old-ish, busy mom who decided it was time to take care of her health. Like so many people I talk to, I understand the importance of taking care of myself and how what I do now will impact my health well into the future. But the reality is that I barely have time to think about myself between getting the kids out the door in the morning, working all day, trying to prepare a healthy dinner, working some more after the kids are in bed, and then heading to sleep myself. I am also not ready to commit to shelling out a monthly fee for a gym that I would have to drive to and therefore likely never find the time to get to. The cheapest, quickest, easiest answer stared back at me: RUNNING.
I hate running. Running is what they force you to do in gym class in middle school, not how I want to spend my time. But with a wardrobe that was straining to hold its seams together against my growing waistline like levees nobly standing strong in defense of a city, I needed to do something. So, I told myself to stop making excuses, strapped on my running shoes that I had gotten on sale at a discount store and, like so many attempts before, headed out my front door. I kind of ran. It was more of a sad jog. After not very long I stopped and walked. Like I said, I’ve done this before, so I had at least prepared myself with my favorite workout clothes, music, and a shield of indifference to how I looked to the neighborhood’s career runners. But all of the preparation in the world couldn’t give me the wind to get through my planned route. I returned to my house victorious because I had gone out in the first place. But I also felt some level of defeat. Maybe running wasn’t my thing.
I knew the numbers well enough to know that running for weight loss is, excuse the pun, an uphill battle. I had calculated that in order to lose even one pound in a week from running alone I would have to run about three miles a day. But my motivation wasn’t entirely about weight loss. I wanted to be a strong mom. I wanted to show my kids that I care about myself enough to take care of myself. I wanted to maintain my current mobility so that I can feel good well into my later years. I knew that running would get easier the more I did it. I knew that running would help build up my long-neglected muscles to make them more efficient at burning fat and help me get up and down the sixteen stairs in the middle of my house. And, truthfully, I knew that running one time meant basically nothing if I stopped there but that it meant something if I kept going and I would have hated to have just wasted my time. But I needed to know how far I went. I wanted one of those cool maps people post online of where they ran and some stats. Not to post, but just to look at.
I’ve used a few running apps in the past, most notably C25K (Couch to 5K). I really liked that app but never stuck with running long enough to get to the 5K. I wanted something new. I looked in the app store on my phone and quickly found Runkeeper. It has the map thing and keeps track of your pace. Perfect! I added it to my phone and set out for my next run. I went further than I did the first time because my app broke through my music every five minutes and tell me how far I’d gone. It motivated me to hit a milestone. Like a literal mile. My pace was abysmal, around 14 minutes a mile, but I had jogged a whole mile, with a little walking, like a track superstar. After my run I had the bonus of seeing how many calories I’d burned. It wasn’t a lot, but it was more than nothing.
Phone Pockets are the Best Invention
I felt good after that run and found myself looking forward to the next one. Could I hit a mile and a half? A few days later I went out and gave it a try. I upped my pace by almost a minute per mile and I actually jogged the entire first mile. It felt good coming home to my husband and telling him what I had accomplished. I had run two times in a row and for me that meant I was actually going to make something of it, and that meant I could go shopping. Here’s the thing, you need a place to put your phone. You can’t carry the thing because it gets in the way, and those arm bands are fine, but I much prefer the running pants with phone pockets. They don’t have to be fancy to work well. In fact, I have spent some good money on running pants before only to have them sag part way through my run. But Old Navy was having a sale, so I got myself there, found the pants with pockets, and pulled out my debit card. I have to say that I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well my Old Navy running pants work. They don’t roll down, sag, or squeeze, they just do their job and hold my phone.
Tiny But Mighty
I was motivated now. I needed to go out and run farther than a mile and a half. I had an idea. I got a waist dog leash and hooked my Boston terrier up to me like I was a sled preparing for the Iditarod. I hit the street at my normal pace, but my high-energy dog was having none of that. He pulled me forward at a rate that I never would have attempted. But he took some of the pressure off too. As long as I could lift my feet, he would propel me forward. Was that cheating? Maybe. But I’m almost forty and I didn’t care. He dragged me through my first mile and a half without stopping and so I wondered…what if I ran out a mile and a half from my house and then ran home the same way? I’d have to struggle home no matter what just to get there. I would be forced to go three miles. Wait, isn’t a 5K three and a fifth miles? Could I? Dare I? I listened to my app to hear my progress then made note of where I was, when I was exactly at half of a 5K. I was too tired to run home, but the dog didn’t care. It was all I could do to keep from falling to try and keep up with my thirty-pound running coach. I walked most of the last mile then went into the house. “How was your run?” my husband asked. “Good. I ran 5K,” I answered, trying to sound casual about it. Believe me when I tell you that never have I ever run a 5K in my life. A 5K is an actual respectable event that people register for. I was overly proud of this little accomplishment. I had to do it again. I decided that 5K was a good length for a run. If you run too far, it will take up too much time. I could continue to run 5K and improve my pace, running more of it than I walked.
I live in Oregon, so weather has always been a factor when it comes to outdoor activities. The next time I had a chance to run it was a drizzly day. I waited for a break in the rain, hooked up my dog, and set out. About halfway through my run, the rain broke. At first it felt kind of nice, refreshing even. But running in the rain is different than walking in it. When you walk in the rain, it falls around you. When you run in the rain, it pelts you in the face without mercy while soaking through your cool running pants with pockets. I ran fast that day out of responsibility for my cold and wet dog while repeating the mantra, “The faster I go, the faster I’ll get home”. I made it back to the house soaking wet. “I ran another 5K,” I reported. “You’re soaked,” my husband noted. “Felt kind of good, actually,” I very obviously lied.
But it did feel good. It felt good to run. It’s become a regular part of my life and the more I run, the better I eat and feel. Just the other day a small miracle happened. The jeans in the back of the drawer, you know, those jeans, I put them on. They fit again, and not just in a technical way. The scale has moved a tiny bit in the right direction too. Sometimes running isn’t fun but it always feels good. Even if my day isn’t going well, I can feel like I accomplished something. If you’re a beginner and thinking of running, I’m here to tell you that I lived. I’m alive. It is possible. You don’t need fancy, expensive pants, you don’t need to go fast, you don’t even need to be graceful. You just need to leave the house and try because a little something is more than nothing.