When I first started running, it was a win to run a mile. Then three. Then the thrill of victory when I passed five miles. There was a sense I was on my way. Surely by the next May I could whip out ten easy. Surely that isn’t what happened. But I did do ten. It wasn’t as hard as finishing the duathlon, but it wasn’t super easy either. In the beginning I read every running article I could get my hands on and then promptly discounted the information when I walked out the door. Part hubris, maybe but mostly I didn’t think of myself as a runner so it didn’t really apply to me. That was for, you know them real running type folks. The people in the front of the pack. So I did some silly things such as running when I hurt and running when the weather said no, and running harder or faster or longer then I was ready. Which compounded the hurt, which made it more difficult to get excited about running. But I kept running anyway. At some point I became more of a runner then someone who enjoys cycling. Although I still love my bike and my rides there is something about running that pulls me.
So when I first started running outside and struggled to do four miles, I wasn’t exactly surprised but I was sort of disgusted. I was here. Again. Again it was really hard. Again. I was burnt. Again there were plenty of reasons: the humidity, pms, just the different mechanics of running on the road as opposed to on the treadmill. But I didn’t care. I was tired of it being hard and I was developing quite the self pity chip on my shoulder. It wasn’t FAIR!!!! And, on top of everything else, life had the audacity of being super busy just when I wanted, needed, to work on reigniting my running.
So, I made a deal with myself. When I first started working out every day, there were plenty of days that I just didn’t feel like working out. I didn’t want to push myself, but I still wanted the benefit. I called them placeholder days. These were days that I went through the motions, but didn’t go full out. Sometimes during the workout I would kick in and really push, and other times I was pretty much just showing up. It was mostly to maintain the habit of working out. I decided that for these two weeks, when life is going to be ridiculously busy – something every single night- I would simply put in placeholder days. I wouldn’t try to up my milage, increase weights or reps, change my routine or bike further or harder. Instead, I would get up as early as I could, get out and do the best I could for forty minutes. I would allow walk breaks, easier routes.
At some point, during these easier workouts, I realized that I was starting over. And it didn’t always work. So, when I allowed myself walk breaks, I turned it into speed drills. But I enjoyed them. It was fun to run as fast as I could for a minute. And the two minutes walking really let me recover. Three miles ticked off in no time, and I did a slow mile just to top it off. I wont’ lie, the timing made me crazy. When I look back and see the time for my average mile, I cringe. But I had the running pep throughout the rest of the day. And then one day I decided to run more slowly. Advice again from my brother when I recently shared that I was starting to hate the idea of getting up and running. So I ran more slowly, a lot more slowly. And it felt great. It was early morning, I could smell the grass and the honeysuckle. It was only about fifty-five degrees and low humidity. It was runner’s paradise. It was an amazing run stopped only because I needed to get to work. And it was just what I needed, that one run that keeps you coming back for more.
When I realized I was starting over, I started to think of all the things I would have done differently if I had known, when I first started running. All the advice I would have listened to from all the articles I have read. If I were to give advice to someone who is thinking of starting to run this is what I would say:
- Do strength workouts from the beginning, especially for your core. Don’t wait until you hurt.
- Warm up! It takes five minutes but it is so worth it.
- Start slowly. Pace comes, it is so much easier and more enjoyable when I start out slow and then after about a mile allow myself some speed. Although, again, it makes me crazy to look back on my timing. Vanity.
- Stretch. Each and every time. It makes a huge difference.
So, I’m taking my own advice. And I am starting to enjoy running again. Newbie that I am.