Many people who take on a new exercise programs do not stay with them for very long. They get discouraged or they get bored. This can happen with running really easily. That’s why I never ran before. It was not for lack of trying, but it was lack of mental preparation that really hindered my previous attempts. So here are some tips to prepare your mind and your spirit to help you be successful.
- It is your run, no one else’s. You own it. Nothing else matters, but how YOU feel running it. Every beginner, including myself, excitedly tells their friends they are running. And then they proceed to tell everyone how slow they are, how bad they are at it, etc., etc. Everyone starts in the same place: Walking out to the road and putting one foot in front of the other. That’s were we all begin. What happens during that time on the road – speed, distance, walking breaks – is uniquely yours. Don’t be ashamed of it or make excuses for it. The win in all of this is that you are doing it. YOU are doing it. No one else. It certainly beats the alternative, which is doing nothing. If you take away one thing from this post, please let it be this: every run, every run/walk, every walk/run is a win. Be proud of it, regardless of the outcome.
- There are no bad runs, only training runs. This little bit of wisdom was shared with me by an Ironman triathlete. It was given in a little pep talk after I had a particularly rough race. It was a 5k with heat and humidity raging in July, there was no water on the course and I had not hydrated like I should have. There were 20 other things I also did wrong and you can read about them here. But here is the beauty of it. I made a ton of mistakes all in one race, not spread out across 5 different races. So although was completely miserable, I learned a lot from that experience. And it helped me grow as a runner. Yes, the results were disappointing, but I did it. I know people who backed out at the last minute because of the heat. And that may have been the right decision for them. But I did it. I had an experience I will never forget and I became a better runner because of it. So always remember, whatever the results are, good or bad, there is something to learn from them to help you prepare for the next run.
- You can’t lose. Running is an individual sport and everyone who is doing it is a winner. Maybe you don’t take home a medal for 1st place, but if you are going for it, you are winning. Even in 5k races, the runner crossing the finish line last still gets cheers and congratulations. Because it is an individual accomplishment, whether you’re in first place or last. I walked quite a bit of the last half of my Half Marathon in November. It was not the plan but that’s what happened and I still finished. I still crossed the line and got my picture taken with a medal. It didn’t matter how much I walked during the race. What mattered was registering, training and running (walking) across that finish line. Taking charge of your health and fitness is an accomplishment. Doing something like running a race is an accomplishment. There are no failures here.
- Make running a lifestyle. Let’s face it, many of us will not run the Boston Marathon. What I think is more important is integrating running as a part of your lifestyle that works for you. Maybe you have no desire to run a marathon or half marathon. Maybe you don’t even want to run a 5k, ever. And if those things are not on your bucket list, so be it. Remember, you own it. You can make running mean whatever you want it to mean, no more, no less. If you choose to run/walk 2 to 3 miles and that is all you ever do, good for you! Congratulations! You are a runner. A successful runner who has incorporated a healthy activity in to your life. Make it work to your advantage however you can.
In my last post I recommended physical things you should do to start a running program. But just as equally important is how you prepare yourself mentally and emotionally. I encourage you to approach running as you would any hobby that takes practice and time to get better. Yes, indeed distance running does take time and practice. It is not something that happens overnight for most people. If you started painting, you would not expect to be painting like Monet within a month. If you took up golf, you wouldn’t expect to be playing like Lefty within a year. So go easy on yourself. You’ll get there. Happy running!