How to Love Running
Before we get started, I need the record to clearly state that I definitely have not always loved running.
I use to be that person who ran only if I was being chased. I started running with the hope that it would help me get back into my skinny jeans – and it totally worked. Once I realized running was my ticket to serious weight loss, and then maintaining said weight loss, there was no turning back.
For a long time I only ran because it kept the scale moving in the right direction. I loved the results I saw from running – but I would dread every run. The only thing that kept me lacing up my shoes was knowing that it stopped sucking quite so much once I got past the first mile. But after a couple years of slugging through runs to keep the scale from going up, somewhere along the way I started to love it.
I went from skinny jean runner to running because it meant I could have five cookies instead of one and my pants would still fasten. Now I run because it makes me feel incredible, strong and confident. Who knew you can run because you actually enjoy it instead of having to be pursued by your neighbor’s ferocious dog?
Here’s how I found my way to being the running freak I never dreamed I could be.
1. Eat Your Veggies
Chowing vegetables is at #1 for a reason. Forget pasta, veggies are where it’s at. You need to fuel your runs with the best foods you can find if you want running to feel good. Once I started eating greens every day, running suddenly felt a heck of a lot easier.
Want to be lean mean running machine? Throw spinach in a smoothie, snack on green pepper slices before dinner, stuff your sandwiches and wraps full of mixed greens, don’t be afraid of salad every day. Forget your daily bread, daily greens will flip the feel good switch.
What do bunnies eats? Grass. How to bunnies run? Fast. Enough said.
2. Limit the Junk
Food, that is. Eating well is important and will absolutely impact how your runs feel – but any food you eat that is nutritionally void will impact how your runs feel too – even if you eat a lot of good grub with the junky chow. I’m not saying “never” (because I certainly don’t!) but know that your body works hard and expends a lot of energy digesting frankenfoods – more so than it does digesting whole, clean foods.
Don’t spend your energy digesting food – save it for the streets!
3. Run with Music
There’s nothing like running through your neighborhood at the crack of dawn singing to Eminem’s Lose Yourself at the top of your lungs. Your neighbors will thank you for being such an awesome role model and motivating them to get out of bed early and get out there. Music was a great distraction when I was getting started and didn’t want to think too hard about what the hell I was doing.
4. More Fun Gadgets
For the first five years of my running career I only used a stop watch – but as a certified numbers nerd, I can’t deny that I love my Garmin 405. There’s something so satisfying about coming back from a run to see your average pace, distance, time, speed, calories burned fill the computer screen after every run (and bike ride too!) It’s almost like my computer pats me on the back each time.
Thanks Computer, that means a lot.
5. But Leave The Gadgets Home Sometimes Too
As much as I love running to the beat of a good tune or knowing my exact pace by raising my wrist into my line of sight, there’s something very enjoyable about running just to run. No iPod, no Garmin, no nothing. It’s ok to not know how far or how long or how fast you went every time. It’s nice to listen to the birds, the bees, the flowers, the trees, the sound your own breath, the voices in your head.
(Mine told me to write that.)
6. Buy Good Sneakers
A lesson I learned the hard way – you need some decent kicks. If you like knee pain, hip pain, black toenails that fall off and blisters that make you hobble around like an old man, then running in sneakers that are too old and too small are where it’s at. While black toenails do make for some fabulous conversation at parties, buying sneakers a full size up has allowed me to talk about other things at social gatherings – like flesh colored toe nails.
The homeboys and girls at your local running store are ready to hook you up, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
7. And Try Running Without Shoes As Well
Variety is the spice of life, yes?
8. Buy Good Clothes
Cotton is not your friend when you are running. That includes socks too. Sweat + cotton = chaffing in spots you didn’t think were possible to chafe. If you want running to be a lot less angry and red, buy some some good gear. You don’t need a huge running wardrobe – just a few key items can make running a lot more comfortable.
9. Train for Something
Whether it’s a 5K, a 10K, half marathon or marathon, running with a race in mind is a way to give your runs some purpose. Having a race date scrawled on the calendar can be all the reason you need to drag yourself out of bed, tie your sneakers on and get yourself out the door before you’ve even rubbed the sleep out of your eyes.
10. Surround Yourself with Runners
Humans are social creatures. We tend to pick up on the habits of our peers. The more you hang out with runners, talk about running, think about running, the more excited you’ll become about running. When you’re buying your sneaks, ask the running store peeps if they can give you the 411 on running groups in the area.
11. Run with a Buddy
I enjoy my solo runs, but running with a partner or a group from time to time can increase the fun factor. The time seems to pass so much faster with a friend. Your best bet is to find a big burly man friend who has a key to your house and can drag you out of bed if you fail to show up for a running date.
12. Run All Year Round
I’ve been running for over five years now and only by accident did I discover the joy of running through all four seasons. Running in the heat of the summer makes me long for the days of bitter wind, slush filled roads and black ice. Winter running makes me look forward to blistering heat, sunburn and bugs that try to keep the pace with you. It’s all about perspective.
13. Run Some Place Else
Run some place else in your city or town. Drive or ride your bike to a park. Head to a friend’s house and run their usual routes with them. Map out a new route or find a track to run on. Running somewhere different is a great way to keep it fresh and new.
14. Read about Running
Reading about anything – whether it’s cooking, parenting, health, underwater basket weaving or running; it gets me pumped to get out there and do it. Follow the Reading Rainbow and you’ll find your inspiration and motivation.
Blogs, books, magazines – read all about it!
15. Lose Weight
Harsh but true. The whole reason I started running was to lose weight, and I will forever remember the moment (20 pounds lighter) that I thought gosh, this doesn’t suck quite so much anymore!
Running can be your ticket to weight loss, and weight loss can be your ticket to easier running. Is that the opposite of a Catch-22? Either way, it works – and as an added bonus, you’ll likely get faster as you get lighter too.
Rest and recovery days are just as important as training days. You’ll need time to practice your underwater basket weaving skills anyway.
17. Run Fast
Like my marathon training coach Hal Higdon says, if you want to run fast, you have to run fast! Incorporate some speed work into your running routine to make things more interesting and before you know it you’ll start to notice your regular runs are getting done in less time.
18. Run Slow
It took me a while to figure this out, but there’s a lot to be gained from running a slower pace. Be the bunny, but be the turtle too. Turtles eat weeds and they’ve got lots of endurance to go the long haul. Run slow to run long. I’d love to see what happens if a bunny and a turtle ran a long race together.
19. Get on the Trails
Trail running is loads of fun and a completely different experience than running on the road. It gets you someplace new and is the perfect excuse to run slow. See #13 and #18. Study the trail map carefully before you go – in fact, print it out and take it with you. Better yet, go with the trail running group you met thanks to #10 or sign up for a trail race that has been clearly marked and mapped out by someone else.
For me, Trail Race = Mindless Trail Running.
20. Just Run
If you want to run and don’t want to hate it, then just get out there and run. Running can do amazing things for your body and for your soul – but you’ve got to keep doing it. You’ve got to run through the sucky parts to get to the good stuff. Just get out there and run. And then run some more. Keep racking up the miles and somewhere along the way you’ll come to love it.