On Tuesday: So you want to start running?

I consider myself a beginner when it comes to running. It was only 2 years ago this month that I raced in my first 5K. My husband helped me train and assured me that it would simply be a relaxing jog through the idyllic streets of La Canada. What he “forgot” to mention were the hills…oh my, the hills. As I trudged up the incline that claimed to be final quarter-mile of my nice, easy, jog, I was tempted to ask for ropes and a harness. It was HARD.

But, I survived. And because I talk so much about running, I get a lot of questions from people who are toying with the idea of starting to run. So I thought I would give you some of my extremely non-expert advice about how to take your first few steps in the running direction.

1. Be realistic about your current level of fitness.

I grew up as an athlete. Soccer, softball, basketball, volleyball…I played it all. So when I decided to start running, I thought, “piece of cake!” I neglected to acknowledge that it had been over 15 years since I had truly been in good shape. I somehow glossed over the 4 kids and couple few several pounds that I had acquired in the meantime. I took my husband and his Garmin over to the track and had him time my first mile, certain that I would run it well under the shameful 9-minute cutoff that my volleyball coach had set in high school. Um, realistic I was not. Take some time and evaluate where you are truly at when it comes to fitness. If your idea of a workout is strolling out to the mailbox each day, then own that. Not for the purpose of feeling bad about ourselves, but because we want to have realistic expectations…which brings me to my next point…

2. Set achievable goals.

I’ve never met a single solitary soul that likes to fail. So when we are trying to do something that already feels difficult (like running, perhaps?) we don’t want to get to the end of it and feel like a failure. In my experience, if I can set a goal that I know is achievable, then I can get to the end of the difficult thing and feel glad that I did it. This is why it is so important to be realistic with ourselves about how SAD and LUMPY we really are when we start out. Maybe you won’t be able to start with actual running. Maybe you will have to start with walking. And that is okay. There are so many great resources online that can get you started. One I have heard great things about is the Couch to 5K, which takes you through small steps and gradually gets you up and running. Or maybe you CAN get out there and run that 9-minute mile and live to tell about it. Either way, figure out what is an achievable next step for you.

3. Don’t hide.

You need to out yourself as a runner. If you have pulled on those shoes and set out on a walk/run for the purpose of fitness, alone time, mental health, entertainment, whatever…you ARE a runner. Doesn’t matter how fast or how far you have gone. Tell your best friend, make it your status update, tweet it, leave a comment on this post… just put it out there. Yes, it is scary, because when you put it out there, people will ASK YOU about it. But that is the point, isn’t it? When you say it, it makes it more real. It’s about accountability and it will help you. Do it!

4. Figure out what inspires and motivates you.

I like to run alone. Running is a refuge for me. Maybe it’s because my house is run by filled with adorable children. Maybe it’s because listening to something other than Strawberry Shortcake Live! is a luxury. Maybe it’s because I’m just anti-social shy. Whatever it is, the idea of putting on my ipod and hitting the road alone motivates me. Lots of people I know like to run with friends. They like to chat and take their mind off the running. I just got a new pair of running shoes, and that inspires me to get out there and run, too. (not to mention I am um…frugal…so if money was thrown down for good running shoes, they WILL be used!) If you love music, make yourself a playlist that will excite you. Some people need Chariots of Fire, I, for some reason, need someone like Eminem yelling at me to “not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse.” Figure out what is going to get you out there and do it.

Yes, that first race in the Himalayas of Southern California was rough. But as I crossed the finish line, I really did feel a sense of accomplishment that I had never felt before. In the midst of the push and the burn, I found joy. I was hooked.

What about you? What is your extremely non-expert advice for someone who wants to start running?

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  • Teri

    Great advice, Amy. Mine would go right along with yours. I would LOVE to run that race on the coast with you in the Fall. We’ll see!

    • http://writingamillion.tumblr.com Amy Dixon

       Awesome, Teri! I am trying to take my own advice and tell as many people as possible that I am doing that half-marathon. To be honest, I am a little scared. I figure if I rally the troops then I can’t back out :-)

  • Mirka Breen

    Good tips, and fantastic snazzy shoes.

    • http://writingamillion.tumblr.com Amy Dixon

      Thanks, Mirka! Those shoes were my birthday gift and I love them! 

  • http://susannahill.blogspot.com/ Susanna Leonard Hill

    Excellent advice and love the shoes :)  Maybe if I had shoes like that I would get out of my chair :)

    • http://writingamillion.tumblr.com Amy Dixon

      I would guess that you would have a ton of REAL expert advice in your family, Susanna! And yes, the shoes help if you can swing them!

  • http://twitter.com/AngelinaCHansen Angelina C. Hansen

    I just started run/walking again after decades of not. One thing that helps me, as a writer, is keeping my mind focused on my breath and a story problem.

    • http://writingamillion.tumblr.com Amy Dixon

      Yes, Angelina! I find that I work out issues with my manuscripts on runs too. I also outline blog posts!

  • http://outonalimbshywritergoessocial.blogspot.com/ Ruth Schiffmann

    I have no interest in running, but I do love those sneakers 😉

    • Amy Dixon

       Thanks, Ruth!