I taught my three children to read. I’ve always thought if you can sound out the word “cat,” you can learn to read. Cat was the first word my kids learned to read and they ended up being great readers. Running is the same way. If you can walk, you can run. And you will not just become a runner, being a runner radiates out positively in all aspects of your life. You just need to take that first step. I promise you will be glad.
I have never considered myself an athlete. My favorite activity hands down is sitting under an umbrella on the beach with my nose in a book. Given the choice between that or running, I’m always going to pick the book. But, I don’t live at the beach so running gets its turn in my life frequently. I frankly hate exercise and sweating. But, in my 40s, I knew I needed to do something to keep myself healthy. I chose running because it was easily accessible. I had no idea what else would come along with it.
When I started, I promised myself I wouldn’t compare myself to anyone else and that running would be a time just for me. My first goal was a mile. Surprisingly, I was able to do it. I also promised myself (because I have to trick my mind) that I would not make myself miserable and would go at my own pace. This is critical to your success as a runner, I think. No one is going to keep exercising if they are miserable.
I had a friend who is a super distance runner. He told me I could run in cold or heat and my body would adapt — just to wear layers. That’s been one of the coolest parts of running for me — learning how my body reacts to nature. I can run when it’s 32 or when it’s 88. I adjust my clothing, pace and time to accommodate the weather. In the cold, you would be surprised how quickly your body warms up under all those layers when you start running. In the heat, you really have to slow down and hydrate tons and tons. The cool thing is, I can look at the temperature and know exactly what I need to wear for running or work to be comfortable. The weather doesn’t faze me and I am open to being outside around the year.
Speaking of being outside, I love the smells and the feel of the air. Those are things you lose touch with when you are racing in from your car to your house and back to your car and work. I love seeing animals and running into other neighbors walking on the roads. More than anything, I just feel tuned into nature, which is a gift.
Different times of day make the outside feel different and that’s cool to experience as well. I even run at night — with a headlamp and a reflective vest. There’s basically no time I won’t run — or give myself an excuse not to run — except for downpours, strong, cold winds and snow. It’s not the snow that bothers me. It’s the snow that gets pushed to the shoulder of the road that keeps me from having a place to jump if a car comes near me.
Running has helped me learn about my body. I can tell immediately if I didn’t drink enough water when I start running — my legs feel like lead. Running forces you to check in with each part of your body. I’ve also watched my endurance grow which is pretty cool. I did that. It’s my achievement — which is a huge ego booster. My confidence in myself grows when I run. If I can brave the elements in all kinds of weather and go further and faster and stronger, I know I can handle other things in my life. It’s a good feeling.
Best of all, I don’t need a gym to run. I hate group exercise. I’ve never liked an instructor yelling at me or cheering me on. When I run, it’s just me and the road in front of me and that’s exactly how I like it. There’s no one to compare myself to — even in a race. I consider it a victory that I am moving and if I do well, that’s even better.
How do you start? The most important thing to do is to go to a good running shoe store — and by this I mean a specialty running store — not Foot Locker or TJ Maxx. They will help you find the shoe that works best with your foot and your gait and your needs. For instance, I’m older and have back issues. I wear Hoka shoes because they’re good for people with aches and pains and have a wide platform at the bottom to help me with balance. I had never heard of them but the guy at my local running store suggested them when I told him about my needs. He was right. Bad shoes will make your knees hurt and lots of other stuff. You will get frustrated and give up. And despite how good they look, you will need to replace them every few months if you are running regularly. You need good cushion.
Good socks are important to. I love compression socks because they prevent my calves from cramping or locking up. In winter, fleece-lined tights are a must. And whatever you do, make sure you put enough lights and reflective stuff on you that you look like a circus going down the street if you run in the dark. I also love Goodr sunglasses. They are inexpensive, have lots of colors and are non-slip for runners.
There are also some great apps to help you. I’ve started heart rate training which means I listen to an app that tells me my heart rate regularly to keep myself in a certain zone. The Nike Run app is great because it offers guided runs with coaches who encourage you when to speed up and affirm you as you are running. This is helpful because they are experts who can help you understand when you should go slow and when you should go fast — preventing you from getting frustrated.
One other aspect to running is the running community. This is a super helpful group of folks. Runners want to help and encourage other runners and there is a bounty of info on running online. They’re just a nice group of people and you will find that when you participate in races.
I hope this encourages you to get out there today and start making a difference in your life and your health. Running has brought me a lot of joy and I hope it does you as well.