From The Couch To The Road: How To Become A Runner.
Updated: Jun 7, 2021
The one thing I have heard a lot during my time as a trainer, coach, educator and even as an athlete was the phrase “I am not a runner” or “I hate running”. I have probably even said both of these myself. I believe my phrase was “My body is not built for running”, and by that I meant long distances. Being an athlete my running always consisted of short distances that came along with football, basketball or baseball. It always seemed my limit for any type of distance running was around 5km, and I was just fine with that. Running became a way to help lose weight when needed, but definitely was not enjoyable and that is probably at least one of the reasons I never stuck with it. I believe this is the case for the majority of people. They don’t enjoy running, its hard, they don’t see the need to run and if possible would never choose to go for a run in their lives. NOW, what if I could change your mind??
First a disclaimer…I don’t pretend to be an expert on running. There are very knowledgeable people in this field who I have had many conversations with about running, whether it be training or races. This blog is not for them, haha. This is for the average person who has either never considered running or has but has been unsuccessful. My goal for this post is to share with you some positive reasons running is a great idea and some best practices to get started, keep it up and be successful. Will it convince you to start training for a marathon? Probably not. But, it might just be the push you need to jog around the neighbourhood, and that is a start.
To start with I want to focus on the benefits of running. Sure there are the obvious ones: it burns lots of calories, it can hep you lose weight and is a great source of cardiovascular exercise. All those are true, but there are other reasons to run, and when you talk to “new runners” these are the things that keep them running.
1) Anywhere and free. In my mind the greatest thing about running is its ultimate flexibility. You can literally run anywhere and it will cost you nothing. You don’t need a membership, fancy equipment or to sign up online, you just put on your shoes and go. Since training for my half marathon I have completed training runs at resorts, cottages, soccer fields or conversation areas. Even when I am busy with life and don’t have time for a full workout, I can always squeeze in a run. During the pandemic with the gyms closed running is the one form of exercise we have all had access to. Its ability to be free and open to any environment should be a great selling point.
2) Outdoor connection. I am a firm believer that fresh air keeps people healthy. Whether walking the dog, going for a hike or a bike ride with the family, it all plays a big factor in my head. This is why I love running. It’s a free ticket to be outside, getting fresh air and enjoying nature. Even when it is super cold outside, I would rather run outside than on a treadmill. If you are lucky to go when the sun is out, not only can you work on your tan but you get all those natural benefits of the sun as well.
3) Alone time. Now, I know there are people who like to run with a partner or in a running group and that is great. Whatever keeps you motivated and you enjoy, keep doing it. But, for myself I love the personal time. Running can give you a chance to listen to music or a podcast, detach from work, or just be alone with your thoughts. It can be a well deserved break from the stressors of life even if for just 30 minutes. Sometimes that is just enough time to come back refreshed, reenergized and ready to take on the world again.
Now that I have you convinced that running is a good idea, here are my best practices to follow to help you not only stick with running, not get injured and maybe, just maybe actually enjoy it.
1) Start slow and short. I have seen so many people decide to start running for a varying amount of reasons and either because they are really motivated or lack knowledge they go too hard too early and either burnout or get injured. Basically, their body was not ready for what they put it through. The body needs to be conditioned to run. Which is why I always suggest starting with interval running. Jog for a minute then walk for 30 seconds. Do that for 15-20 minutes then call it a workout. Then take a couple of days for the body to heal, then repeat. Not only will you start to condition your body, but you are also conditioning your cardiovascular system as well. So in just a short period of time, you will be able to increase the time and distance of all your runs, and it will start to feel easier week by week. Slow progression should allow for continued success and results.
2) If the shoe fits. Shoes can be vital when it comes to starting to run and becoming an avid runner. It’s crucial to find running shoes that are comfortable and will give you ample support. Now, I am not saying that if you decide to start running to go down your nearest Running Room and spend $300 on the best running shoe possible. In fact, I have run well over 1000 km’s in my life, and none of the pairs of shoes I have worn have been worth over $100. But, what is key to remember here is that you should have quality shoes that are actually designed for running when starting out. If you don’t, you are setting yourself up for a lot of aches and possibly injury. So make sure your footwear is up for the task.
3) Goal it up!! Like anything in life, if you set realistic goals to attain, your chances of being successful increase exponentially. This is the same when it comes to running. Starting out your goal might be as small as running around the block or as large as running a 10km for a fundraiser you’re passionate about. If your goal is small at first, have future goals in mind to reach as you see success. If your goal is a larger one, have smaller checkpoints or mini goals along the way to celebrate your progress. The great thing about running is you are only competing against yourself, so your goals are your goals and no one else’s. If you’re accountable to those goals and stick with a plan, you will reach them.
So there it is. My amateur guide to why you should run and how to be successful at the beginning. My last words of wisdom are for those that have always wanted to run a race of some form but have never committed to doing it. Whether it’s a 5km, 10km or even a half or full marathon, I believe that if you are physically able to run, you can complete all of these. However, following a plan is crucial when it comes to being successful in your endeavour. If you do not know how to program your runs, recovery and rest, your chances of success are slim. So, if this sounds like you and you need help, please feel free to contact me and I can help set you up with success to complete that race.