For a long time, I hated running. In fact, I’m not even sure if I even like running now or if I’m just addicted to it. Maybe I still hate it, but that’s besides the point–it makes me feel awesome. I got bored of lifting weights about 8 weeks ago and decided to start trying to run: the one type of exercise I’ve always hated. I’m sure many of you have felt the same way, no one ever said “hey you know what sounds like fun? Wearing out our lower body, sweating profusely, getting nearly killed by cars, and gasping for breath and water.”
But, somehow, it’s fun. So I’m going to tell you how you can get started.
But Nat, Why Should I Run?
I’m right there with you–I always replied with this to people who suggested I try running. I’d say it’s not a good use of my time, it’s boring, there are better ways to lose weight and get in shape, and I still pretty much agree with all of those.
The truth is: running is a poor way to lose weight. Just stop eating sh*tty foods. It’s a poor way to get that (for men) muscular build you want to get all the ladies with. In fact, it actually makes you lose a lot of muscle and I’ve had to overload on protein just to keep what I have. It’s also not even the best way to train your cardiovascular strength, with High Intensity Interval Training being more time/energy efficient.
Why run? Here’s why:
- You pretty much get high while doing it
- It’s fun
- You get to run around campus/town topless
- It makes you more productive afterwards
- It increases your willpower
- It’s very similar to meditating
- And, it’s fair. You will continually improve at running so long as you are dedicated, and that in itself is extremely rewarding.
So, if you want all of these things to be a part of your life (especially number 3) then read on.
Step One: Set a Goal
Setting a goal is the first step to success in any activity. If you don’t have a goal, then you have nothing your working towards and tend to make stuff up as you go and improve very slowly. If you’re not constantly pushing yourself towards a goal, then you won’t get much better at running. Doing the same run all the time is a waste because you’re not really improving.
So you need a goal, but it has to be a realistic goal. Here’s a really easy way to choose one:
- Never really ran: Shoot for a 5k
- Done a 5k: Shoot for a 10k
- Done a 10k: Shoot for a half-marathon
- Done a half-marathon: Shoot for a marathon
- Done a marathon: why are you still reading this?
But having the goal isn’t enough. You need to make yourself accountable for it somehow: pick a buddy to pursue the same goal with you, or better yet, sign up for a race of your goal distance in a few months. Races tend to cost around $50, and that’s money you’ll not want to have wasted.
Step Two: Pick a Plan
People get PhDs in Exercise Physiology for a reason: our bodies are really complicated and only idiots think they know more than the experts about devising a good training plan. Don’t try to make up a training plan yourself: pick a highly rated one from a reliable source and stick to it religiously. This also makes it much easier to keep running, you’ll have a calendar of the next couple months of runs mapped out for you, and so you won’t have to wonder what you should be doing every day. Here are some plans/places with plans to choose from:
- Couch to 5K
- Bridge to 10k
- Runkeeper has a huge number of free plans ranging from 5k to marathon
- Runner’s World also has many resources
Step Three: Get the Gear
The first time I did a 3 mile run (recently), I wore cotton socks and did it in 90 degree heat and direct sunlight in Hawai’i. I was sweating so much that I got the biggest blister I’ve ever seen on the bottom of my right foot, and to this day (2 MONTHS later) it still hasn’t healed. This was entirely my fault–running in cotton socks is a terrible idea and so is not having the best gear possible for the rest of your body. Here’s a quick list of everything you need:
- Shoes. Go to a dedicated running store and have a professional fit you for shoes. You may have foot problems you don’t know about
- Socks. Get synthetic non-cotton running-specific ones. Yes they cost more and yes it’s worth it
- Clothes. Lightness is key. Don’t wear basketball shorts and other “baggy” clothing, you want it to be slim, short, and light. This is also the only acceptable time to buy neon clothing. Also, remember to dress like it’s 20 degrees hotter (since you heat up while running)
- Bodyglide. I don’t know why more running stores don’t carry this stuff. It’s amazing for preventing chaffing of all kinds as well as blisters. It’s a necessity.
- Armband. I highly recommend running with your phone to track your distance/time/intervals, but you don’t want to hold it in your hand. It’ll get distracting.
Step Four: “Clear the Path”
“Clear the Path” is an expression from Switch by Chip and Dan Heath and it means to create an environment so that your “elephant” (hedonically driven mind, the part of you that wants to eat cake and watch Oprah all day) doesn’t need so much convincing to do the hard things in life. The easier you can make it to go running, the more likely you are to keep doing it. Once you’ve done it 4-5 times you’ll probably be hooked, but those first few times are crucial and you have to make it as easy as possible to start and continue. Here’s how:
- Lay out your clothes the night before
- Go on a new route every time, see new parts of your city/town
- Record everything to see how much you’re improving over time
- Put all of your scheduled runs on your calendar
- Have a buddy, or at least someone to share your success with
Step Five: Run!
Now you just have to do it. And when you do, come back here and tell me about it–I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.
Image credit to Forrest Gump, Paramount Pictures, 1994. Specific photo from http://www.doblu.com