Wednesday, February 17, 2016

3 Tips to Becoming a Runner: My Running Story

Today I'm going to share something a little more personal than my typical post. On August 4th I began running. Now for any of you who know me personally, you'll know that I HATE running. Or at least I did. Running is hard for me. Pretty much the only experiences I had with running up to this point were not positive. In grade school we had to run in track meets. I'm not fast - I'd always come in last place. My 5th grade teacher thought that I'd be better at longer distances. I didn't have speed, but hopefully endurance would make up for it. He was right in a sense - at least I didn't come in last place - but I never came in first...or second...or third either. 

In high school gym class we had to run a mile and a half every other day. Stopping to walk, even for a few minutes was frowned upon. Always being the people pleaser and wanting a good grade, I would run. I couldn't breath, my sides hurt, I had shin splints, but I ran so I could keep up my grade point average.

I have resisted any type of running since high school.

3 tips to becoming a runner even if you hate running

In August, my daughter got baptized and we had a lot of family over. One of my sisters was talking about exercising. She related it to doing dishes. It's something you should do every day for it to be effective. I realized that my exercise was sporadic. I did go on walks, but I let life get in the way and was only going about 3 times a week. Something clicked in my brain and I made a commitment to myself. For the next three months, I decided to exercise at least 5 times a week and make better eating choices. It was to be my number one priority for three months, then I would evaluate and make a new goal. No more excuses. My kids were old enough to stay home for a half hour while I exercised. If I wore work out clothes all morning, because I couldn't squeeze it until after lunch, so be it. {Which by the way really bugs me. I like to get up and ready for the day.} If I was tired, too bad.

And so it began. I've always walked, but I felt like I needed a little extra. I began taking a timer with me and I'd walk for three minutes. Then I'd jog for one minute. Let me tell you, it was all I could do to keep going until that timer rang. I just kept telling myself, "it's only one minute, I can run for one minute".  Then I'd walk another three and brace myself for the next minute of running. I'd do five sets of this walking/running combination. After a week, I realized, I can do this! It was hard, but I did it anyway.

I still had no aspirations of becoming a runner. I still hated it, but I could handle one minute at a time and I felt great. I talked to my sister and told her that I'd started to run a little. She was so excited for me. She made me feel great for accomplishing what was so hard for me. She became my coach of sorts. She never compared me to others or herself, but helped me to figure out the next step for me. She even said I should try to run a 5K in the spring. That was funny to me. No way would I ever want to do that!

The next step was to run for two minute increments. I did this for a week.

Then week 3. I only ran one day. I ate horribly. Somehow I lost my focus. What was the point?

Week 4: I talked with my sister again. She helped to motivate me. She reminded me that it doesn't matter what I did yesterday or last week, I can't change it. I can only worry about today. I continued on with my walking 3 min./running 2 min. routine. Somewhere around this time I found the free apps My Fitness Pal and Map My Run. I started to more seriously consider what I was eating. When you log 1/4 of your days calories on a dessert, it changes your mindset. It makes you think a little bit about if those yummy treats are worth it on a daily basis. Now you all know how I love sweets, so I knew that if I tried to ban them altogether, I wouldn't last. I came upon a plan to have a free day. Sunday became a day where I didn't log anything. I didn't worry about calories or exercising. A day to look forward to after working hard all week. I have made some changes in nutrition, but don't feel like I have a great handle on it. Those sweets still call to me. But I've made progress and burn more calories than I eat most days.

The next week I reduced my walking time. I walked two minutes instead of three between each 2 minute set of running. To this day, this is still my favorite combo. I can push hard for two minutes, then take a break, enjoy the scenery and think.

Next I gradually worked my way up to running 3 minutes at a time.

One morning, I didn't get out the door quite as early as I should have. I was worried about getting back before I needed to get my oldest off to school. I thought, I already run for 15 minutes, just never all at once. I decided to try to run a whole mile before stopping. And you know what? I did it! It wasn't fast, but I didn't take a break to walk until the mile was up. I walked a couple minutes and went back my walk/run combo. I think it really helped me to have something to get back in time for, it helped me push when I wanted to quit.

It was then I realized that I could do this. I really took off from there. I tried to have two days a week, where I really pushed myself. I could do that. I still had 3 days that I could do my walk 2/run2 and "take it easy". I began to see how far I could go before I just had to rest. My sister's prediction that I would run a 5K didn't seem so absurd.

The end of my three months was November 4th. I had accomplished so much more than I set out to. I'd lost 9 pounds and I felt strong. I could run for 2 miles at a time.

To summarize, here are a few things that really helped me stay motivated to continue on with running:

1 - Make small changes each week.  If I would have tried to run a mile the first day, I would have quit. It was too hard for me. So I started with 1 minute. Something that was still hard for me, but achievable. Each week I made a new small change.

2  - Be committed - make fitness my number one priority. I had to make a choice. I could choose to make exercise happen. Or I could choose to let something else take priority. Now as a mom, I know all too well how busy life can get. I know how many unexpected things kids throw our way. There will be days when exercise just can't happen. BUT, once I chose to make fitness a priority, once I decided that I was going to squeeze it in whenever possible during the day, there really have been very few days when I absolutely couldn't exercise.

3 - Don't compare myself to others.  It doesn't matter that someone else loves running. It doesn't matter that someone else can run 4 miles every day. What matters is how I compare to myself. What can I do today that I couldn't do last week or last month? Has my endurance increased? Can I go farther? or faster? Or maybe it's just the plain fact that I haven't quit!

Bonus - Find a coach, motivator or workout buddy. This can be anyone - a friend or family member. I like to exercise by myself, but I like to have someone to "report" to.  My sister is the perfect coach for me. She motivates me to try harder and yet I know she'll love me even if I fail. Just knowing that she's interested and will bring up fitness when we talk to each other helps my focus and determination.

It's now been over 6 months since I began running. I'm continuing to improve each week. The last three weeks, I've run a 5K on my treadmill each Monday! I really can't even believe it.

I'd love to hear what has helped you to make fitness a priority. What motivates you? Do you follow a program? Do you work together with someone else? How have you changed your eating habits for the better? {I'm especially interested in this - it's my goal for the next month, so please leave a comment.}