If you’ve been following this blog since its inception six and a half years ago – or, let’s be honest, even if you’ve just been following it for the past six months – you’ll know that I have been a runner on and off countless times. Going back and forth between loving running and strongly disliking it (and everything in between) has at the very least given me the wonderful opportunity to understand some of the necessary components to help support the enjoyment and maintenance of running in my life.
These are the five steps that I’ve identified for how to become a runner that work for me – maybe they will be of use to you, too (or maybe you have your own process that you can share in the comments section below!):
1) Get into the right mental state.
As with many types of physical activity, running, I think, is more about your mental state than your physical ability. Most of us are much stronger and faster physically than we ever realize or tap into, so if we can get over our mental barriers, we can love running and keep it up that much more easily.
Deciding the day before that you will run the following morning, repeatedly giving yourself pep talks, and understanding why you want to run and what you love about it can all make a really big difference here.
2) Start slow.
Don’t overdo it or you will burn out! Depending on where you are at with your health, start by running around the block, running 1 km, or running 5 km. Don’t force yourself to go too fast or too far. Run for the enjoyment of it. Slowly build yourself up to go farther and faster over time, and your body and mind will thank you for it.
While you’re starting slow, play around to see what works best for you. Do you prefer to run in running shoes or Vibrams? With music or without? By yourself or in a group? Even figuring out things like the most comfortable clothing to wear and how to keep your hair from getting in your face (my personal biggest annoyance! I solve this problem by pulling my hair back in a ponytail and then wearing a hoorag over my head to prevent any flyaways from escaping) can be the difference between getting frustrated with running and enjoying it immensely.
3) Run frequently.
Three times each week with at least one rest day in between works best for me. If you let a few weeks go by without running (due to illness, travel, or anything else that might get in the way), get yourself back in a good mental state, perhaps go a little slower and at a shorter distance than you had been for the first couple days, and then keep on. And keep in mind that it’s better for your body if you go running shorter distances more frequently than one long run once a month.
4) Cross-train to keep things interesting and to reduce your chances of getting injured.
Yoga and swimming are my favourites. And both strength training and stretching can be extremely helpful when you are a runner! Try new things and utilize different muscles to prevent yourself from getting hurt or overusing particular muscles.
Along with cross-training is the idea of having goals in mind to work towards with your running. Mr Science and I like to increase our distance slowly every week or two, and that works for us. Other people, like the mother dear, like to run in half marathons as something to work toward (we’ll be cheering her on from the sidelines this Sunday!). Figure out what best inspires you to keep at it.
5) Get out there and RUN!
(I feel like you would appreciate the simplicity of this last step, Carla ;)). When it comes down to it, getting out there and running is really the big thing for becoming a runner. You don’t need a ton of fancy equipment and complicated techniques – your body will instinctively know how to do it.