I have a confession to make. I don’t love to run. I do it, but I don’t love it.
Some runners can imagine nothing better than the time of day when they get to strap on the coziest shoes they own (this much I’ll admit is true; I do love my running shoes) and hit the pavement (or dirt, whichever you prefer). I am not one of those people.
I’ve been running for just over a year now and though I still consider myself a beginner, I’ve long since passed out of the so-called “hate phase” (every person who’s ever run ever knows what I’m talking about – we all have to start somewhere). So I don’t hate running either.
I guess you could call it a love-hate relationship. When I started running, I kept thinking I would eventually reach this magical point where running became my end-all-be-all, where I couldn’t wait to get out there and RUN (on a side note, there are some days I do feel this way, but they tend to be few and far between and are generally related to when the next 5K is). I did finally reach a point where I could comfortably run a good distance, but the fact that it didn’t hurt any more didn’t make me any more enthusiastic to do it. For some people, there is no secret motivation that appears to make getting out the door any easier. For some people, they will have to give themselves the “just-put-on-your-shoes-and-go” pep talk every single day. But here’s the thing: the saying that “the only run you’ll regret is the one you didn’t take” is true.
Most days I run, I have to break away from the temptation offered by a good book, a cold beer, a lazy lounge on the couch, (enter your temptation here) and quite literally force myself to go, but I never regret going. Once I’m pounding the pavement with Lady Gaga or whomever pulsing through my earbuds, I am always – ALWAYS – glad I went. In a year of running, I have never gone out for a run and thought to myself, “Gee, I wish I had sat on my lazy ass instead.”
Just a few days ago my glossy new July issue of “Runner’s World” arrived in the mail (incidentally, I retrieved it from the mail box after a run). I always read the magazine cover-to-cover, soaking in tidbits of advice, some which I understand, some which I only pretend to understand. My favorite regular feature – and the one I typically read before anything else – is “The Newbie Chronicles” by Marc Parent. His articles speak my language (the language of the newbie runner, that is) and there’s generally always something in each of his articles that strikes a chord with me. This month’s article “Why Run?” felt like he was speaking directly to me. In it, Parent also laments the woes of the non-running-loving runner (that’s a mouthful) and asks “How do you keep from quitting…? How does a rational person choose discomfort over comfort, time and again? In other words, how do you stay crazy?” His suggestion? Make a list: “a convincing list for why you run.” It had never occurred to me before to do this, but it seemed like a good way to retaliate against that inner voice which always insists I don’t have to run today. So I made a list, and in that list, I found my motivation. You don’t have to love exercising to do it; most people aren’t born with an inherent love of sweating. But actually making a list – writing down the reasons why you do it – sure does help when push comes to shove about getting out the door. Here are a few of the highlights of my list:
Confidence. Running on a regular basis gives me a swagger to my step. I walk with my head held a little higher, my smile a little brighter. Running makes me feel so much better about myself and it shows. Confidence comes quickly, too. When I first started running last spring, I did so to lose the extra weight I had gained during my pregnancy. The weight loss took a little while, as weight loss tends to do, but the confidence came right away. After a week of running, I was still a long ways away from my goal weight (obviously), but the way I felt about my body sky-rocketed. There’s a reason (a few reasons, actually – many of which are on this list) why I didn’t hang up my running shoes after I reached my goal weight. Confidence is a big one.
The Great Outdoors. I love being outside. I dropped hoards of money on gym memberships, aerobics DVDs, and exercise equipment before realizing the reason I failed time and again with these methods is because I really can’t stand exercising inside. It felt pointless – doing all that hard work but not actually going anywhere. Sometimes it takes a little while to find what works for you and what doesn’t. If something doesn’t work for you, move on to the next thing. It’s true that most days I don’t adore running, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like it and I enjoy it about a thousand times more than anything else I’ve tried.
The Gear. Marc Parent had this one listed in his article, and I have to add it to my list as well because running gear rocks. Over a year of running and racing, I’ve accumulated a lot of running stuff. Socks, shoes, shirts, pants that make my butt look fabulous, heart-rate monitor, etc etc. It all makes me feel tremendously bad ass, and there’s no rule that says you have to look shabby when you exercise. That’s why some fabulous woman invented running skirts. Sure, it’s probably not vital, but it can’t hurt to know you look good when you’re exercising.
Time Well Spent. You’ve probably heard the saying “a body at rest tends to stay at rest.” You probably also know that it’s very true. When you waste away your time doing nothing, you want nothing more than to continue to do nothing. Running drastically ups my productivity. I get more done at work, I’m more focused on my homework (when I’m actually in the midst of a semester), and I swear it makes me a better wife and mother (to name a few). I also sleep better at night and find that running helps me handle stress with more finesse. It gives you time to think and sort through those stressful parts of life.
Health. This seems like a no-brainer, but running created a domino effect in my life. I’m far more likely to grab a celery stick than a granola bar. I turn down dessert (not all of the time, mind you. A girl needs her sweets). I stopped buying delicious tempting treats at the grocery store. When I started running, other healthy activities also just kind of fell into place in my life.
And last, but definitely not least: Racing. I may not love to run, but I am a competitor at heart, and I do LOVE to race. I ran my first 5K ever last summer (followed immediately by a slew of others) and I was hooked. There is nothing that gets me off the couch and out the door more than the thought of the next race. Slacking off in my miles? Finding excuses to skip a run? I sign up for a race. Then I HAVE to train. Races are a rush. All the people, the music, the festivities, the free racing shirts. I highly recommend it. It’s not about winning for me (though I do fantasize about winning one day, and tend to get highly competitive with whichever unfortunate runners happen to be in my vicinity), but the race itself is fantastic. I’m contemplating graduating to the 10K in fall and have even entertained thoughts of doing a half-marathon next summer.
So what’s on your list? Why do you run (or swim or bike or give the elliptical a whooping or whatever your exercise of choice is)? If motivation doesn’t occur naturally for you, you’d be surprised what you can find in your list.