I’m a Runner?

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People often ask me what inspired me to run. “I can never do that!” they say.

I used to say the same thing.

Actually, I’m not really sure where it started. Maybe it was when my friend Stacy left her treadmill behind at my place when she moved out of town. I had no excuse not to workout with the equipment right there in my basement. (Thanks, Stacy! You will never know how grateful I am!)

But I didn’t start with the intention to run. I used the treadmill to do walk-run intervals. I was losing weight for my wedding.

Something may have clicked while I was watching an episode of the Biggest Loser a few seasons ago. There was a shot of contestants finishing a run on treadmills. One of the gals said, “Hey guys! We just ran 5 minutes straight!”

Now that might not seem like a lot to you, but it was to me. I couldn’t remember the last time I did or even if I had ever done that. In fact, I was the girl in grade school and junior high who couldn’t run the mile in gym class. I was the one who ended up walking and came in with the last group. It was embarrassing.

I tried again to run a mile with friends in college, but I could barely keep up and came back red-faced and barely breathing. I turned to other methods of working out: aerobics classes, biking, kickboxing, walking. There is no way I would ever become a runner. I had my idea of who a runner was – one of those people who was lean, athletic, and ran with ease. They did it for fun and because it was easy for them. That was not me!

So what changed? After that episode of the Biggest Loser (which we usually watched with breakfast and coffee on Saturday mornings to motivate our workouts), I thought to myself:

If some of these 300 lb people can run for five minutes non-stop, so can I!

So I put on my shoes determined to run five minutes non-stop during my treadmill workout that day. If I thought it was getting hard, I thought again about those BL contestants. There was no way I was coming off that treadmill saying that I couldn’t do it.

Then, one day, I ran my first mile.

I did it!

About a year after my wedding, I started on a new mission to shed the pounds. I started following weight loss blogs for inspiration and motivation. Everyone seemed to be running! A first milestone for newbie runners was to run a 5k. I want to run a 5k! I thought. I started the Couch to 5k program. I loved that my iPhone App told me when to run and walk, increasing the amount of time between walk breaks with each workout:

Still, I started and stopped the program so many times.

I think that the turning point was when I advanced from a 10-minute run to a 20-minute run. I still remember that first 20-minute run. I couldn’t believe the Couch to 5k program was making me make that big of a jump! I had to ask friends for accountability.

By the time I hit the 30-minute run, I still was nowhere close to running a 5k. I don’t know how the program really expected me to run one in just eight to ten weeks. It was still very hard. In addition, I hadn’t even run this long outside yet. (Running in public is still a sort of phobia). And I am not about to run outside on snow and ice in the middle of winter. (Falling on ice – another phobia.)

I was sooooooo slooooowwww… Could I even call what I was doing running? Or even jogging? In fact, my calorie-counting app only records my pace as “walking”. I had to remind myself that I was not on the couch, I was increasing my heart rate, I was sweating profusely, and it was still difficult. I had to tell myself:

I bought a heart rate monitor, too, to make sure I wasn’t being too easy on myself. Even with how slow I’m going, I’m still working out in a Zone 4 most of the time.

I decided to increase my runs slowly. Starting at 30 minutes, I increased each new run by just one minute. In this way, it wouldn’t feel like I was doing something that wasn’t impossible. I mean, I’d be running just one more minute than the time before. I did this all the way up to 60 minutes.

That’s right – I’ve run 60 minutes.

(I can’t believe I just typed that.)

But here is what I’ve learned: Running is 80% mental. When I have a long run, I have to psych myself up all day so as not to talk myself out of it. Then, I have to keep a positive attitude during the entire run. If not, I fight with myself. I have to consciously change my thoughts, practice positive self-talk:

You can do this!

You’ve done it before!

Just five more minutes!

Remember when you couldn’t run five minutes?

Anybody can do anything for five minutes!

What are you doing this for?

Do you really want to say that you’ve quit?

You’re on the treadmill now, so just finish it already!

Sometimes I just want to stop, but usually, I just need to change my mental – not physical – state in order to keep going.

So now what? I’ve signed up for my first 5k in April. In the meantime, I need a training schedule so I won’t get out of practice. Because I know I can run several minutes without a break, I’m not going to repeat the Couch to 5k program. So I’m doing the “Advanced Beginner” 5k Training.

Does this make me a runner?

I’m not so sure yet. I don’t love it. But I love how I feel afterward – the endorphins, how easy it is to breathe, the sense of accomplishment. And if I decide to sit on the couch afterward, I don’t feel guilty one bit.

In fact, I’m getting ready to run right now…

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