Kelly Roberts of Run, Selfie, Repeat describes the struggle she had with returning to running after an injury broke her heart.
The best part about running is that you don’t really need anything to do it. Just some shoes, a really good sports bra, a top and some bottoms. No expensive gym membership. No prior athletic experience. Just the desire to hurt like hell while you build the physical and mental endurance and strength necessary to enjoy running.
I think we can all agree that running is easily one of the most convenient forms of physical activity around. But can we take a second to acknowledge that there is no struggle quite like the new running struggle?
New runners, are you struggling to get motivated or make it down your block without feeling like you’re going to pass out? Or are you feeling defeated because you’ve been at it for weeks and you still feel like it’s never going to get easier?
Don’t panic. There’s nothing wrong with you and no, you aren’t doing anything wrong. The truth is, your first few weeks (or possibly even months) as a new runner can be exceedingly difficult, painful and discouraging.
Just think of it like the first time you ever built IKEA furniture. From trying to find the pieces in the store, to getting them home, to then assembling the damn thing—the entire ordeal feels overwhelming and impossible until you’re done and realize that it would have been 10 times easier had you used power tools or hired someone else to do it for you. But hey, at least you get to brag that you assembled your own furniture, right? At least until it all falls apart a year later because you put it together wrong. (Okay, maybe that wasn’t the best analogy…)
To all the new runners out there struggling to find hope, here is the secret to making the new runner struggle enjoyable. Ready?
ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING.
I know, it sounds cliche and unhelpful, but attitude is the only thing you can actually control while you’re transforming into the badass runner that you already are. Don’t believe me? I dare you to make these three adjustments over the next four weeks and not have it make a difference.
First and foremost, remove “have to” from your vocabulary. According to Dr. Robert Corb, the former director of Sports Psychology at UCLA and licensed psychologist, “The words ‘I have to’ kill us. As soon as you say that, your body tenses up and goes into fight or flight mode. You stress, you’re anxious, your concentration and focus gets narrow.” In other words, when you say that you have to run, you’re setting yourself up to suffer. And running is hard enough without the added stress of feeling like you’re being forced to do something painful and unenjoyable. So take the next few weeks and see what happens when you replace “have to” with “get to.” Sounds cheesy but it won’t hurt to try, right?
The next best thing you can do to up your attitude game is to celebrate what you can do instead of focusing on what you can’t. I’m talking to you new runners who feel embarrassed by how “slow” you are. You’re not slow. Slow and fast are relative terms. (I know, easy for me to say. I’ve already made it through the new runner struggle.) The sooner you can celebrate the fact that you can run for four minutes without walking and see that as a win, the sooner you’ll start to enjoy yourself. So the next time you hit a milestone like running strong a mile without stopping, celebrate. Dance it out or just throw your arms in the air and scream something like, “I AM A BADASS RUNNER WOMAN!”
The best part about working towards a goal is checking in and seeing how far you’ve come. Today’s impossible will be your new normal soon enough. So start focusing on what you can do and celebrate those wins.
And finally, much like taking ‘have to’ out of your vocabulary, make the conscious decision not to suffer. According to Dr. Corb, “You can’t help but have it be hard. It’s got to be for it to be worth it, but you don’t need to be suffering.” Case in point, the next time you’re out running and find yourself doubting your strength or whether or not you’re capable of running a certain distance, stop and remind yourself that you can do hard things. That yes, running is painful and difficult but you’re stronger than you think. The best gift you can give yourself whenever you’re feeling defeated, intimidated or doubtful is to remind yourself that all you can do is try.
Throw your predefined limits out the window and set out to see what happens when you give 100 percent. Don’t just survive; thrive. Look back at the work you’ve already put in and trust that you can do whatever you put your mind to. All you’re doing is putting one foot in front of the other. Remember why you’re running, make the decision not to suffer when you hop on the pain train, force a smile on your face and see what happens. The only way you’ll fail, is if you fail to try.
Look, becoming a runner is really, really hard. But running isn’t just another way to stay healthy or lose weight. It’s something we do to unwind, meditate, clear our heads, run from our problems, resolve the same problems we thought we were running from, work through relationship struggles, be reminded of our strength and worth, belong to a community…and to have fun. It may not be easy to push through the new running struggle, but if you can stick with it long enough, running will change your life. So the next time you find yourself crying on a street corner, walking home defeated, or struggling to believe that you can become a runner, remind yourself that the hardest part is taking the first step and celebrate that you already did that. Attitude is everything.
Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.