First step to loving running and racing again: Get it on the calendar!
Learning to love—or re-love—running
I love running. But it took me about ten years to feel that way. Because I used to hate running. Haaaaated it. And I made a serious effort to love it, I really did. I jogged, I ran, I sprinted; I chased the elusive runner’s high indoors and outdoors. But for me, running only meant shin splints, sweat in my eyes and the tightest hamstrings this side of the Mississippi. I started running by trying out cross country in high school and wholeheartedly disliked it. However I stuck with it to hang out with my friends and try to get into the sport. I kept up with casual running in college to cross train for the equestrian team that I was a part of. After graduation I lived at home for a year and started running more to get out of the house. It was during that summer that it finally clicked. Once I was running just for myself and could follow my own rules, a few different things fell into place to turn my reluctance into real love. If you’re just starting a running routine or trying to rekindle the spark, here’s what worked for me.
Set the mood
Try out a couple miles on the treadmill, the trails, the track or just around the block. Go out for a sunrise run one morning, a lunch break jog, or a few laps at dusk. A little trial and error may be all it takes to make the connection. For me, there was just something about running through familiar streets in the heat of early evening that made me happy and truly enjoy the workout.
Sometimes running just absolutely drags on, and listening to the sound of every single footstep can make you acutely aware of that. But the right music can make the miles ahead fly by. Have a couple play lists ready to go (one with pump-up anthems, one with relaxing tunes, etc.), and you’ll be armed and ready when your feet feel heavy. Or try downloading an audiobook; if you’re engrossed in a good page-turner you won’t have a chance to notice any fatigue. Conversely, purposely concentrating on your breathing or the sound of each stride can be intensely meditative and help you get into the zone if that’s more your style.
One of my favorite things about running is getting to spend time by myself. Whether you need a break from taking care of the kids, want to unwind after the office, or just crave some time to work through a problem, think of your run as time to take care of yourself, and it automatically becomes more pleasurable.
Learning to love racing
In the years after running and I finally got together, I’ve lived in a few different cities and continued to log my miles on both the treadmill and around the neighborhoods in each new place. But while my mileage and terrain changed over the years, one thing has stayed the same—I don’t like to race. Sure, there was a fling with a turkey trot here or fun run there, but never anything requiring serious training. I’m resistant to the idea of having to follow a training plan instead of just running whenever and however I feel like. Besides, I love running for myself; most days getting in any kind of run is all the personal accomplishment I’ve needed. But after I stopped running during an uncomfortable pregnancy, I’m getting back into it and starting to re-think racing. With a baby who keeps me busy, exercise is so easy to put off, so maybe a deadline of sorts will keep me on track. But I want to enjoy the process, so I’ve been thinking about ways to make it fun. Looking to wear your first bib too? Here’s how we’re going to do it.
Make it interesting
There are so many different races out there that you’re guaranteed to find one that feels more like an exciting event. Try a mud or color run if you don’t mind getting down and dirty, or pick a race benefiting a cause or charity you support. Some events even feature shorter races that include your kids or dog, while others, like the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, offer music along the way and at the finish. Find something that gets your pulse racing and it will be that much easier to, well, get your pulse racing.
There’s a reason you hear this tip everywhere—it works. Sign up for your race and then put it on the calendar. In red ink. With a big circle around it. Make sure you cross off each day you run; not only will it feel like a mini accomplishment each time you get out there and train, but the countdown will also hopefully get you a little bit excited for the big day.
Join a running group
Seek out a local group and gain access to your own personal network of trainers, coaches and motivators. Not only can your fellow runners give you the tips you need to prepare for an upcoming race, but many will also train right alongside you, keeping you accountable and giving you someone to commiserate with during the tough parts.
If you still don’t have that loving feeling toward racing, pick out a reward for completing your race. New sneakers, a massage, a milkshake the size of your head–whatever will make you smile after crossing that finish line. But hopefully the joy of finishing will be enough to hook you—and me—on racing.