Each month when I sit down and really reflect on my accomplishments, I realize that most of them have been related to running in some shape or form. When I started running, never in a million years did I think that it was going to increase my mindfulness, productivity, happiness or confidence. Running has increased the quality of my life in so many unexpected ways.
I can’t help but think about how different my life was before I started running. There were so many things I was missing, and I had no idea that things could be better. I can’t help but think about how different my life would be if I had started running sooner.
Beginning to run was one of the most challenging things I have done, and took many years before I finally became consistent. After multiple failed attempts, I finally stuck it out and continued on despite the challenges. I am so grateful for my willpower in those early days.
While I know that starting something new always brings it’s challenges, there are a few things that would have made running a heck of a lot easier, had I know them before I started.
9 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Running
It actually does get better.
Prior to beginning running consistently, I had dabbled in the sport many times. My parents were both life long runners, running consistently to stay healthy each week. Witnessing their consistency and motivation each week inspired me to begin running many times. Each time, I made it about a week before giving up. I couldn’t understand why they actually enjoyed this. Despite my initial excitement, I always gave up attempting to run after a few runs feeling like my legs were going to give up. Fast forward a few years, when my Aunt signed us up for a half marathon, and suddenly I had no choice but to continue. As I progressed through the training plan, I discovered that it actually does in fact get easier. Sure, the first few runs are pretty miserable, as your body attempts to figure out what the heck you are doing to it. But once you find your groove, you discover that running in fact is quite meditative.
You can’t go from 0 to 100 in one week.
Going back to my first point, I think the main reason I always felt so miserable when I tried to start running was because I would attempt to increase my speed or distance dramatically after just a few runs. Each time I did this, I discovered that it was much harder than I had anticipated. Trying to do too much too soon is a recipe for failure. Give your body some time to adjust to this crazy activity you are throwing at it before increasing the intensity. Once your beginning distance or speed begins to feel comfortable, then it’s okay to start adding a little more. Progress is going to happen, even if you’re running the same distance every single day.
A set back does not mean you will never again make progress.
Man oh man, set backs can be completely demoralizing when you are just beginning to run. If you power through the initial difficulties only to find that your progress is stagnant, or worse – has decreased – it’s hard not to want to give up. Remember that progress is not a steady increase. Making progress oftentimes means taking two steps forward and one step back. Don’t let a set back get in your head and make you feel like you are not meant to be a runner. Everybody experiences them, from the elites to brand new runners. Pushing through these set backs will make achieving your goals even more satisfying. Learn from your set backs, and use them to motivate you even more.
The Runner’s High is a real thing!
This was such a fun surprise! Once I got past the phase where everything sucked, I discovered that the Runner’s High I had so often heard about was actually a real thing. There were points during my runs where I felt like I could conquer the world. The stars had aligned, and I could run forever. Even after difficult runs, I’d return home to feel almost euphoric about my accomplishment. Never have I returned from a run in a worse mood than when I began.
Running is about so much more than the actual act of running.
When I first started running, I thought that if I could just run farther or faster I would make continued progress. I actually tried this out during my first few years, running 5 miles every single day for the entire summer. What happened? I would up in pain each run until I finally gave up and went to the doctor. After taking two months off for a stress fracture, I returned to my old running routine only to find myself injured again after a few weeks. What was I missing? Everything else. Running is about so much more than your actual runs. Running is about how you fuel your body, stretching, foam rolling, getting enough sleep and staying hydrated. In order to be your best self on the run, you need to prioritize taking care of your body.
Related: How to Recover from Long Runs
Accomplishing your wildest dreams is possible if you make a plan.
When I first attempted running around my 3/4 mile block, I never dreamed I could run more than a mile. Slowly but surely, I worked my way up to 3 miles and then 5. When I hit 5 miles I thought this is where I would stay forever. I enjoyed my hour long runs each day, and every time I headed out the door I knew I’d be in for a challenge. Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that I would be capable of running a marathon. As my running progressed and I began to feel more confident, I discovered that I was capable of so much more than I ever expected. Running a marathon felt completely crazy, and signing up for one made me laugh out loud. It turns out that with a plan, broken down into manageable goals, anything is possible.
Running a race is way less intimidating than I expected.
For the first few years that I ran, I tried to run at times when the least amount of people were outside. I didn’t want anyone to see me, and hoped to avoid this occurrence at all costs. Running a race was something that I never wanted to do, and I thought running would be something I enjoyed privately as a way to stay healthy for the rest of my life. When I was finally convinced to sign up for my first race, I was so nervous. The thought of standing at the start with thousands of other runners made me panic. I thought they would all be able to tell that I was a new runner and that this was my first race. As it turned out, nothing that I had worried about was true. Whether or not you enter a race in hopes of socializing with everyone around you, or you enter a race just to have an official clock time, the race will be what you want it to be. Running in a group is incredibly motivating. Nobody is there to judge you, and no one can tell you apart from the seasoned pro.
There is no right or wrong way to run.
Running is different for each and every person. You can see that at running stores in their shoe selections. You can see that throughout the world in the variety of races that are out there. And you can see it in your neighborhood as you wave to your friend on their run. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Just because something works for someone else doesn’t mean it will work for you. Don’t be afraid to venture outside the norm and experiment. If you are healthy and happy, then you are probably doing things right.
After spending many years running around my block and hating it, I am so glad I finally stuck it out. Running is something that I cannot live without. It has changed my life immeasurably, and continues to challenge me. No matter what phase of life I am in, running is there to help me celebrate and push me further. When I started running, never in a million years did I expect it would increase my mental strength, productivity, happiness, and confidence. And yet, here we are.
If you are curious about running, try it. Give it a fair shot. Know that everything worth doing comes with a challenge, and running is no different. It may push you more than you’d like, but if you stick it out you will discover something that is going to change your life.
Ready to get started but need a little motivation? Check out Running Inspiration When You Need it Most.
Here are some great running tips for beginners!