When I first decided to start running, I was excited but also overwhelmed. I had a lofty goal. There was a 15K I wanted to run with a friend and I only had 12 weeks to get there. Now, said friend is what I call a ‘real runner’ who has run multiple marathons and developed the habit for years. I, on the other hand, hadn’t run more than 3 miles in my entire life. Thankfully, I had a lot of encouragement from my friends and family, and I also had this now-or-never mindset that spurred me on when I didn’t have outright motivation; sort of a cross between guilt and fear (gulp).
What I knew I needed most was a detailed plan. After consulting running sites, runner friends, and a running shop (where I was fitted for proper shoes), I sat down and mapped out every training day for the next 12 week period. This started with simply switching out my usual 10-20 minutes on the elliptical machine with 10 minutes of running on the treadmill, then I increased that to 1 mile, then 3, and slowly added distance until I was up to 7 miles. Seeing it broken down gave me the confidence I needed to start running and it also gave me the motivation to get through the really horrible beginning phases. I felt stronger after every small milestone 😉 and celebrated those smaller victories.
This practice has allowed me to work towards other large goals that I have set for myself; for example, writing. I feel overwhelmed when I think about my goal of writing a book, but if I set out everyday to write something- anything, then I don’t feel overwhelmed. Although not a breakthrough idea, visualizing a large goal in daily chunks with something that hasn’t been easy for me has helped me work towards other significant goals. When you have success with one thing in a piecemeal manner, it more easily translates to other things.
I will confess, the idea of expending energy to create energy was hard for me to grasp. Even though I find that it proves itself true over and over again when I get any kind of exercise. Running has been no exception. The amount of energy I have gained from running has surprised me, aside from the first running sessions that wore me out and sent me to bed by 8:00pm. Although I am not a stranger to exercise, I had never experienced the “runner’s high.” I honestly thought it had to be a conspiracy perpetuated by shoe companies. I did not understand how anyone could feel euphoric after running for a long time. As a former skeptic, it is true- the “runner’s high“ does in fact exist. Here is another interesting article about this phenomenon. Once I made running a regular part of my week, I had a boost in energy which is significant for a wife and mother of two young boys who works from home.
This really goes hand-in-hand with the energy increase and runner’s high- they are both physiological effects which dramatically improve overall wellbeing. I feel I must explain my stress reduction I have experienced in hopes that others will give it a shot, if for no other reason. Simply put, running is therapy for me. The repetitive movements coupled with the fact that my brain is working on something else besides my to-do lists, worry lists, and dream lists turns each run into a cleanse, a prayer closet, and a meditation session all at once. Even if I listen to music or a podcast, the same outcome occurs- release.
The discipline piece of running is crucial for me. I will admit I tend to allow my type A traits take over; so, sometimes what seems like true discipline is actually neurosis. But the act of running on a schedule and building habits have been so refreshing and spilled over into other areas (ahem…writing). I am also developing the discipline to not beat myself up when I miss a run or don’t run the entire distance I set out to run. Any healthy habits one creates out of discipline are only going to serve them well. And, let’s not forget the old sayings:
“Nothing worth doing is easy.”
“What you do today can improve all your tomorrows.”