Running is one of those things that is an acquired taste. When I first tried running, I absolutely hated it. It required being out in the heat, always being out of breath and my calves hurt the whole time — not the best thing.
But after sticking with it, I grew to love running and even depended on it as an escape from stress. Running gave me an option to literally run away from my responsibilities and to think about things. I have been running consistently for five years and it has changed my life. Running has given me confidence, improved my athletic ability and above all, taught me that I am way stronger than I think I am.
That glorious runner’s high does not come the first week of running. It is a tough habit to form and takes some getting used to, but with a little determination, one can get through those beginning stages and into the more enjoyable part of running.
Slow and steady wins the race
Start out slow and take it easy! I cannot stress this enough. It is important to allow yourself to run at an easy pace and start out with low mileage when you first begin running. Stay consistent with your runs — try to run several times a week. When I started running, I ran two miles a day, five days a week. Tailor your mileage and the frequency of your runs to whatever works for your lifestyle and your health. Your first goal is to try to stay consistent.
Take care of yourself
I used to shrug off stretching as unnecessary, but after dealing with injuries because of my carelessness, I now treat stretching as a vital part of my runs. Dynamic stretching before a run can help loosen up your muscles, while static stretching after a run can help with flexibility. Drink lots and lots of water. It’s amazing how the amount of water you drink in a day affects how you feel during a run. Set aside at least one day a week to rest from running to allow your body to recover. And always, always, always listen to your body on runs. If something is hurting you, don’t hesitate to check it out.
Motivation is key
To stay motivated, make running as interesting as you can. Run with a friend, plan a post-run brunch, make an awesome playlist to run to or switch up your routes each time. Whatever it is that sparks your excitement to lace up your sneakers, find it and try to incorporate it into your run. My motivation is upcoming races, which helps me hold myself accountable. Whether it’s a 5K or a marathon, having something on the calendar planned in advance ensures that I have to train for the event.
Rise and grind
If possible, run in the morning. Sometimes it feels impossible to get out of bed early in the morning, but there is truly no better way to start your day than with running. It wakes you up, gives you an opportunity to enjoy the early morning in your city and best of all, you can be completely guilt-free about lounging around the rest of the day — you already got your workout in!
Running later in the day makes it easier to put it off and ultimately drop it from your schedule completely if something comes up. Running in the morning becomes a priority, making it easier to be consistent.
When it comes to building up mileage, be sure to go easy on yourself. Pushing yourself too far can lead to injuries. A commonly accepted strategy is the 10 percent rule, where runners should add no more than 10 percent of their weekly mileage to the next week’s mileage. If you ran 20 miles one week, then you can increase to 22 miles the following week.
However, there are different approaches to using this rule. Sometimes it can be okay to increase mileage at a faster rate when it is done so to reach a comfortable baseline mileage. Other times it can better to increase mileage more slowly than 10 percent a week when you are running over your comfortable baseline mileage. While it is tempting to push yourself to go further, it’s important to play it safe and take care of yourself. In the long run, your body will thank you for it.
Enjoy the run. Seriously, sometimes it is easy to think of running as chore or just another workout to slog through. But running truly is wonderful. Whether you make it into a social hour by running with a group of friends or go solo and make it your escape for some peace, running can offer more than just physical benefits.
Take the time to buy that cute running outfit or sign up for that obstacle mud run. Keep yourself motivated to keep moving forward because the feeling of reaching a new running goal is more than just a runner’s high — it’s a feeling of being on top of the world.
Ava Garcia is an avid runner and Oreo fanatic. She loves backpacking, going to museums and baking cookies. Nothing makes her day quite like a good book and an iced chai tea latte.