A friend of mine from my missionary days recently found my blog from Facebook and posted the following to my wall:
“OK Chloe, I just found your blog(s) and I love them! (I had to stop myself from commenting. I’m a nerd…) I am so jealous you were in Europe! You’ll have to tell me your tricks for starting to run after being on a break for so long. Good luck with this semester and training!!”
First of all, Sandra, you can comment on my blog(s) anytime. I love comments. And now, for my “tricks for starting to run after being on a break for so long”. I might add, “and putting on 35 lbs”. (Yes, I am being literal…and in case you were wondering, it took about 18 months to do it).
So, let’s begin…only I’m going to call these “tips” rather than “tricks”. There is nothing remotely magical about them…unfortunately.
Tip #1 – Manage your expectations. This is something we talk about daily in b-school in terms of our shareholders/stakeholders, but really, I think this advice could not be any more applicable than when setting expectations for yourself. You haven’t been running (other than the once-a-month “I feel so guilty that I never run” run) in over six months. You are not going to go out and be able to run as far as you used to with the same ease. Get over it. It’s okay.
Tip #2 – Start with cross training. Since this week was the beginning of my commitment to exercise (I had a terrible cold last week), I started slowly, on the StairMaster. Thankfully, I love the StairMaster and can easily read while on it making it much more difficult to use my homework load as an excuse, so that is my current “drug of choice”. I did two days of easy cardio.
Tip #3 – Start with a distance you know you can manage. The worst thing you can do (at least in my opinion) is to become discouraged. Know your limitations and sit with them. Whatever you can do is what you want to go for. On day three, I ran two miles. For some people, this wouldn’t be enough, for others too much. Having been through this yo-yo cycle before, I knew I could do two miles. If you have never run before, or have never been “off” of running, I suggest you start with 1/2 a mile. Not that you can’t keep going if you feel good, but you don’t want to feel like a failure. (Or is that just me).
Tip #4 – Continue to cross train and add mileage SLOWLY. Get to a point where the first distance feels comfortable, then add another mile (or fraction thereof).
Tip #5 – Think about what you are eating and what you are drinking. I think my current lack of Diet Coke consumption is helping tremendously. I drink a ton of water every day and I am being more “running” conscious in my eating. I know I need good carbs to fuel my run and protein for my muscles to recover, and I eat accordingly. And when I say “I need good carbs”, I am in no way referring to any kind of carboloading. No one needs to carboload to run two miles. No one. I’m talking about making good carb choices…like whole grain breads and pastas, etc.
Tip #6 – MUSIC!!! This should probably have been Tip #1, but whatever. For me, a good running playlist makes all the difference. And I have found that it needs to be a NEW playlist if it’s a new season of running. Let me explain. When I listen to my old running playlists, I start to remember how I used to be able to run 5 or 9 or 13 or 18 or 22 or 26.2 miles and it kills me mentally. New plan = new playlist. This tip may sound ridiculous to a number of you, but it works for me.
Tip #7 – Sign up for a race…with a friend. I need accountability in my life, so I create it. Canyonlands, here I come! For you, it may not be a half marathon. It may be a 5K…it doesn’t really matter. What matters is some kind of goal to work toward. That first night when I started running again, I was pretty much dying in the beginning. My legs hurt, my body was itching (am I the only one who experiences this weird phenomenon?), I could feel every muscle screaming its protest to this new routine…and I just kept thinking, “If I stop, there’s no way I’ll be able to run 13.2 miles by March 21st.” Over and over and over and over again, until finally my body realized it wasn’t going to win and shut the hell up.
Tip #8 – Know when you go to bed each night when you will be running/working out the next day. I have found this invaluable. When the plan is in place, it’s much easier to stick with it. With my crazy schedule, it varies every day, but every night I know when it is going to happen the next day and that’s all I need.
Tip #9 – Running has to be a priority. You have to want it…but you don’t have to love it. For me running is not something I do because I love running (I do have those runs when I absolutely do love it, but those are few and far between). For me running is something I do because when I’m done with a run, I feel so good about myself and my body and in the world of women (especially those of us that struggle with weight and/or self-esteem issues), that is motivation enough for me to keep at it. Figure out why it’s important to you and why you do it and make it a priority.
Tip #10 – If you hate it, don’t do it. There are plenty of other great physical activities that will give you the same results as running. The emotional benefits of exercise are a huge part of why I do it and if I was hating every moment of it, well, that wouldn’t be very beneficial now, would it?