In It For The Long Run: How I Learned To Love Running
Yes, you read that right. I “learned” to love running. In fact when I first laced up to shape up almost 10 years ago I remember truly hating it. I was getting my MFA in Acting at The University of Texas at Austin and everyone knows what kind of running community this utopia in Texas has. Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake) was only a hop, skip and jump away from campus, so many of my classmates were amongst the “real deal runners” who would frequent this gorgeous trail. They had these cool Brooks Running shoes, RAD gadgets and used lingo that I had never heard before. It for real took me months to understand what a PR was. They would commit to clocking several miles post class on Austin’s infamous trail, and while I wanted to join them, I knew that running for more than a mile would be a stretch. I had just started for real exercising again a few months before grad school started, so the only time I would run was when I was being chased.
Well that was almost a decade ago, so it is mind blowing that the only thing I chase now is the constant peace that this moving meditation provides.
I’ve covered a lot of ground in 10 years (beyond miles) and now those fancy Brooks Running shoes are my go to. So if I can go from hating to loving running, then you can too. Here are 10 tips in honor of my 10 years of lacing up in order to inspire you along the way.
#1 Do It For The Things You Won’t See In The Mirror
Yes running burns crazy calories and will keep you super lean, however this cannot be your only motivation. I learned this the hard way. Yes my classmates were a huge influence in the beginning, but so was my resurfacing eating disorder. I would solely run for the calorie burn, so no wonder I hated running so much. Shallow goals lead to shallow efforts. So after a lot of therapy I started to run toward my problems and not away from them by running for the feeling, not vanity. How you look is the side effect, so don’t make it the main focus if you plan on doing anything for long.
#2 Forward > Fast
And when you do get into running for the right reasons, make sure you stay in your own lane. Comparing your pace, distance and weekly mileage to others is another sure way to hate running forever. It has to be your race, and no matter your pace, forward is forward. When I first started running (more like run-walking) it would take me over 11 minutes to finish a mile. Plenty of runners would breeze past me for years, but every run that I completed was a “run done” in my book. This is a victory in itself. I got faster and faster, little by little, simply because my only competition was myself.
#3 Find Your Sole Mate
Early on in my running journey I suffered from plantar fasciitis – heel pain caused by, in my case, flat feet. Well, a flat foot to be exact. That’s right, one foot is flat and one is not. So strange, but not at all uncommon for runners. All that said, finding my sole mate became absolutely necessary. Running shoes are like tires. Not only can you not put Toyota tires on a Mercedes Benz, you also can’t ride in your kicks until the wheels fall off. So find the right shoe for you (get fitted at a local running store) and change out your kicks every 300 – 500 miles. I started in a supportive shoe because my flat foot needed it. But as I got faster and stronger (read, my gait improved and because I’m faster I spend less time on the ground) I now only run in a neutral shoe. Basically I went from the Brooks Adrenaline to the Ghost (currently running in the Ghost 9 below).
#4 The Terrible Two (Miles)
If there is one thing that hasn’t changed over the last 10 years it’s this – the first two miles are always the hardest. I would quit around this time back in the day, however now that my weekly mileage is much higher, I’ve learned to embrace this inevitable moment. I use this time to check-in both mentally and physically, and tell myself this truth – it will get easier very soon. Knowing that troubles don’t last always works in both running and in life, so believe this and don’t quit.
#5 Train Your Brain
Speaking of that mental check-in, training my brain was key in the beginning and still is now. The body follows the mind, so keeping my thoughts in check before, during and after runs is a game changer. For instance on days that I’m not feeling it, I will sike myself out and say, “Just go for 10 minutes. If you hate it, then you can stop.” I’ve used this mind game several times. I’ve quit after 10 minutes very few of those times.
#6 To Race Or Not To Race
Yes I’m bling crazy today, however when I first started running, racing never even crossed my mind. First of all, I thought it was an event for elite runners only. Second of all, I had this weird fear that if I did run a race I would be trampled to death. You can laugh. It was a crazy, but I was serious. So with all that said, I didn’t run my first race until 5 years ago. And all those 5 bling-less years of running were still award worthy to me. So don’t worry about racing being a justifying factor. Every time you lace up you are a runner. Medals or not.
#7 Personalize Your Miles
And while we’re on this “do you” tip, I truly believe your motivation for running must be personal. Is a running group not your thing? Don’t join one. Not a morning person? Don’t run at sunrise. Sounds simple yes, but I can’t tell you how many people I’ve encountered that stop running simply because they were running in the wrong circles. I decided a long time ago that I am a solo runner. I don’t do teams, I don’t have a running buddy and I only run races that fit into my already busy fit schedule. I had to create these boundaries early on or else running would forever feel like a chore. My time with my boy “Miles” is sacred, and honoring this space has kept me committed in the long run.
#8 Run To The Gym
So while that runner’s high will keep you motivated, how strong you are in your other workouts is what will keep your running game strong. My fit career affords me the opportunity to have access to various workouts, however I strongly encourage all runners, newbies and veterans, to run to the gym (or your living room, a park etc.) and cross train. By using the muscles that running doesn’t target and by conditioning the ones it does, you are setting yourself up for less injuries and longevity as a runner.
#9 Embrace The Uphill Battle
Is the course flat? I hate hills! All runners say this. But I am here to say, that after almost a decade, this year was the first year that I embraced inclines and hills. Yes, they suck. But the good news is, the more you do them the better you become at them. In fact, when I broke my 5K PR a few weeks ago at the Percy Sutton 5K in Harlem, I ran my fastest mile uphill. So don’t skip those hard incline runs. They will definitely make you hardcore.
#10 Create “Miles”tones
And last but not least, always celebrate along the way. Being proud of yourself for the miles you complete is crucial. I always plan for “miles”tones by gifting myself new gear, days off (yes, this is a treat), manicures etc. So make sure your “run life” is a “fun life” by celebrating every victory, big and small along the way.
What keeps you running back to running? Let me know below.