I’ve gotten a couple of questions from you readers about how to start running if you’ve never had any formal coaching. As someone who was accustomed to the gentle, fluid motion of gliding through the water, my first couple of runs (if you could call them that; they were more like slightly bouncy walks) were friggin’ terrible. Dave (very sweetly) ran with me and whenever I started to lag, he would say something upbeat like “Come on, Wiggs, just ten more minutes!” I feel bad for saying so, but most of the time his encouragement, at least in the early days, would just make me feel guilty because 10 minutes sounded like torture to me.
It got to the point where, when we were running together and I started to feel the death creeping up my legs, I would let out a huge fake-grunt of pain, pretend to stumble, and flail myself to the ground – and then Dave would be all worried that I was hurt and I would get to stop running. I quickly realized that I couldn’t fake-fall every time I got tired, though. Dave was starting to suspect foul play, especially one time when I pretended that my right knee gave out and then proceeded to limp on my left leg. Oopsies! So I decided to figure out a way to deal with the pain of getting back into shape without preying on my man’s concern for my safety.
Anyone who’s not a runner knows the gut-wrenchingly jarring feeling of going for a jog when you’re out of shape. Just thinking about some of my early runs makes the bile rise in my throat. I think that because humans are naturally able to run (as opposed to swimming or playing lawn-darts), we feel like it should be easy to shove our feet into a pair of sneakers and hit the pavement. Additionally, when I started, I had no CLUE how to pace myself while I was running. I would sprint the first 45 seconds of my workout, then spend the rest of the time wheezing and forcing myself to cry so that Dave felt sorry for me.
One day, though, I decided to come clean with Dave. I told him that I was feeling WAY too tired to continue running, and he suggested something so simple, so intuitive, that I almost fake-fell again to punish myself for not thinking of it on my own: “Let’s just slow down,” he said. Oh. I didn’t realize you could do that. We kept jogging, but moderated our pace, and Lo and Behold, I managed to keep going for another 30 minutes without once feeling the need to self-induce a faceplant into the sidewalk.
That run – which was about a year and a half ago – is what made the lightbulb go off. I realized that, at the right pace, I could run a lot farther than I ever imagined. About a month later, for our anniversary, Dave gave me a custom-made t-shirt with a picture of us on the front and the words “TEAM AWESOME” scrawled across the chestal-region. He had a matching one for himself. He told me that one day, we would wear these shirts and run a half-marathon together (which simultaneously made me melt with his cuteness and also pee a little with fear).
So, friends, that’s how I went from being a lard-ass on the couch to training for a half-marathon. I found the pace at which I could keep going without pooping out. Next time you’re on a run, experiment with your speed – take note of your “comfort zone,” and from there figure out the slightly faster pace that challenges you without taking the wind out of your sails. Go at that faster pace until you start to feel like you need a rest; then drop back to the easy speed again.
You’ll notice that I kept the shirt for over a year before deciding to sign up for a race, and all I can say to that is: I’m human. Even though I knew that I could run, I still procrastinated. I was intimidated. Then I decided that I wanted to honor Dave’s gift to me before we got married – sort of like our last single activity together. But, I gotta say – the credit for my continued motivation goes to YOU, my dear friends. Starting this blog and seeing how many readers I have (and hearing from some of you!) has kept me excited to share my journey with you. So thanks. And if you’ve been reading but haven’t commented yet, introduce yourself! THIS SECOND! Then step away from the computer and go do some crunches or something. I SAID NOW!
Leave your answers in the comments: how did you get over the initial hump in your training? Was running hard for you at first? When did it start to get easier (or has it)?