Hi there! My name is Kim and I blog over at healthy nest. I talk about the usual suspects: fitness, food, running, and happiness, as well as life with my toddler, Mason. I’m thrilled to be here chatting with you guys today while Katie enjoys some time away with her family!
Running is hot right now. Well, it’s been hot for years, but new followers are constantly joining the Runnerhood. They’re drawn in by the accessibility and the weight loss possibilities, among other things, and ultimately hooked by the mental transformation and the power of the running community.
But running is still hard. As much as you love it, there are still going to be plenty of days you’d rather be camped out on the couch, elbow-deep in a bag of chips. We have to remember that one of the reasons running is so powerful and life-changing is that it’s also incredibly challenging.
My relationship with running is a very fluid, up-and-down kind of thing. There will be weeks or months when I’m training for a race, reading tons of running propaganda and getting pumped up, and I’m all, “RUNNING IS LIFE.”
Then there are weeks and months, after the post-race euphoria has died down, when I’m like, “Wait a sec. My body isn’t changing anymore, my calves are MASSIVE, and I’m eating like a horse. That’s it…YOGA IS LIFE.”
But I always come back to running. There’s simply no parallel in the fitness world, nothing that quenches that thirst in quite the same way. When it’s a beautiful fall day, the air is crisp and the leaves are changing, I don’t want to lock myself in a gym—I want to fly down the street, breathing it in.
The second running stops making me happy, I take a break. No big deal.
I’m sure there are some freaks of nature in this world who love running so much that they love every moment of it. But for most of us, our relationships with running are still relationships. Which means they’re not static, simple, or predictable, and they take work to maintain.
The key is to go into it knowing all this. Whether you’re a new runner or a seasoned vet, training your mind to think of running as a relationship can help you stay in love with the sport, even when the inevitable tough days make you question your allegiance.
What does it look like to build a relationship with running?
Take the time to really get to know it. Contrary to popular belief, people don’t know how to run properly by nature. We have to learn, just like any other sport. Proper form can make all the difference in your running experience—not only can it make running easier, but it can also help prevent injury.
Don’t get too serious too fast. Jumping into any relationship too deep and too fast is dangerous. It’s easy to dive in hard, running aggressive mileage that your body has no clue how to handle, because you’re excited. But don’t let your excitement sabotage you. Go slow, do run/walk progressions, and stick to short distances until your body gets the hang of it.
There’s also no need to invest in top-of-the-line shoes right away. You’ll read that on every single running advice article on the planet—“get good shoes!”—but they don’t have to be the GREATEST SHOES EVER designed. In the beginning, until you learn more about your running style and needs, any running shoe that’s in good condition will do fine.
Make dates fun. When you’re still getting to know running (or reintroducing yourself to it after a separation), it’s important to go out of your way to make your running conditions the best they can be. If you spend all your time dragging along on a treadmill in a dark basement, you might build negative connotations to running in your brain, even if you could love it under different circumstances. Going outside in good weather is key to showing or reminding yourself that running can be awesome. Level running ground, bumping music, and interesting scenery certainly don’t hurt, either.
Get dressed up. Buy fun running clothes you’ll be excited to get into. I know some people are perfectly comfortable in their grungiest college T-shirts, but I personally run more confidently when I like the way I look.
Don’t let one little fight break you up. You have to learn to forgive running when it disappoints you. Because it will. Don’t sulk around the house grumbling about your weak body, improper fueling, or whatever. Just chalk it up to a bad day and dismiss it. Sometimes off days are just off days—nothing to get all worked up about.
Ride out the insecurities that come with any new relationship. You go for a really nice run, at a speed you’re proud of, only to come home and read a post by a blogger who just went for an “easy” run at a speed that makes yours laughable. “I SUCK!!” your brain screams. “Who do I think I am?? I’m no runner.” I’m sure you’ve heard it a zillion times, but if you run, you’re a runner. It takes a long time to fully embrace the reality that the only competition that should matter to you is you.
Double date. For whatever reason, I remember this quote from Sex and the City (I have watched every episode at least 5 times, no exaggeration) that goes something like: “When you’re in love, there’s nothing better than another person in love.” No one will appreciate your ridiculous running chatter except another runner, and a non-runner might make you feel dumb about it. (Mostly because they can’t get past the idea that anyone would run for fun.)
Whether you run with a friend or just hang out with other people who love running (reading running blogs counts!), this is one of the most powerful ways to cement your relationship.
Spice things up when you’re in a rut. So you’re sick of running. Could it be because you do same little neighborhood loop every single time? Or you plod along on the treadmill at the same speed and incline, for the same amount of time? Routine is easy, but change is the spice of life. Try a new route—you can drive to a scenic trail, run along a lake/beach, or run to an interesting destination—or just add some intervals to your standard run. Not only is it more interesting, but it wakes up your body, physically, by challenging it to do something it isn’t used to.
Appreciate the little things. It’s easy to take your running skills for granted, and to keep expecting more and more from them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rushed home from a race to immediately start Googling the next one—partly because I was on a race high, but mostly because I was already itching for an opportunity to do better. It’s important to stop every once in awhile to take stock of how far you’ve come. It’s not a bad idea to keep a running journal/log of some kind, so you can have more concrete data to show yourself besides, “I’m faster now!”
Also, don’t forget to appreciate the other things running gives you that have nothing to do with physical fitness. Things like patience, confidence, identity, content, and self-esteem.
Make a commitment. Commitments are a critical part of any relationship. Sign up for races, tell people about them, and rock them.
Make sure you’re really meant for each other. I just have to sneak this one in at the end, just in case. Are you doing everything right and still not feeling it, despite the fact that you want to feel it? A lot of people want to be runners, because it seems cool and easily accessible, but there are seriously so many other options out there. Why settle for a mediocre relationship when your real true love could still be out there?
Your turn. What keeps your love of running alive?
Non-runners: do you find the same principles applicable to your fitness regimen of choice?
What do you do to spice things up, fitness-wise?