Disclaimer: Please check with your doctor before starting any fitness routine.
When I speak about my love of running (sometimes incessantly), friends ask how I learned to love running. I guess lacing up your sneakers and running for three hours is not everyone’s idea of a good time? Well, running wasn’t always my favorite hobby, and I definitely never considered long distance running a possibility. But through a lot of perseverance, running slowly became my most fitness routine of choice.
While I ran a bit in high school, I really started up again when my college roommate was running the trails around Ohio State, and I asked her if I could join. I graduated the spring quarter of our junior year of college, and my course load was heavy that third year. I needed something to help get my mind off of all the what ifs. What if I fail a class; What if I don’t find a job; What if I regret leaving college earlier than all of my friends?
So we ran together. We went about twenty minutes out and back a few times a week, but it was enough to get me started. In fact, it was the perfect distance, because I knew I could do it, but I still felt challenged. Because I was running with someone else, I never wanted to stop and walk or hold her back in any way. She also kept me accountable. I found it difficult to say, “I would rather sit on the couch and eat chips and queso” when asked to go for a nice run outside.
In the winter of 2011, I moved to New York and later that Spring, I suffered a small tendon injury in my leg that kept me from running. It was during that time in Physical Therapy that I learned about the importance of strength training and was more determined than ever to get back in the game. I moved back to NJ the summer of 2011, and that was the summer I signed up for my first 5K race and fell in love.
What keeps me running?
Running is cheaper than therapy (please still go to therapy). There is nothing that makes me feel healthier in my mind, body, and soul than a nice sweat session out in the woods amongst the trees, creeks and animals. I often call my runs “church 2.0.” I spend a lot of time talking with God about life while running. Whenever I have a rough day, a long run (preferably outside in nature), solves my problems. It definitely is not the answer for everyone (and if you’re feeling depressed or anxious, please reach out for help), but it works for me.
As a mom of two, running has now become my “me time.” I can go for a run, sometimes for only 20 minutes, and feel like I did something special for myself before I take care of others. It’s like putting on your oxygen mask first on the airplane. We can’t be expected to be our best for others if we’re not taking care of ourselves – you can’t pour from an empty cup. It’s also so important for our little ones to see us active. Studies have shown that children are more active when their mothers make exercise a priority.
So you want to start a fitness routine?
First off, good for you! Exercise is so important to our physical and mental health, and I promise if you stick with it through the “I’m going to die” moments (we all have them!), it will become easier. The current guidelines for adults is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity, but this can be spread out over several days of the week and even spread out through parts of the day.
It’s important to understand that you’re probably not going to go out and run five miles or strength train for a full hour on your first try. Instead your best shot at continued success is to start slow. Some suggestions on slow and steady starting points…
- Alternate between walking and running – tracks are great for this: run the straight 100m’s and walk the curves.
- Try low impact strength activities (squats, planks, lunges, etc) throughout the day.
- Find a video on YouTube for beginners and see if you can keep up for two or three minutes.
- Choose a point, whether it be the next mailbox or the house at the end of the block or the tree up the hill, and tell yourself that you will run to that point. Once there, if you feel awesome, keep going. If you feel miserable, walk.
- Find an activity that doesn’t feel like exercise: Take walks with your kids or dog, swim, go for a bike ride, try tennis or pickleball or some other fun activity that also increases your heart rate.
Soon you will see that you can go a little farther, do a little more, each time you try. I’ve found that seeing little improvements is a great motivator for any fitness routine. Just make sure you go slow and short to start – too much too soon can lead to injury and burn out.