I’ve completed three marathons, but I wasn’t born with an I-love-running gene. In middle school I dreaded the mile, and I dragged my feet the entire four laps when physical fitness testing came around. In high school I joined the cross-country team because all of my friends were doing it—I was the slowest girl out there, and often finished last, in tears. In college, running was a cheap way to stay fit—that was all. It wasn’t until I was a full-grown adult, living in New York City where Central Park was my only respite from the hustle and bustle that I truly fell in love with the activity. What changed? My attitude. I discovered a personal relationship with running that made me feel like a champion simply for lacing up my sneakers. Here’s how you can learn to love (or at the very least, like) running, too.
Be a beginner Not being able to run an entire mile the first time you attempt to run is perfectly normal—and I promise, no one is judging you for it. In fact, you should be proud you’re even trying. You’ve got to start somewhere, so why not accept your newbie status and plan to take walk breaks on your first few jogs around the neighborhood. Then give yourself time to build up your endurance and distances.
Back off the speed Unless you’ve got a sponsorship deal with a major sports brand, running fast isn’t really necessary. And it might even be preventing you from actually enjoying the run. Try running slower, at a pace that allows you to speak in full sentences, and see how your body reacts—your breathing will feel more natural, your joints won’t start aching as quickly, and you might even find yourself smiling out there.
Set small goals See that telephone pole at the end of the street? Run to that, and then pick your next target. Creating small goals within your workout keeps it interesting, and feeling those little twinges of achievement can help you enjoy running more. Today the next mailbox, tomorrow the finish line of your first 10K!
Enjoy being alone The kids aren’t around, your boss isn’t standing over you, it’s just you, your running shoes, and the road. Thinking of your run as “me” time will help you see it as a special event, one you’ll start looking forward to.
Find a buddy Pounding the pavement with a friend can make all the difference. You can encourage each other to get going, commiserate on the hills, and chit-chat your way to the finish. And making a plan to meet someone for a run can give you a little extra motivation to get out the door. (Find more tips on running with others here.)
Make the miles matter When the personal benefits of running (weight loss, improved cardiovascular health, reduced stress, etc.) aren’t enough to get you to pick up your feet, consider running for a cause. Sign up for a 5K that raises funds for a nonprofit organization, or download an app like Charity Miles, which lets you earn money for a charity of your choice with every step you take.
Listen to music Studies show upbeat tunes can distract you from physical exertion and even get you to push a little harder. (Songs between 120 and 140 beats per minute have the biggest impact.) Just be smart about your headphones—only use them in safe, low-traffic areas and keep the volume at a level that allows you to still hear what’s going on around you.
Track your success Feel like you’re not getting anywhere? Try logging every run with an app like MapMyRun, RunKeeper, or Runtastic. You’ll be able to look back and see how far you’ve gone—and how much faster you’ve gotten along the way! Keep track of your routes and see if you can do the neighborhood loop faster next time, or increase your distance by tacking on an extra block or two.
What helped you learn to like running (or any other form of exercising)? Share your tips in the comments!