I began writing this with the intent of offering up some FUN TIPS on how I became something of a runner over the last few years, but as I filled the page it sounded more and more insincere – so I lost the conceit of giving “helpful advice” and let my thoughts roll.
I have painful memories of doubling up on sports bras during track practice when I was 16 and sporting DDs. Or seeing the same fit person just plug away effortlessly on the treadmill for the entire duration of my aimless wandering from machine to machine at the gym. I had always wanted to be that person who just has to run and enjoys it and somewhere along the line I did stop loathing my runs. I can’t exactly claim to crave workouts, but we all have to start somewhere.
How did that happen? I became simultaneously more serious and more relaxed about the whole thing. I actually bought clothes specifically for running, but I buy most of them at TJ Maxx. I can’t see the point in shelling out $50 for leggings that I’m going to soak with underbutt sweat. I figured out what shoes work best for my severe over pronation. Seriously, my ankles turn so far inward they look a little broken. I love buying stuff, so I figured out what else would make my runs more painless. Sunglasses and sunscreen to protect my lily-white skin and tattoos. A fabric belt to hold my keys and phone. A neoprene water bottle with a handle because Dallas is HOT.
I have finally ditched my gym memberships and discovered that I actually like running on the trail near my apartment. There are trees (shade), a bar/restaurant that leaves water out for passersby (and pups), and I get to see multiple dogs per run. I pay a couple dollars a month for the app Runkeeper to give me a workout plan. It started off small, with 30 minute workouts alternating between 1 minute of steady running and 1 minute of walking. I thought my distance would be shorter if I gave myself walking breaks, but the intervals actually allowed me to recover enough that my overall distance was the same if not longer in those 30 minutes, and continued to steadily improve over time.
How many workout playlists did I try to make before I realized podcasts and audiobooks keep my brain a lot more engaged, thus my run not so boring?
The most important and cringey thing I try to remember? I am only competing with myself. Would I like to be the leggy girl passing other runners on the trail? Sure. Where are my abs? Why do I have to stop and take a breather once in a while?
Whenever I start asking myself I have to repeat YOU ARE ONLY COMPETING WITH YOURSELF! Does anyone else care what my pace is? Probably not. Is someone going to deride me for taking a walking break? That would be seriously weird. Have I improved my pace by more than a minute? Yes! Did I ever think I would be able to run more than 4 miles? UH, NO.
I’m often fatalistic and have an all or nothing attitude. If I can’t do a great job, why do it at all? If I can’t run 4 days a week, why run at all? Because some running is better that none. One subpar run is preferable to nothing. If I haven’t run for 7 days, my legs still work and I can start again today.
I feel better about going for a run to calm my anxiety than I do about taking medication. There’s nothing wrong with meds, but there’s a certain freedom in channeling my anxious energy into a positive, physical activity. And I am a very anxious person.
I likely won’t be a marathon runner and that’s fine. I’ve found a kind of peace in running and that’s more than enough.
There’s one more thing I should remind myself before every run: remember to use your inhaler and breathe easy.