There are very few things I like to share more than my personal story of becoming a serious runner. I hear people say the words “I can’t run” all the time. But the truth is, yes you can and I believe in you.
There are so many reasons that we want to become runners:
~ We are just as good and able as the next person. In other words, if he can do it, so can I. We want to prove we can, to ourselves.
~ It’s a proven fat burner since those who take it seriously are almost always svelte, athletic, thin and fit and we want to be like them.
~ We want to push our bodies to the best of their ability and see how far they will take us.
~ Some of us want to eat or drink without feeling like we have to count every calorie, guilt free and healthfully.
~ We are stressed out and feeling anxious. We need to release the tension.
~ We need some alone time. Peace. Quiet.
~ We are trying to heal ourselves of illness and general feelings of lethargy.
~ Insert your personal reason here.
For me, it began as a combination of all of those reasons, but mostly due to stresses in my life that I felt trapped inside of. Suffocating, really. Running was a way for me to control something and feel better about myself at a time when I really needed a lift. Afterward, I would feel strong and able to handle anything, even my life.
The most important part of this story is that it be known, the very first time I attempted to run as an adult, it ended in failure about 30-seconds after it began. Yes, it happened to me, too. I felt pain and discomfort and shortness of breath, just like a lot of you.
The only thing that kept me going was pure determination (my mom would call it stubbornness) that I was not going to let it beat me. I knew I would never feel satisfied if I gave up too soon.
I wasn’t a stranger to exercise. I had been strength training for most of the previous few years and had spent a good deal of time on the elliptical, but had taken a pretty long break while I went through some life changes. Nothing really compares to the impact of running, anyway; I only mention this because I wasn’t totally sedentary. I probably would have taken it a bit slower if I had been. Beginning with a month of walking, perhaps. Running uses almost every muscle in your body and is basically, a controlled fall forward, in which we catch ourselves with the next step. Your mind is strongly engaged in the beginning, as well as your core, legs, arms and diaphragm. Everything is working in sync. In the beginning, it does take some concentration, until your body gets used to the coordination and settles into it’s form. The only exercise that burns more net energy and calories is cross-country skiing. Nothing else. Not even biking.
So, it began. Determination set in and I vowed that I would NOT look at anyone around me. I would NOT care if they were looking at me. I would NOT be vain. I would NOT care if I looked like a complete idiot. I would NOT let my pride stop me from improving. This became almost a mantra, repeating in my head. I just started going and vowed to never look back. And that is exactly what I did.
The first day, I ran a track at my YMCA and I did not stop until I ran one lap. Then I walked two laps (totally out of breath). Then I ran one more lap. I repeated this for about 20-minutes. I was so exhausted when it was over that my legs were trembling. And near the end, I had to stop running, but finished with just walking. I could not run any longer. But at least I did not give up.
Two days later, I returned to the same track and ran one / walked one for the entire 20 minutes, without wimping out at the end. Of that, I was so proud! I could see the improvement and progress already! I was happy.
The days following, I slowly increased the number of laps I would run compared with the number of laps I would walk. At some points, I would slide backwards and not do as well as the previous attempt. It was so frustrating when that happened. I would spend the next few days paying more attention to what I was doing in my free time. Was I drinking a lot of wine, eating a lot of junk or not sleeping enough? All of those factors can impact your progress.
I also noticed this: the mind should be the driver, never the body. The body will always give up. It will always give up!
It was a very slow process. I wasn’t able to run a solid 10-minutes until almost a month. BUT that’s when things started to change. I rapidly increased from 10-minutes to 15-minutes without stopping. Then from 15-minutes to 20-minutes. I was getting stronger and stronger. I realized I wasn’t as out of breath at the end, but it was my legs that were holding me back. They were feeling tired, achy and making it difficult to increase my distance. I was running a mile in 11:05, which wasn’t fast or furious, but hey, I was doing it! I pressed on and on, day after day and finally made it to 30-minutes without stopping. WOW. I could actually run for 3-miles without stopping OR feeling like I wanted to die.
That’s when I bought a pair of shoes. A nice pair of running shoes. A pair that cost more than I had ever paid for a pair of athletic shoes!
And that’s when I learned the shoes were holding me back. My legs no longer ached during my runs. This was fantastic!!
And I haven’t stopped since. I have enjoyed the sport more than I ever thought I would. I am in the best shape of my life, in my mid-thirties. My lab results are as good as a teenager’s. I have energy in abundance. And I crave healthy, vitamin filled foods instead of the bad stuff ~ true story, I swear. I am able to keep up with my kids and enjoy it. Honestly, they can barely keep up with me! I enjoy pushing myself by training for races and finishing them. Overall, I’m still not fast at 10:00 per mile, but none of that matters when you finish a 10K and feel proud of yourself for getting out of bed and doing it.
I could introduce you to a few people, including myself, that would not have believed this story possible for me, only 10-years ago. Don’t paint yourself into a role. You can always change it and improve yourself. It’s easy for us to doubt ourselves, which works to hold us back, but in the end, it really is possible. It doesn’t matter how tall the hill seems, you can do it. If I can do it, anyone can!
I am not a born athlete. I have built an athlete.
In the end, even self-pride doesn’t compare to the pride I feel when I inspire someone else to become healthier and more active. That is the best reward. Those moments are why I am here to stay.
I am working on a blog post that will help anyone that wishes to begin running, with all the things I wish I had known from the start. Look for it soon and maybe you can re-map your future too! Maybe running isn’t your answer, but there is an activity out there for you. The challenge is finding it.
You are worth it.