Tonya Boyer is the publisher of Rocky Mountain Running & Triathlon Magazine. She shares these motivational tips.
Many people believe that running is a painful and dreaded torture, and that those who love to run are crazy. My job is to convince you that this recreational sport can really be a fun and rewarding experience. Some days the feeling of enjoyment doesn’t come until you cross the “finish line” in your driveway, but on other days you love it right from the first step. The rewards of running don’t just come to those who can run the fastest or the furthest, but to all who can find enjoyment in doing something hard and beneficial to the physical body.
With this is mind, here are 5 tips to help you find (or re-find) love in your running journey:
Remind yourself to be patient as you begin a new training regimen. For those individuals who want to start again after a long break – possibly for childbirth, work-related travel, or to nurse an injury – also treat this as a new regimen. Many people begin new challenges full of unrealistic ambition and excitement, only to get discouraged and give up at the first sign of difficulty and failure. The first time you lace up your running shoes and head out for a jog, it may not be fun. Just remember to start slow, really slow, and maybe not even break a sweat. You may want to jog/walk at certain intervals for the first few weeks to allow your body to adapt to the new routine. Over time, as you put consistent effort into running out on the road and trails, your body will begin to adapt to your new training habits. You’ll begin to lose a little weight, you’ll sleep a little better, and you’ll feel better about yourself. You’ll also begin to run a little farther and a little faster. These small rewards can be incredibly motivating and encouraging. However, they won’t happen overnight. Remind yourself to be patient.
2. REFLECT and RECONNECT
Time set aside to run is your time. Use it to reflect and/or reconnect with running partners whose relationships you value. An occasional run on your own lets your mind wander and your body set the pace. Try jogging up a scenic canyon trail; you’ll be amazed what thoughts, ideas, and solutions can come to your mind. In fact, researchers have established a link between fit bodies and fit minds. Many find a solo run can also be very helpful in reducing stress, leading to greater productivity throughout the day. On other days you may find it more invigorating to spend your running time reconnecting with friends. If it weren’t for those waiting friends, you may have well skipped a run. Good conversation can make you forget you are even running. Life’s secrets and dreams are spilled to running partners, thus the adage, “what happens on the trail, stays on the trail.”
If your body is prepared and has trained right, there is something about a race, whether it be a small-town 5K or a large marathon, that will bring out your fitness best. Pick a race a few months out and sign up, keeping in mind that your very first race should be short and with realistic time expectations. The faster times and longer distances will come later. At a race, you’ll find the energy from other participants is contagious, and you’ll be able to push your body harder than during any workout. All the race-day motions – putting on your race number, lining up at the start, running against the clock – will elevate and keep the adrenaline flowing. Positive cheers from supporters and other runners will propel you through the hard parts of the race. You will experience victory and an exhilarating sense of accomplishment in merely crossing the finish line, no matter your time or place. Many people drive home from one race, immediately hop on their computer and register for another one. Hooked? Yep! Racing will help keep the love and motivation for training runs.
Runner’s high is the term used to describe a peaceful, pleasant, or possibly euphoric feeling that individuals can experience after a run. Your body will soon recognize that only a good run will elevate you into this state of being. Experienced runners may feel their high during a run, and describe it as a state where the physical body is exhausted, but goes on auto pilot, blocking out physical pain. Every body reacts differently, and some people just describe it as a good feeling or a clearer mind after a hard run. You don’t have to be an elite runner or even a distance runner (in the definitive term) to experience a runner’s high. During physical exertion the body produces endorphins which then attach to the part of the brain associated with mood and emotion. Simplistically, endorphins are chemicals that prevent nerve cells from releasing pain signals, and are also referred to as the body’s natural pain relievers. Oh, but they do so much more that just relieve pain. This is often why runner’s claim to be addicted to the sport; they crave a runner’s high.
Last, but not least, in order to develop a love for the sport of running you must give your body regular rest. Your body will maintain over 95% of its fitness level after 2 weeks of rest, so don’t feel guilty when you take a day, a week, or even a month off from running. Schedule rest into training weeks and also immediately after a race. It is essential so that muscles can repair, rebuild and strengthen. Your joints will need a break from the repetitive pounding motion of the run, and rest helps prevent overuse injuries such as stress fractures and IT band syndrome. Mixed in with consistent training, rest will only make you better in the long term. If you’re one of those who just can’t take a complete rest, try a cross-training exercise that still gives the joints and muscles a break, such as swimming. Undoubtedly, rest days are also good for maintaining that necessary balance between home and fitness goals. You can’t love a sport if it causes tension at home. Whatever the time or reason for rest, you’ll come back more motivated, with a clearer mind and ready for hard work.
Whatever your reason for trying or continuing a running journey, it can be a life-changing event. Training is hard and takes commitment. When you push hard through a tough training session or to the finish line of a race, you realize your potential to do so many other hard things in life, physical or not. Runners agree their lives are richer, healthier, and just plain better than they would be without the sport.