The Starting Line: Deal or No Deal

This entry is part of The Starting Line: an Entry Blank Series on Running for Beginners.

So you’re thinking about taking up running. Maybe you want to get in shape. Maybe all your friends are doing it and you’re sick of being left out. Maybe you’re bored! Whatever the reason, you’re thinking about it. You’ve determined that you don’t have any physical ailments that truly keep you from running, you’ve cleared it with your doctor (seriously…), and now you’ve been turning the idea over and over in your mind and maybe even putting it off.

Today, instead of putting it off, take the first step to a running life. No, it doesn’t even involve running yet. It doesn’t even involve going outside. No. Today is the day that you should make the commitment.

Running, like most other long-term activities, takes time and effort. If you’re not committed, it’ll be hard to follow through and even harder to see results. I think the one of the hardest things to do is to just make the deal with yourself that you’re going to do this because life always presents lots of reasons not to do something. Here’s a very short list of reasons to run:

  • You’ll feel better. Is running hard to do? In some ways, no; in other ways, it’s pretty difficult. But the human body benefits from regular exercise and running is one of the most accessible and most effective forms of cardio that you’ll come across. Once I started working out regularly I had more energy. I didn’t feel so sluggish anymore. And I learned to take pride in my body.
  • Running = stress relief. We live in stressful times—there’s no doubt about it. But running is probably the biggest reliever of stress in my life. I run to burn off overwhelming excitement and sadness and nervousness, and it works.
  • Community included (if you want it). An easy way to make friends and strike up conversations is to take up running. Almost every city has a running group. There, new friends!

Above all, life is too short not to run. There’s simply not enough time to be out of shape and energy-less. If you want (or even need) to lead a more active lifestyle, running is a great way to start. Don’t waste any more time!

Here are some initial steps toward making your running commitment:

  1. Find your own source of motivation. People run for lots of reasons: they want to be in shape, they want to join a community, they want to train for a race to honor a loved one…there are tons and tons of reasons. Find yours. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Maybe you just want to be able to say that you can run a mile or two miles or five miles. Maybe you just want to be able to say, “I’m a runner.” It doesn’t matter. There’s a reason: find it.
  2. Do some research. Before you go jaunting out the door, walk around your neighborhood and find out where you can run. If you live in the country where there are no sidewalks, you might want to consider going to a nearby campus (we’re lucky here in Lansing) or a high school track (most are open to the public after school hours) or just a different area of town.
  3. Set some goals/make a plan. Look up some different running programs. There are many, many options online. For true beginners, I like to recommend a Couch to 5k program. It’s relatively gentle; the plan begins with walk/run workouts and progresses up to running a full 5k. For some, it’s much easier to follow a set plan than it is to decide on a new workout every day. While you’re at it, register for a local 5k. Give yourself enough time to train, but not too long—for example, the average Couch to 5k plan takes about 9 weeks. Pre-registering for a race is a great way to set a goal and provide some extra motivation.
  4. Schedule. If you’re anything like me, huge chunks of your weekdays are taken up by work and other activities. Scheduling is crucial. But before you start training, take a good look at your schedule. Keep a journal for a week to get a sense of how you spend your time. The key here is to make time for running, and I think most people have time even when they don’t think so. Do you spend an hour a day on Facebook or watching TV? There’s your running time. I’ll write more on this later.
  5. Practice being active. If you’re not already active, walking is a good way to start preparing for running. Planning daily walks can help block out time to exercise and it’ll get your body used to forward momentum.

Basically, running is awesome, and starting to run is awesome too. Now is the time to get yourself in the mindset that you’re going to be doing something really positive for yourself, even if it might have its challenges. There’s no better time than right now to start running. I’m serious, too—almost every day is a good day to take up running, but right now the weather is (usually) beautiful in a fall-like kind of way; leaves are falling, the air should be getting cooler any time now, and a whole new school year is underway. It’s time to go for it. It’s time!

Next week in this series: Getting the Gear. There are things you absolutely need to be a runner…and there are things you don’t! It’ll all be on The Entry Blank next week.

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I'm not a health or fitness professional. I'm just a writer who runs a lot. Don't follow any of the advice found herein without consulting an actual professional first; it's not my fault if you hurt yourselves.