For the love of running

For the love of running

A few days ago as I was typing an Instagram caption on running, I realized I had so much more to say on the topic – mainly why I believe running is so important. And even if you’re not a runner and the feelings I’m about to discuss don’t resonate with you, I want to encourage you to find a fitness regimen that does inspire those feelings. What feelings, exactly? To start, anxiety (“can I really handle this workout?”) and dread (“I’m tired, and I really don’t want to do this”) that eventually lead to happiness, gratitude and satisfaction.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Those first two feelings are a little scary, right? You might even be thinking “why would I want to do something that actively causes dread and anxiety?” But these feelings, in this context, are so different than other things you might dread or feel anxious about. What makes exercise so incredibly amazing is that you fight through those feelings and you come out the other side of them each time you complete a workout. Think about it: Let’s say you complete a 10-mile run for the first time. It’s understandable that you might have feelings of doubt or anxiety about whether you can achieve such a goal. But as you run, as your legs move, as your heart beat increases, and eventually your brain just shuts off, you actively overcome that feeling. After completing a 10-mile run, you will not feel anxious about it. You get to control that feeling as you push through your workout and achieve what you set out to do.

If you’re at the beginning of your running journey, it’s likely not going to be a 10-mile run that you start with. We could be talking about a half of a mile or a complete mile that is causing anxiety. But if you push through and complete it, even if you have to stop a few times and walk, I promise you’ll be so satisfied at the end of it. Keep forcing yourself to do it, knowing that it puts the power to control your feelings in your hands. You know what happens eventually? You need that feeling. Even on a day when you just don’t have the energy, you’ll push through. And whether it’s mile 3, 4, or maybe even 5, eventually that anxious feeling, those doubts about whether you can finish what you set out to do, will disappear, and you’ll be left with nothing other than feelings of joy, gratitude, and appreciation for what your body can do.

Perhaps you’ve tried running many times, and it’s just not what brings you joy. Or you might find that your body doesn’t do well with the constant stress running puts on it, and you end up dealing with injuries as a result. It’s completely fine if running isn’t your thing – our bodies are so individual and just because that’s what gives me joy, doesn’t mean that it will do the same for you, particularly if you’ve tried it (more than once!). I’m encouraging you to find something that does, keeping in mind that none of your activities will probably illicit feelings of gratitude at the very beginning. If you’re just starting, a fitness routine is a habit you have to force yourself to do daily until it becomes a part of you and your schedule. Try anything and everything. Maybe strength training is what brings you happiness, and you learn to love the muscle soreness that comes with upping your weights. Or, maybe it’s something more fun, like barre, or perhaps more focused on stretching and toning, like yoga and pilates. There is no wrong workout routine, as long as one exists.

Running is my first love. But it isn’t the only thing I do. I strength train 4-5 times a week, which ensures that my muscles are balanced and strong for long runs. On days that the midwest weather doesn’t cooperate with me, I do barre blend, which is fun, great cardio, and excellent for muscle toning. The variety keeps me healthy and quite frankly, excited about the role fitness plays in my life.

If you’re ready to tip toe in to running, here is my advice: Start with walking and build up. Begin with 1-2 mile walks, and when you’re ready, increase that to 3 mile walks. From there, go on a 3-mile walk with the intent to run a half of a mile during it. Try to do it all at once, but even if it’s a quarter of a mile of running at the beginning, and a quarter of a mile at the end, that still totals a half a mile of running. Do that until you can do it all at once. Once you’re there, set a goal of running a mile out of your 3 mile walk. Again it can be broken up however you’d like as long as you total a mile of running during it. Once you can do that with ease, increase it to a mile and a half of running. Listen to your body as you increase mileage, and you’ll start to figure out when you’re ready to continue upping your distance. It isn’t a race – do what feels good to you. I’d also highly recommend strength training alongside of running. I ran a lot in college and right out of college but was consistently dealing with injuries due to muscle imbalances. Since I’ve started weight training, I haven’t been sidelined by a single injury, which speaks to how important it is. If you’re looking for a recommendation, I use the Sweat app for my strength training and absolutely love it. There are many different programs within Sweat, and I guarantee you’ll find one you enjoy.

I could go on and on about exercise and the different types to try (and probably will at some point in the future), but I’ll leave you with this: Exercise is hard, but that is what makes it amazing. There aren’t many things in life that allow you to work through your emotions in the way that exercise does. You will feel powerful knowing that despite those feelings of anxiety and dread you started with, you chose to do your workout anyway. As you start moving your body, you’ll witness those feelings turn to joy, gratitude and achievement. You’ll end your workout feeling happy and powerful, and that most certainly will carry through to other parts of your life. I decided a long time ago that I wanted to experience those feelings often, which is why my fitness routine is such a crucial part of my life. We live in a world filled with uncertainties and risks and a lot of things we just can’t control, but exercise isn’t one of those. With it comes certainty and zero risk because your routine will be exactly what you need it to be, and at the end of the day, isn’t that what we all need?

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