Thursday, August 20, 2009

Q & A No. 2: What if I hate running?

This question comes from Janis, a new blogger. I knew Janis and her family back in my teenager-at-the-dance-studio days. She's been reading my blog for a while and I recently suggested she start her own. Her question:
I hate running. I don't know how to get past that. I've tried walking, but it just doesn't give results. . . . And I can't afford a gym. How do I move on past a hatred (which you say you used to possess) and run?
Good question, Janis!

I did hate running. I loathed running. As recently as two years ago, I remember telling seniors in my English class that I admired them for the fact that they could run, but I would never be able to understand it or to do it myself. My experiences with running in PE in high school were tragic and ugly.

A few things led me to running. Jealousy, vanity, and my recent interest in blogging are a few. In the spring, I started hearing my brother-in-law say that he was running a few miles around the neighborhood and I thought hey, I could do that... because I was starting to feel like a chubby bunny and I knew that my time as a dance teacher was coming to an end so I needed to get to work on Operation Dontgetfatter. I also just kind of wanted to see if I could do it. This was like Pauline, the girl I had in my English class who said she became a vegetarian to see if she could discipline herself to do it--it was an exercise in self-control and willpower. I also really, really, really, really hoped I would lose weight. Really fast.

In my quest to find a plan for a new runner, I went on Runner's World and a few other forums where I learned about Couch to 5K (a wonderful plan for anyone who wants to go from zero to runner with a safe, gradual strategy). On one of those forums, I found a post by Danica who linked to her blog--gasp! blogs about running?--called Chic Runner. I love Chic Runner. I have to say it really inspired me to start and now it inspires me to keep running and to do crazy things like enter races. It also reminds me of two important things: 1) that it's okay to run and then eat Taco Bell, 2) that if looking cute in new clothes when you run helps you run, then you should go for it, and that you have to laugh at yourself when things happen on a run or a race. Wait, that's three. But her blog taught me that it's not going to be all sunshine and rainbows every time your run. It's going to be hard sometimes, and you're going to have random/tragic/frustrating things happen. That's okay too. Once I found Chic Runner, I began to find all kinds of running blogs--from beginners to the hard core crazies. As much as I love peeking into other people's lives, I love reading about their running and training.

So, vanity. While I haven't seen a lot of improvement in my weight since running (and I actually had a significant GAIN for the first few months I was running), I can't describe to you the accomplishment I feel when I'm done with a run. Just saying that to myself, that I just finished RUNNING _______ miles is such a rush. It's like I prove it to myself every time. If you run the same route, you think things like wow, this time I made it all the way to the third tree before I had to walk. There's an instant sense of accomplishment. I'm so genuinely proud to tell people what I've done because I feel like it keeps me honest. I also notice that my body is just more toned, more... functional? I can't think of a word for it, but basically I feel like I'm using my body more than I was. I feel like I'm tapping my full potential physically, which I didn't feel like before. For me this blog has been HUGE in making me feel accountable. In the beginning, I didn't want to say I'd skipped a day in my plan or that I quit, so I kept going. I recommend having an accountability buddy or some kind of record of what you do. It helps keep you honest, and it gives you a reason. Sometimes all you need is that reason. Back to vanity--I'm also hoping that one day I do finally see that weight loss. Some day.

But I know none of that is what you were asking. How do I not hate it? It's been a gradual process. It didn't happen the first day. I had to give myself permission to feel like it was hard sometimes. I had to learn that I could have a CRAPTASTIC run, but if I finished it, it was still a run and it was done. Nobody could take that away from me. I had to tell myself that it was okay to walk. Want to feel better about having to take walk breaks? Read Jeff Galloway's site. He actually recommends that you walk when you're training. Wahoo. I also had to set some guidelines by which I would feel accomplishment and not failure. For example, when I started running, I was using a modified Couch to 5K. I didn't feel like I was so out of shape that I needed to start at week 1, so I basically looked at a few weeks into the plan. I gave myself permission to be a slow, ungraceful, sloppy runner. I celebrated it. I had to allow myself little disappointments so I could get to the big thrill of just getting it done every day I set out.

I decided that a good goal for me to start was to spend 20 minutes run/walking and I would just see how far I would get. As I've said many times, I couldn't run more than a half mile without having to stop and walk, and let me tell you... when I did run that half mile, I wanted to DIE. I would cry and my body hurt and my lungs ached and my throat was dry. But I persisted, about three days a week. In the beginning it's important that you don't overdo it. Trying to run every single day is a good way to get injured. Eventually I got to the point where I could run 2-3 miles every time and I did this for about a month before starting Hal Higdon's beginner half-marathon plan. I do exactly this plan every day. Making that X on the day is very satisfying.

Another thing that I learned REALLY QUICKLY was that I was running too fast. This might not make sense to you since I was new and not a speedy runner, but I didn't know how to find the best pace for myself. If you run too fast it ends up hurting which means you have to walk more which means your overall pace is worse. One test that they suggest all the time is that you should be able to talk while you run. That's a hard one for me since I run by myself. I finally found my pace when I started running with podcasts from podrunner. When I ran at about 145-155 BPM, I noticed that I felt much better. (Yes, I have to run in time to the music. Dancer habit.) I realized that my breathing and lungs were not holding me back anymore. Basically, this pace is one thing: SLOW. Crazy slow. That's okay. It's still running, turtle style.

Another thing I learned by trial and error was the value of a REALLY GOOD (read: expensive) pair of running shoes. I don't say expensive just to mean that you have to spend a lot of money, but it's the getting fit part that's worth paying for. I started to have really bad lower leg pain and I came to learn that I was wearing the wrong pair of shoes. There are different kinds of feet, and you have to have the right shoes for your stride, or running can be really painful. Light bulb moment for me: I've always been wearing shoes that I thought were cute, and never shoes that were right for my feet. Thus, I was always in pain when I ran. A new pair of shoes that were made for pronator feet changed my life.

As for the anti-hate, it was gradual. I learned to look forward to the time alone. I don't even really like running with the dog, which isn't very nice, but it's just time that's all for me. One of the things I do when I am running is that I try to think about something that's kind of all-consuming, brain-wise. This really makes the time fade away. Often it's lesson plans or something that's bugging me (let's say with a friend, or E) and I try to think about something that's so powerful or difficult that I can't listen to myself breathe and feel my feet hit the pavement. This really helps. Listening to music really helps. Get a good pair of ear buds. I use E's Skull Candy buds because they're soft and not bulky and they don't fall out. I also have Majel (iMapMyRun app on the iPhone) in my ear every five minutes telling me how far I've gone and my average pace.

Here's one of my secrets. My best friend when I run? Chapstick. I've become a fiend. I hated Chapstick before... but it helps me think less about being thirsty because my lips don't get dry. Amazing.

In the beginning, I had to carve out time whenever I could find it. Sometimes I'd go all day getting excited and pumped up to run, other times when I'd decided I wasn't going to run I'd change my mind at the last minute and jump up just before sunset. I knew that for me--a late morning sleeper--adding the factor of waking early to run was going to be too much in the beginning and I'd fail. I had to wait until I was already feeling like I could run, and then I could make the transition to mornings. In the beginning when you can't carry water, run near drinking fountains. Play little games with yourself where you say "I'm going to keep running until I get to that post/water fountain/fence/etc." Go to Target and buy some cute and cheap running clothes (those fabrics really are better to run in than cotton, too) and a really supportive running bra. Don't give yourself any reason to feel frustrated, which leads to wanting to stop running.

I think the final thing that's allowed me to love running is that I really enjoy being out in nature now. I think I always did, I just forgot for a while. I've seen more of my neighborhood in the last three months than in the last ten years. Don't run on a track. Get out and go. Use MapMyRun to map a route out near your house and take off! I love seeing raccoons and ducks when I run. I love the breeze down by the lake. I love the trees. I love sunsets. I even love seeing the stars when I hit the driveway at 5:00 AM. The sunrises that conclude my morning runs give me such a sense of peace and fulfillment. I feel like I've been living life indoors for so long and I've been missing out. Being out in nature is addictive. The more I do it, the more I want to do it. The more I crave that kind of solo time with whatever is around me, whether I am in my hometown or Yosemite, or Tahoe.

Running is cheap. I don't have to have a membership, just a good pair of shoes and the willpower to do it. I can't recommend it enough, and I am certainly no expert. I hope it's something I can keep in my life for a long time. Hope this helps anybody who is thinking about starting out.

I hope that answered your question, Janis! If anyone else has Q&A questions, please email me. Click here to email. I'd love to hear from you. :)


  1. Well, you inspired me to run again. I need to get that motiVation, and to tonight the weather was so nice, I did my 5k loop! I carried a little water bottle which I think definitely helped and I ran/walked the last 0.7 miles...and still ended up around a 39 min 5k. I read the chicrunner now too thanks to you. About a mile in, I was thinking wow I really hate this...and I don't listen to music! But I kept going! I want to get up to 6.2 mi eventually so I can run a 10k. Oh and sorry if there are misspellings, my iPhone is really doing weird things right now! Thanks again for blogging about running! I enjoy reading your struggles with it- makes me feel normal!

  2. Heather, we are driving to Santa Barbara right now taking Russell back to college. I have been reading your blogs and sharing key stories with my boys. Then we laugh like crazy. Operation dontgetfatter, classroom Nazi and weed guy really cracked me up. Crap on a cracker and loving French toast like a fat kid loves cake and on and on, so fun to read your stuff. First day of school pics - priceless! Kathy d

  3. Thanks Kayda! Woohoo running! Yes, I love the fuel belt. Definitely worth a look-see.

    Thanks Kath. Can I call you Kath? Hee hee... I'm glad you're reading. And I'm glad SOMEBODY around here thinks I'm funny. I've been telling jokes to teenagers all week and hearing crickets. :)