Guest writer, Dr. Michelle Quirk of Mindful Marathon, explains how to overcome some of the most common fears about running to get started with a fitness plan which works for you.
Many friends tell me that while they appreciate my stance on fitness, they simply “hate running.”
They’re not alone. In fact, I also felt this way. Growing up, I was the kid who huffed and puffed my way through the mile run in gym class. I started and quit the sport many times before it finally stuck.
I became consistent with running nine years ago, at a particularly difficult time in my life. My dad had been diagnosed with lung cancer, and I found that lacing up my sneakers nearly daily and getting outside for just five to ten minutes at a time helped to clear my mind and to provide a sense of peace that was lacking elsewhere in my daily routine.
After my father’s death, I started to challenge the thoughts that kept me from running for so long. As I’ve coached beginner runners over the years, I started to notice a common theme of the thoughts which contribute to this “I hate running feeling.”
Myth #1: It’s too hard for me
I had this same thought when I started running.
When I first started, I thought I had to try to go out as fast and as long as possible to get a decent workout accomplished. This resulted in feelings of disappointment when I would get tired and out of breath quickly.
The game changer for me was learning how to run slowly. Finding a pace at which I could sustain a conversation allowed me to run in a much more comfortable way, without becoming short of breath. I found I could run longer and with much less fatigue.
It finally felt doable!
What if we embraced our current fitness, wherever that happens to be, and simply ran with it (pun intended)?
Myth #2: I could never run like that
We see runners in our neighborhood or at the gym, and maybe we don’t think we belong right there with them for whatever reason.
Maybe we think that we aren’t fit like them, that we could never be fast enough, that we could never run long enough. I’d like to encourage us to take the focus inward and concentrate on what we can do right now.
What if we allow ourselves to remove the comparison factor?
What if we just laced up our sneakers and started?
Myth #3: Running is punishment
Many adults who participated in high school or college athletics have brought memories of “running as punishment” from their youth into adulthood.
Mess up the workout – go run laps.
Miss the play – do sprint repeats.
Poor team performance – everyone go run a mile.
This is a common experience for young athletes and with this particular wiring, the brain thinks about running and automatically recalls the negative experiences and feelings of the past – which results in zero desire to run.
But what if running didn’t feel like punishment?
It’s important to work through these thought associations and learn to listen to how your body feels while running to move past this negative experience.
In fact, with the right approach – and the right coaching – running can actually feel good!
Instead of Self-Judgment, Practice Patience
Changing our thoughts about running may sound simple enough, but it is not easy. The old thoughts like to creep in from time to time, even when you’ve been at the sport a long while.
We must be patient with ourselves as we work through these questions.
An awesome running coach can help you overcome these thoughts and fears! Having a run coach can provide the support, encouragement, and accountability that will help to get you going. This is why I do what I do!
I’m living proof that one can go from, “I hate running,” to one who finds true joy in running. And if you want, you can find joy in running, too.
Dr. Michelle Quirk is a board-certified pediatrician and a certified run coach with the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA). She founded Mindful Marathon to help make running easy and fun for busy professionals. For anyone thinking that running is too hard or that they can’t be runners, she is ready to help transform you into a runner.
For those just starting out on their fitness journey, check out the free Couch to Confidence plan to get walking regularly. For newer runners, and runners who haven’t run in awhile, start with the free How to Get Started with Running workshop.
For more information on customized training plans and coaching with Michelle, head to www.mindful-marathon.com.