Having taken this challenge a bit more seriously this time out, I've discovered a few things that have made the whole adventure both more enjoyable and easier. Here now, for the total beginner, or for those who've been thinking about taking this up, are a few tips:
- Do it with a buddy. Ideally someone in similar physical (non)shape, and equally as keen. It's amazing how much easier it is to get out the door when someone else is counting on you. All those encouraging words, high-fives, and post-run hydrating drinks in the backyard just add to the pleasure of it all.
- Ignore the forecast. Don't let the rain, cold, heat or wind stop you and get used to running in all kinds of conditions. It's time to break the habit of using any little excuse to talk yourself out of running ("Oh, the sun is too low - I'll be blinded." "It's too cold and then I'll be sweaty and get chills." "I just drank too much water - I'll get a cramp.") Shut it and move!
- Practice positive motivation. It's true that just getting your butt out the door on a regular basis is possibly the hardest thing about running. One trick is to just change into your running clothes. Keep puttering or doing whatever you were doing, but start looking like you're about to go jogging. Put your runners on. Become the runner. Then the next big step is getting out the door. But once you've crossed that threshold, you've already started. And I've never regretted starting once that run is done. Smug satisfaction is a drug.
- Find the time of day that's right for you. Some people like to run first thing in the morning. I find any form of serious exertion before 10am to be both impossible and immoral. My natural time seems to be somewhere around 4 or 5 PM, when I start to feel gross from sitting in front of the computer all day and need to shake a leg, literally.
- Find a route or path you really like. Maybe you like to feel secluded, or you prefer to blend in with other joggers in a big park. Personally, I like the long, straight bike path by the rail road tracks in my neighborhood. I don't have to think about dodging casual walkers, baby strollers, darting children, soccer balls, soccer moms, and squirrels. It's just me and a few fellow leg shakers at a time, like travelers on a highway.
- Invest in good running gear. It may seem like a big pill to swallow at first to invest in new shoes, clothes and a good bra to keep the girls in place, but anything that makes the experience more enjoyable right off the bat is worth the investment. But maybe save the really nice stuff for when you know for sure you've got the running bug. Consider it a reward for all that hard work. Then you know you've become one of those people who talks tech with the folks at The Running Room.
- Go slow. This is really what the C25K program is built on. Keeping it manageable so you don't get discouraged right away. Each week is challenging, but not impossible. It feels great to be able to push yourself just beyond what you thought was possible. That's what keeps you motivated. Also, running can be hard on the body. My style is barely a notch above a brisk walk. Find the pace that's right for you and respect that. Be kind to your body.
- Stretch. There are different schools of thought about pre- or post-jog stretching. I usually just do post and have been fine with that. There are lots of online sites that can give you a few exercises that will keep your leg muscles from killing you the next day.
- There's an app for that. There are tons out there, including one on the C25K site, complete with friendly lady that lets you know how long to walk, when to run, and when you're halfway there. Let's you focus on your breathing and pacing instead of counting in your head.