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Running: Embrace the Suck

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How do you feel about running? I personally used to absolutely hate it. Mainly because I sucked at it.

To give you an idea, when I was in high school, I thought going out for track might be fun (yes, dumb idea especially considering the fact that I was on the chubby side back then). I was a thrower but my brilliant track coach thought I should run the 2 mile to give our team more points at district (Class C means very few competitors and a good chance of placing).

So I did and I qualified for divisionals. Divisionals is a whole other animal -- I was lapped by EVERYONE, which means I had to do my last lap completely by myself. To say I was embarrassed was an understatement.

I carried that experience with me for a long time and accepted my fate that I was just not born a runner -- you’d think my stubby legs and stout build would’ve been enough to convince me.

Fast forward several years and my husband was always bugging me to go running with him (I was much healthier by this point) but I still assumed I would suck. He's also 6'4" and built to run; as I just mentioned, I am not.

Finally, I caved and started running. And you know what, I did suck but despite that I found myself kind of enjoying it. The solitude, the excuse to be outside the feeling I had when I finished, accomplishing a distance I never dreamed possible -- it was all pretty great.

It’s been about 7 years since I really gave running a chance and, while I still proudly suck at it, I continue to do it. I'm never going to break any records or take home first place but I show up.

Sometimes you need to find something you really suck at but that you still do for the sheer enjoyment. Running is that thing for me right now, maybe playing the ukulele will be my next suck ; )

I’m not saying you need to start running but you should definitely try something you know you’re not good at and give it a try -- allow yourself to not be great at something.

If you do want to lessen the suck of running and give it a try, I’m going to share a few tips and ideas to maybe help you hate running just a little bit less and embrace the suck.

1) Baby Steps

When you’re first starting out, you don’t have to go straight for a marathon or half – just making it around your block without stopping is a good place to start. I will say, however, races definitely give you a little more motivation so sign up if you need a little extra push.

2) Treat it as a Skill

Just like any other activity you try your hand at, there’s a very good chance you’re not going to be a great runner from the start. Despite the fact that we humans were born to run, a lifetime of sedentary activities (i.e. sitting) has reshaped our bodies. What we could naturally do as kids, now will likely seem uncomfortable. So, practice, practice, practice and practice some more. When you get tired, stop. Fatigue makes form fall apart, which can lead to injury. So, as soon as you feel your stride and form breaking down, call it a day.

3) Misery Loves Company

If you’re not into solo workouts, con one of your friends into hitting the pavement with you. But make sure they’re just as new to running as you are or it may backfire. I hated running with my hubby for the mere fact that running was easy for him so he was always over there chatting up a storm while I was dying inside.

4) Tune Out

Some people like to use music to distract themselves from the pain of running and I think a lot of times it works. Podcasts are also effective. If you prefer to go sans headphones, running without music almost puts you in a meditative state where you can focus on your breath, body and any random thoughts that pop into your head.

5) The Tortoise Wins the Race

Newbie runners, for some reason, think they need to be fast to be a runner – that is so not true. The only thing speed is going to do is burn you out fast and increase your hatred for running. Instead, pick a pace you’re comfortable with and stick with it adjusting as necessary during the duration of your run.

6) Walk When you Want

Don’t feel like a failure if you have to walk, it’s perfectly acceptable. In fact, a walk-run program is a very effective way to build a solid base for running. Some competitive runners even use strategic walking breaks to improve their overall running time – if it works for them, it’ll work for you.

7) Relax, Boo

Your face, arms, hands, hips and legs should all be relaxed – really, your core should be the only part of your body that feels remotely tight. If you find yourself tensing, make it a point to work your way down your body, allowing those tense muscles to relax – running will feel much more natural if you just let your body do what it already knows how to do.

8) Don't Get Caught up in Distance

You don’t have to run 100 miles a week to be a runner. You don’t have to run 10 miles a week to be a runner. You just have to run. Don’t get hung up on mileage. Just do what you can and what you can fit into your schedule. If you don’t feel like you can get a good workout without racking up the miles, give sprints or hill repeats a go.

9) Keep Track

You may not feel like you’re making any progress in the running game but if you keep track of your runs, whether by time, distance or both, you’ll see you’re getting better and faster every day. Nothing motivates like written proof that you’re kicking ass.

10) Embrace the Suck

It doesn’t matter how bad you are at running, if you love it do it. If you hate it, give it a try, embrace the suck that is running and you just may come out the other side loving the stupid activity.

Until next time,

Coach Jen