I wish I started running sooner because I wasn’t always a runner. I started running in 2009, after the birth of my first child. A friend asked me to join her in our local Fleet Feet Sports No Boundaries 5K training program. I remember thinking – this is great! I’ve always wanted to be a runner but would poop out a few minutes into the run. Oooh, that dreaded side stitch would end a run quickly! Everyone else would run so fluidly; but there I was, huffing and puffing with each step.
So, I started and ran in a pair of old soccer shorts (because I wasn’t a soccer player) I’ve owned since college and some $30 cross-trainers. The running coach asked who wanted to walk and who wanted to run. I wanted to run. And I did, but it was hard! Everyone, including my husband, ran faster and with less effort than me. But I powered through each of those runs and ran my first 5K in a few months. e
Running with confidence
Finally, I felt like a runner! That was such an invigorating thing to say, at that time.
I never considered myself capable of being any type of athlete. My little brother and I tried playing basketball, baseball, and tennis together after school. Just for fun. But I was terr.i.ble! He was athletic in his own right. He played JV football, could skateboard. And I couldn’t do any of those things. I was never jealous, but it definitely affected how I felt about myself.
I continued on with my running, while my friend who originally introduced me to the sport, decided to stop. I ran a few more 5Ks after that, along with some shorter mile runs. I met runners who were of all shapes and sizes and considerably faster or slower than me. I asked them for advice on how to improve my own running performance. And I had friends asking me for running advice.
I subscribed to Runner World’s magazine. I read several running books to keep myself motivated. I thought about running. I invested in a pair of quality, $150 running shoes, and sweat wicking clothes. I wasn’t obsessed with running, but I knew I loved it because it made me feel so much better about myself. It seemed as though running was improving my confidence, changing my work habits, and how I was viewing my life.
Striving for more
Within a year of running, I trained for and ran a half marathon. I remember waking up at 3:30 A.M. at least 3 days per week to run 3-5 miles during the work week at a local gym. I would also run during my lunch break at the gym downtown. On the weekends, I would run 7 miles around my neighborhood, all while getting chased by dogs and getting followed by someone in a truck. I would then come home and find my daughter and husband still sleeping while I was out for a run. It didn’t cause any disruptions in our days.
I don’t know what motivated me to endure all of those challenges. Running was such a passion and kept me happy outside of being a mother, that I never wanted to stop. I ran on hope and determination that I would also be considered an athlete, even though I know my 5’1 frame didn’t make me look like it. I wasn’t muscular anywhere. But I had incredible mind strength. I believed that I could run a distance and committed to it.
Feeling the burnout
Then, the burnout. All out within a year. I was tired of training for something and just wanted to run…for fun. I didn’t want to continue running by following a set training plan. So, for a few years, I dabbled in a few runs a week and ran a few more 5K and 10K races, here and there.
After the birth of my second child, the running bug hit me harder because I was desperate to lose the weight I had gained. So, I ran a few 10Ks and half marathons. I would read books while running on the treadmill for hours, at times. A good sweat led me to believe that I was burning calories.
The last race I ran was in 2013. I ran a marathon and remember having my hamstring seize and slowing down my pace. A few weeks later as recovery didn’t seem to improve after the race, I learned that I was pregnant with my 3rd child.
I slowly returned to running after that birth. My recovery was much more difficult this time around. I experienced sciatic pain and gallstones. My running was more stop and go at this point. I decided to change things up and incorporate strength training. That’s how my interest in weightlifting evolved, and slowly it did.
Empowering my run
Once I stopped feeling the need to run races, it became a more enjoyable experience for me. There have been so many benefits that I have experienced through running. I want to share those here.
1. Setting and achieving goals
It’s an amazing feeling to go out for a run for a pre-determined amount of time or miles and actually finishing. Whether you decide to train for a race or run for whatever reason it may be, you start by setting a goal and achieving that goal. This will help give you a greater sense of empowerment that will leave you feeling much happier.
2. Aiding and maintaining weight loss
Running is an effective exercise at burning calories. It has been found that people typically burn more calories per minute when running than they do when swimming or bicycling. Of course, the caloric burn increases when adding in a strength training routine. Does that mean you need to log a lot of miles to see results? No. Run at your own pace and at a distance you feel comfortable with.
3. Relieving stress and improving focus
For me, I feel more level-headed after a run. I guess you can say that the sweat I earn from running acts as a cleanse of my worries. I run primarily on the treadmill. I use that time to catch up on my favorite YouTube and Netflix videos. At times, during and after a run, I remember experiencing moments of clarity and getting lost in my own thoughts. My mood seems to have also been lifted if I had not been feeling my best.
4. Improving time management
Scheduling a run is key if you have children, work long hours, etc. You schedule it into your day as you would a medical appointment. I know if I skip that workout, my day may go off course. I normally run in the early morning hours. I do this because my family is sleeping, and I don’t have to start and stop my treadmill if someone needs me. But an early wake-up time means an earlier bedtime. I try to ensure that I get at least 7-8 hours a night. I don’t usually run if I’ve had less sleep than that because my body doesn’t seem primed for any type of activity during that time of day.
About 5 years later, I decided to train for a half marathon so that I could challenge my body and mental strength. So far, I haven’t been pleased with my progress. For example, I tend to eat less when I train hard, and I know that the opposite needs to be true. I also can’t break the mental barrier of logging in more than 4 miles at a time. I think about the time I may spend away from my family while training. But I think I’ve found my sweet spot…I train during the very early morning hours. Some days, I get up at 3:45 AM and start running at 4 AM, with no nutrition intake since I’m intermittent fasting. On the weekends, I have one scheduled long run where I will break my fast early so that I will be fueled to run.
Training obviously feels different this time around. My mindset is different. I don’t feel the need to prove myself as a runner but it’s now something I use to supplement my strength training. It’s also supplementing my self-care efforts.
I may decide to alter my training because it doesn’t fit my life at the time. But if that happens, it’s ok. I have more confidence now than I did before.
Do you run? How does it make you feel?