It’s just not my thing
“I’m just not a runner. I could never do that.” That’s what I would say to anyone who suggested I try competing in a road race or run to keep in shape for other sports. Don’t get me wrong, as an athlete from the time I was a kid and through college I did my fair share of sprints and off-season training. But running was always introduced to me as a punishment for letting the ball drop in volleyball or missing a free throw in basketball. It was a negative connotation that made me view distance running as an unattainable sport only meant for those people who had a slim build and were “naturally fast.”
Although my negativity towards running kept me from truly understanding the sport, it was the idea that it was impossible that led me to running my first 5K. I was always a kid who had more power and strength than speed and agility. So most people who pushed running on me did it because “I needed to lose weight” or I was “too slow.” But during my recent weight loss journey I learned that my body could be pushed to amazing limits and achieve success. This is when I learned that distance running for your health isn’t about speed, it’s about what my body was already designed to do: use my natural power and strength to persevere.
This revelation allowed me to set the goal of training to finish my first 5K. This was something I would never have been confident or brave enough to try so I knew crossing the finish line would help to crush any nagging self-doubts.
At this time I was recovering from an illness and had not been able to exercise for months. That meant I had very little stamina and strength. So I started small. All I did was walk. That’s right, I built up to power walking 3 miles. From there I began to incorporate strength training to help my body build up my muscles. Soon I was doing 10 rounds of a combination of one minute of walking, and 30 seconds each of jogging and running for a total of 30 minutes. Gradually the amount of walking decreased until I was able to run the whole time.
Hitting that goal meant that I could switch my focus to pushing my body to reach the 5K distance. I think the most important aspect of this training is that I never worried about the time. It was about finishing the full 3.1 and improving my health. The finish line would still be there whether I came in first or last.
On race day, it was bitterly cold but I don’t even remember shivering because I was so excited that all my hard work had led me to the starting line. As I ran through the course I felt: strong, not tired, my breath easy, not labored, and I was actually smiling as I rounded the corner near the finish line. I had accomplished something I had told myself (and let others convince me) that I could NEVER do because I just wasn’t “built for running.” I’ve never felt more empowered than I did in that moment.
Where do I go from here?
It took me about a year to really regain my strength and be race ready. Before you get completely discouraged, that is not how long it will take everyone! Each person is at a different level of fitness, which will dictate how long it could take to train.
If running intimidates you like it did for me, then reach out for help. Check out if there are local running groups that help people go from 0 to 5K or make it a goal with a personal trainer. Or if it’s something you want to do on your own – try an app that guides you or see if your gym has a free training worksheet you can follow. I’m actually using one of those free worksheets to keep me on track for my next milestone: a 10K.
Always remember your body can accomplish amazing things when you have the self-confidence and the drive to go after what seems like an unattainable goal.
If you want to learn more about getting started in athletics check out a little literary treasure in The Grotto.