Running is definitely my favourite form of exercise, but it hasn’t always been this way… I used to dread going for runs. I am not a naturally good runner; I am neither fast nor good at long distances. But it is by far the most accessible form of exercise. You can do it anywhere, in any city, and there is no class or membership fee. There are also so many physical and mental benefits to running – I always feel so much better after a run. Here is how I went from hating it to loving it and how I keep enjoying it.
1) Keep it fun: I don’t time myself or try to beat my best time. I just do what feels right that day. On some days, I feel great and go longer, farther, and faster. On other days, I have to mix in some walking breaks and it’s a shorter run…it’s all good! One of the biggest reasons I started to like and continue to like running is that I do it for fun and for myself only.
If you are new to running, getting back into it after some time away, or recovering from an injury, remember to start small and increase from there. Consistency is key. I often start with intervals (run for a song, walk for a song, or run a block walk a block)
2) Mental benefits: Running decreases anxiety, makes me feel strong, and reminds me I am capable of pushing through being uncomfortable. I also do some of my best thinking and processing during a run. It really gives you time to think by yourself. Even if I don’t feel like going, I always know I will feel better afterwards. I find I am a more patient person at work if I have gone for a run in the morning and started my day with something for myself. No other form of exercise has the same mental benefits for me as a run. Not the gym or yoga. A run always wins in my brain.
3) Awesome music: I cannot. I repeat. CANNOT enjoy a run without music. I have tried listening to nature and my breath. I hate it. I love listening to a playlist full of old and new pump up songs. As is said in the song Five More Hours “this right here is my kinda party”. A good pump up song can get my tired a$$ up a hill and make me smile even if I’m out of breath. Good music during my run always puts me in a good mood… even if I’m truckin’ it.
4) Fresh air and being outside: I hate running on the treadmill… I will in the dead of winter to keep my endurance up but in the spring, summer and fall I love to run outside. Fresh air, some sunshine and the trees can work wonders. It always feels so much more satisfying and interesting to actually cover some ground. Running is such a great way to explore a new city, park, or area!
5) Find your schedule: When I am done at work all I want to do is come home and cuddle on the couch – I typically finish work around 6-7 at night. I have found that running in the morning is the best fit for my schedule. I also find going early on an empty stomach works for me. Figure out what schedule works best for you. Midday lunch run? After work run? Early morning run? Another trick is finding the foods (or lack there of) that sit well before you go and how far ahead you have to eat. Once you have your routine, fitting your run in is much easier. Also, recognizing that your run doesn’t have to be super long can make all the difference in finding time in your schedule. Do you only have 30 minutes, 15 minutes? That’s fine! I still get all the benefits of running even if it’s a shorter one!
6) Get the gear: In order to make running as comfortable and sustainable as possible, I need the right shoes and accessories.
- Good running shoes: My go to shoe is Asics Gel Kayano. I have had four pairs in a row and am never disappointed. I also size up a half size since your feet swell while running. Also get good socks! There is nothing worse than your socks falling down your foot mid-run.
- A running waist band: Perfect for holding your phone and keys and doesn’t bounce while running. For some reason nothing ruins a run for me like having to hold anything in my hands.
- Ear phones: With these cordless ones I can easily change/skip/pause songs on the fly, and there is no cord to get my arms stuck in.
Extras that have made a big difference for me:
- Prescription sunglasses: If you are distance blind like me, these are a game changer. I hated having to put contacts in just to go for a run but also hated wearing my regular glasses (they got all sweaty and were not comfortable to run in). Now when I want to go for a run, I just throw my sunglasses on – I can see, I’m comfortable, and I feel like a badass.
- A hat: Why did it take me so long to figure out that a hat is the perfect way to keep my hair under control while I run? It hides all my morning frizz, keeps my hair from bouncing around and hurting my scalp and protects my face from the sun.
7) Stretch and warm up. My sister and I recently had a lengthy discussion about this. In our teens and early twenties we left the house running, sans warm up, with no repercussions. However, after age 25, my sister ended up having achilles tendonitis and I got a calf knot the size of a mango. We finally had to ask ourselves, oh shit, do we have to start warming up and stretching before we run? The answer – yes we did. My recommendation is to warm up and stretch properly to save yourselves the sore body (and ego). Equally important is to stretch and cool down after. Foam rollers reign supreme for this.
At the end of the day, this is just my experience with running. Many other people have a similar story with a different form of exercise. There are a lot of fitness fads and information about what the “best” type of exercise is. One day it’s running, one day its yoga, the next its crossfit. I am a true believer that the best kind of exercise is one you enjoy. If you happen to enjoy running or are looking to get into it, I hope these tips are helpful. If running isn’t your jam, that’s totally ok too!
What is your favourite form of exercise? What are your tips for continuing to enjoy it? I would love your advice!