One of the first habits that I knew I wanted to tackle in The Year of Habit was a simple and sustainable fitness routine. I have never been particularly sporty or athletic, but through the years I have tried it all:
- dance in high school,
- weight training and step aerobics in college,
- yoga and pilates as a young adult,
- kickboxing and HIIT as a new mom,
- hot yoga and walking after injuring my back
except there is one fitness activity that I have avoided like the plague for as long as I can remember…
My aversion to running can probably be traced back to elementary school where I was told that I wouldn’t be able to pass the 6th grade unless I completed a physical fitness test, which included running a mile, in gym class.*
*I may not be accurately remembering the facts of the situation, but I was convinced I would be in elementary school forever.
Did I mention I also had asthma as a kid? So imagine me huffing and puffing and wheezing around the soccer field telling myself that if I made it through the day I would never ever have to run again. And I didn’t – until 6 months ago.
So what changed my mind? It was a long and winding road that eventually convinced me to give running a try, but three had a major influence on my decision:
About 2 years ago my husband started running in the early morning before work. He did not start off with the kind of baggage I did around running, but he was not really a fan either. When he told me that his ultimate goal was to run a marathon I may have been… a little less than supportive. But, despite my doubts, he persisted. Last year, I had the pleasure of watching him finish the Chicago Marathon.
As I stood there, watching the throngs of runners crowd the streets of downtown Chicago, I realized something. The runners were not all the typical ultra slim athletic types that I would expect from a marathoner. Instead, the runners were all shapes, sizes, and ages. Some of them looked a lot like me, and I thought: Maybe this is something that I could do, too.
With the kids getting older, we knew that eventually we would add a dog to our family. A few months after returning from our trip to Chicago, we were finally ready to take the plunge and start looking for a puppy. Enter Arlo, an adorable Great Pyrenees mix rescue dog.
Since I work from home and have the most flexible schedule, I knew that the bulk of the training, care, and exercise of the new pup would be my responsibility. I also knew that a tired puppy is a well behaved dog, so I started walking Arlo for a mile every morning – rain or shine. As Arlo got bigger, one mile was not enough to tire him out. So we would walk a little further each week until eventually we were walking 2-3 miles a day. The problem was that this got a bit boring and took a long time so I often ended up taking him to the dog park to run around instead.
Up to this point, I was still attempting to keep my existing exercise routine of going to Yoga 2-3 times a week. I say “attempting” because it rarely happened. The yoga studio I go to is about 20 minutes away, so going to a class required a 2 hour chunk of my day. I finally realized that in this season of my life, with 2 young kids (and a dog), I needed exercise that was quick, easy, and cheap. Since I was already having to walk Arlo anyway it just made sense that I incorporate my exercise with his, so I just needed to solve time and boredom issue. And that is when I decided to give running a try.
By running instead of walking I could cut my workout time from 1 hour to 20-30 minutes. And because running was a challenge for me it certainly wouldn’t be boring. When I began incorporating running into our morning outings, I could barely run for 30 seconds straight. Recently, I finished my first 5K and was able to run without stopping for the 1st half of the race. I still have a long way to go, but I can see results – and that is keeping me motivated.
Do you believe that you could never be a runner? I encourage you to give it a try. I will share in a future post the specific training strategies and gear worked for me, but if you are looking for some immediate inspiration I highly recommend the following resources:
- Running Like a Girl: Notes on Learning to Run
by Alexandra Heminsley
- Run Like a Mother: How to Get Moving–and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity
by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea
- The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer
by David Whitsett, Forrest Dolgener, and Tanjala Kole