The 5 W’s of Running

Running does help keep my weight consistent, but it’s a combination of a healthier lifestyle and exercise that got me here

A simple Google search on “running for beginners” will give you 1.8 billion results. Let that sink in, 1.8 billion results that have something to do with the words running-for-beginners. Is it any surprise that there is so much misinformation out there? 

Two years ago, I sat right where you are at this very moment, in front of your smart device or computer, researching how to start running. It’s overwhelming, in the beginning, but I want to help you navigate it with how I started and continue to run each week.

Warning: I am not a medical doctor, I have not been trained in medicine, sports therapy, or any other practice relating to health, DUH. All I can share is my journey and my lessons as they relate to my health. Some of this information may work for you and it may not. It is best to check with your doctor before beginning any form of exercise to make sure you are physically able to do it.

Who is a runner?

Recently I posted Running To Save My Life, you got a glimpse of why I started running and my philosophy behind it. Wait, you didn’t read that blog? 

Why not? 

Stop right now and go read it, I’ll wait… No, seriously, I will wait right here.

Okay, with that out of the way, let me start by saying this. If you put on a pair of shoes and run anywhere and for any amount of time, you are a runner. Did you catch that? You… Are… A… Runner, periodt. The only difference between you and Christian Coleman and Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce is the amount of training and reasons for running. What all of us share in common is the most important part, we show up to run each day. Running is all it takes to be a runner, it is literally that simple. The rest, things like dedication, training/conditioning,  and competing are things you can do to improve or prove yourself. 

We all start at the same place, with our first run. And one little secret, running is always hard. Newsflash, improving yourself is hard, so why would running be any different. Sure with time, you improve. Your breathing comes under control, your heart rate will slow, the distance you run will increase, and so will your strength. All of that doesnt change that it is hard work, but that is one of the things I love most about it. 

Now, get out there and run….

What is running?

This seems like an easy answer, right? We all know what running is, at least the mechanics behind it. This is about the act of running. 

In my research, I have read lots of opinions on what running is or isn’t.  I will tell you that most of it is rubbish. All the research keeps you from doing what it is you want to do, running. Running is your time out there; legs pumping, heart racing, and just being. It is your run and no one else’s. 

The way you run is up to you. Your body has a natural inclination on how it moves others will be different. Trying to learn someone else’s style of running can actually set you up for injury. That doesn’t mean you can’t improve, but let’s start with just running first. 

If you notice that your footfalls cause you pain in places, then it’s time to engage someone to help figure out the issue. A good place to start would be a runner’s shoe store not The Shoe Dept or some department store. No shade to them, but if you want to improve technique then you need to talk to people who know how to help. Most runner’s shoe stores have people who run a lot and have areas set up in the store that will allow them to check your technique. From there they can make suggestions for improvements. 

For now, just remember that your run is the right run for you, at this moment. 

Where do you run?

The simple answer is anywhere. Whether it be your neighborhood, the track at the local school, treadmill at the gym, or your favorite nature trail, all are equally great places to run. Let’s go a little deeper. 

I have arthritis in both of my knees and at times it can be rather painful. I learned very quickly that where I run can have a big impact on how my joints feel afterwards, this was through trial and error. So, let me save you some time here. Anywhere is a good place to run, but if you have joint issues, terrain that is a bit more forgiving will be beneficial. Personally, I prefer trail running. It’s the nature lover in me. I get to see flora and fauna, shade from the trees, the smells of nature, and its typically more quiet. Trail running has the added benefit of softer terrain. Your joints take a lot of impact when you run, your knees especially. So starting out, it is more advisable to run in places that are a little easier on you so you keep going. If something hurts every time you do it, you find little reason to continue it.

But what if your closest and easiest option is pavement running? Then do what you can do. I am not saying that pavement running is bad or less favorable, just that it helps heighten the impact to your joints. The biggest downfall to pavement running is that it is consistent in its terrain, normally. You wont get changes in elevation as much, they tend to be more subtle. It doesn’t change from block to block whereas trail running can be different with every footfall. I usually do a bit of both, it helps vary my routine and outcome of my sessions. 

When do you run?

The best answer to this is every chance you can. The reality can be a little different. Life gets in the way, but being a runner is like everything else you do in life, to get better you need to do it. There is no best time to run, some people run in the early morning, some during the day, some in the afternoon like me, and others late at night. It doesn’t matter, it’s about running. Whenever you can work it into your schedule is the right time. It is about consistency. You have already said you are a runner so all you have to do is run each day. Sure, you may miss a day, but try not to miss two in a row. 

Here is a personal tip. I have already said running is hard and will always be hard. Sometimes you head out not sure if you want to run or not. I overcame that by just starting to run. I would say, let me get this first ten minutes in and see how I feel then. HINT: ten minutes of running can be a mile of running. Once that ten minutes gets there, I reevaluate it. If I feel I can push more then I go. I do not beat myself up if I have to stop. More often than not, I get to that ten minute mark and my body falls into rhythm and I am good. If I still question it, by the time I hit mile two I know the rest is easy.

Any time is the right time, don’t let the clock be your limiting factor in your running.

Why do you run?

To create a routine that you stick to can be boiled down to two things, dedication and motivation. Dedication can be the easier of the two, as it only requires you to do it consistently. Motivation is what drives you and continues to push you to do better and more. That is as varied as the different shapes of snowflakes. 

I had two factors to build my motivation off of and I shared my health reasons previously. As a recap, the need to get and stay healthy is a driving factor to how well I deal with my disease. The other factor is a bit more personal. I have always considered myself an outdoors person, loving to hike and camp. About three years ago, I took my boyfriend on a hike to the train that I now run, Pete’s Pond. I was near 300 lbs at the time. The first big hill there took everything out of me. I remember stopping about four times before I got to the top of this rather small incline. I was embarrassed by my display. 

Flash forward about six months and we are in Hocking Hills. It was the last morning we were there and decided to take a hike. I was not familiar with the area and didn’t know that there were some larger hills to climb. It was excruciating and more embarrassing than Pete’s Pond had been. At that moment, I knew that if I didn’t get healthier, there was a strong chance I could lose my boyfriend. Mainly, because I would not be able to keep up with his love of hiking. I didn’t want to be the reason he couldn’t go or we couldn’t hike specific places. Everytime i struggled with wanting to exercise and run, those images came blaring into my mind. They became my motivation to do more. 

Maybe your motivation is different, it doesn’t matter. It is supposed to be unique to you, after all it is what will keep you going. Find that reason and burn it into your memory, make a picture of it to hang on your wall, if need be. Whatever it takes to get you motivated, because the only thing that matters is consistency. Show up each and every day, for the reasons you have chosen, and run. That is it, simple huh?

How do you run?

This is not a section that will provide you a format on the proper way to run. If you missed the section on What Is Running, then go back to the top and re-read it. Your run is exactly that, yours. Don’t worry about what your arms are doing. Don’t focus on your stride so much, unless you are overstriding. Don’t compare yourself to others runners, you don’t know what got them to where they are. Focus on what you are doing and how you feel doing it. 

The biggest hurdle I had in starting to run was my fear of how others thought I looked running. I had entire conversations with these people in my head and how they were judging me. I just knew they were wondering why this fat guy was trying to run or laughing at me. At some point, I just said “FUCK IT, this is my journey” and just ran. 

Okay, you may be thinking that I said in my last post, and this one, that I researched running a lot and that there is a YouTube channel called the Messy Happy that I watch for tips and that is all true. Ultimately, I realized that those things could teach me techniques I didn’t know or help me shape my view of running, but what they can’t do is make me a runner. That could only come by me running.

WIthout double dipping into the section about motivation too much, you need to stay motivated and part of that comes with showing up each day. Start by just getting dressed and putting on your running shoes. Next, just focus on starting your run, not how far you need to run or how long. Don’t even think about the various training styles of running. Just get out there and do it. (Sorry, Nike, for using your tag line) Get the basics in and form your consistent habit, then you can look at the mechanics behind it and what you can do to make you better at what you are doing. 

Love the runner you are

I cannot stress this enough. You are a runner and you should celebrate that. Celebrate it and not over think it. Do not go into running with the mindset that you have to do this to achieve a goal. For one, there are a great many factors as to why a goal can or cannot be achieved. 

Here is an example. Do not go into running with the sole intent of losing weight. Running alone will not get you there, sure it will help your cardiovascular system, stress levels, and blood flow, to name a few, but running alone cannot be the sole method to lose weight. Ite definitely will help. Running does help me keep my weight consistent, but it is a combination of a healthier lifestyle and exercise that got me here. It also can take away from your enjoyment of running if you aren’t seeing the results you imagined you would have. Just run and learn to love how you feel while doing it. 

If you are looking for more tips on your beginning runners journey, show some love to a YouTube channel that keeps me motivated, The Messy Happy. Check out their playlist on The Beginner Runner Bible

Have you recently started a running journey? What prompted you to start it and what motivated you to keep going. Let me know in the comments below. How do you feel about running? Do you think it’s dreadful or amazing? Share your thoughts below. Your insights may be the key that helps another person open the door to a better lifestyle.

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