I went for a nice 3 mile run this morning. Well, I still can't bring myself to say 'I went for a run' without explaining that I run intervals which means I'm walking for at least half if not more of the time that I'm out there, so I have trouble calling myself a runner. That aside, I went out there and I did it. I run solo, and I run without earbuds. I call it my 'Zen' time, because I use it to mull over things in my head, either preparing for the day in front of me or clearing out the cobwebs from the day behind me, depending on what time I head out. Today's run taught me a lot about where I've been, and where I hope to go.
For those of you who are just starting out, for those of you who are despondent because you're overweight or have no energy or can't seem to break a food cycle. Please take heart. I was you, and not so long ago. Now I'm out there running, making the most of my journey. I'm still not half way to where I want to be yet, but that's okay. I'm a work in progress and so are you. This is what the last few months have taught me, and as I reflected on my journey this morning I thought I'd put it together to maybe help those of you who are wobbling a bit you get going in a fresh direction.
- Don't try to do too much too soon. There's a great program, the Run Your First Mile schedule that From Fat to Finish Line has set up. Now, I'm 'supposed' to be on week 12 or 14 or something. However, I'm still down in the early weeks. These old legs only wanted to run 15 seconds and walk 3 minutes when I started. I'm on a 30-second run, 60-second walk now. I'm calling it progress. C25k started out at a 60-second run, which was way over my head. Some of the other interval programs are pretty advanced, too. The point is, you're unlikely to lace up your shoes for the first time and crush it, so don't expect to. If you can't do it the way that it's laid out, then don't; just do what you can. You're doing this for you, no one else. Take your time and do it right. You will improve. Promise.
- Try interval training. I'd never heard of it prior to getting involved with this group. You don't have to run the whole time and in fact, it's sometimes better if you don't In my instance, I found that intervals helped stop me from exercise-induced asthma and that in itself is a win. Intervals let me catch my breath, and helped me to complete a 10k last month. If the idea of running seems overwhelming, then try intervals and work up to it.
- Talk to a running coach. You want to do this right, not necessarily fast. The right form and pace will keep you injury free, which means you'll get to your goals faster in the long run. Don't try to cut corners.
- Get decent shoes. Seriously. I nearly died when I bought my first pair of Altras at $110! However, they paid for themselves the first time that I wore them by the difference they made to my gait, my comfort, and my speed. If $20 sneakers work for you, then have at it! However, if like me you're getting leg cramps and sore feet all of the time, then get down to a reputable athletic shoe store, have a professional to monitor your gait, and be properly fitted. It's so worth it.
- Track your progress. It doesn't matter whether you use Runkeeper or Fitbit or Garmin or whatever. Just track it. That way you'll know when you're improving, and where you've still got work to do. When you see it, you will automatically want to do something with it. I started out at a 1 hour 12 minute 5k. I've got it down to around 46 minutes now. Track your food, too. It's astounding what you're actually eating when you just mindlessly shove it in your cake-hole. Great fitness starts in the kitchen, and tracking helped me to lose weight pretty painlessly. When you track and track and then track some more, yes, it's a pain with which to start, but you also have a much more immediate way to see your results. When you see your progress, whether on the scale or in the mirror or on paper, it's fabulous motivation to keep going.
- Incorporate strength training into your routine. Yeah, I kind of did this one backward, because I started working out with weights, first, and THEN wondered what would happen if I tried to run. Running is great cardio, and it's fun and is awesome, but you'll still benefit from core work. Strength training actually improves your speed, you'll burn fat and tone up, it helps you to prevent injury, your antioxidant levels will rise, your insulin levels have a better chance of balancing, and it's an asset when it comes to finding the reserve of energy to burst across the finish line. You don't have to join a gym for this, either. There are lots of things that you can do at home in the odd 5 minutes while you're waiting for the kettle to boil. It all adds up. All of it.
- Organize yourself. You have to make fitness a priority in your life or you won't do it. That negative mindset is just looking for a reason to trip you up. Don't let it. Make this a part of your routine just like brushing your teeth. I don't know how often I talked myself out of it because of mandatory overtime or whatever. Yes, that did eat up my daily activity, but there was no reason I couldn't have got up half an hour earlier and done 2 miles or so, or one for a quick lap around the neighborhood at the end of the day. Put this into your schedule or planner as if it was an appointment, and then don't break it. It is an appointment. It's an appointment with yourself, and you're the most important person in your life. It's not selfish. If you're not the best you that you can be, then you can't be the best child, parent, teacher, mentor, neighbor, sibling, friend, employee, or anything else. Look after you, and then you'll be able to look after the others who depend on you.
- Invest in yourself. You may have seen some people posting about Sparkle Skirts and other running clothing or accessories. Treat yourself to something along this line as a non-food reward for looking after your health. When I first started this crazy sleigh ride, I laced up my old sneakers and went out in whatever I was wearing. Now, I hit the 70s and never left, so I must have looked a fright trying to run in maxi skirts and knitted shawls! I left them behind after a few weeks and threw on yoga pants and a tee shirt. However, it was only when I got a Sparkle Skirt and a proper sports bra (Enell) that I started to feel like an athlete. Ever hear of that saying, "Fake it til you make it?" The proper clothing will inspire you, and help you to feel like yes, you really can do this! Besides, it's fun to dress up in something that you like and that does the job properly. I dread to think what I looked like with boobs bouncing and hair flying as I first started to run in that skirt as it kept getting tangled up around my knees!
- Make it entertaining. There are a lot of 5k 'fun runs' and 'run walk runs' to join, many with themes and cool bling for participating. Don't be inhibited. Trust me on this one. Most people aren't even going to look at you, they'll be too worried about what everyone else is thinking of them, or too engrossed in bettering their personal best. Dress up as a leprechaun or a cupcake or whatever, and go have fun. If this intimidates you, then look online for the virtual races, and do one of those, in your own neighborhood—or even on a dreadmill—at your own speed. They're fun, too, and have quality themed medals, frequently with some of the proceeds from the entry fee going to a charity. There's also an app called 'charity miles,' and they donate money for every mile you run to a selected charity of your choice. Might as well make it count, right?
- Lastly, but most importantly, don't beat yourself up. That negative mindset is a killer. No one is perfect, and nobody lives a perfect life, so don't expect it to be so. Yes, there are going to be runs that suck. Yes, you're going to have days when a whole sleeve of cookies commits suicide down your throat. It's a day. It's an afternoon. It's an hour. It's not the end of the world so don't treat it as such. You'll be able to think of a million excuses to sabotage your progress and stay in that negative headspace. Don't listen to one of them. You wouldn't slash the other 3 tires of your car just because one tire had a puncture, and you don't have to undo your hard work just because of one lousy morning or one overindulgence. Get back in the saddle again and keep going.
My own story? I'm nearly 60. I toyed around with this last year, but it is only this year that I really started to take it seriously. I've lost 50lbs. I do regular 5ks (yes, I do them as intervals), and I did my first 10k last month. Yes, there are days when I would rather stay in bed, when I want the chocolate cake, when I swear that I'm happy as I am—but I know that is all lies. That's the old me, the unhappy me, the unfit me, trying to captivate me again. That's 'my ex me,' trying to lure me back into a toxic relationship. That negative voice is always going to be there, wanting to sabotage you and then gloat when it says, "I told you so." It's hard to lose weight. It's hard to get out there and improve yourself. It's hard to maintain your success. It's also hard being unfit and unhappy. You just have to choose your hard. Make the right choice, please. My only regret is that I didn't wake up to this 30 years ago. I can either mourn those wasted years, or I can lace up my running shoes. Guess which one I do?
You are the master of your own destiny. Never forget that you have the power to choose. Choose happiness. Choose health. Choose life.