The only way that I can give you honest tips about how to successfully get back into running is to tell you a story about how I did it myself.
If you know me you’re probably thinking “How would Camila understand what it feels like to HATE running if she’s run all her life?” Fair. I started running in middle school when I joined the cross-country team. After that I quit to join the dance team and didn’t take it back up until junior year of high school. When I went to college I then stopped running competitively and once again made my way over to the dance world. I only ran to stay in shape. When I graduated I quickly found a job in a PR firm and really let my training regimen go. And I mean I really did. It was like the more unhappy I was in my old job the less I wanted to do the things I actually loved. If you’ve followed any part of my story you’d know that those 2.5 years really did affect me in more ways than one. Now that I look back on that time I realize that the toxicity of the work environment I was in led me to be more upset and passive aggressive not only with people close to me, but with myself, and that led me to let go of things that I loved to do – like working out. Not to mention that within the last 6 months of working there I got a FitBit tracker which showed me the frightening reality that some days I only walked 300 to 500 steps. Can you believe that? 300 to 500 steps?! All in a stress-induced environment. Working. My resting heart rate had gone up by like 20 BPM since the last time I recorded it. I had gained around 15 lbs. I didn’t know what to do. I decided that I had to just move. Just do anything. Literally anything that made me sweat, even if it was just a little.
This is how I got back into running:
1. I decided to “just move.”
First thing’s first. I had to up my step count per day. I decided to walk during my not so frequent breaks, to grab lunch, to the printer, anything. After that, I decided to incorporate one physical activity every day of the week, and one weekend day. For me that was running just 2 miles 3 times a week, riding a bike, going to yoga, going to a barre class, kayaking, walking with my mom, walking my mom’s dog, walking to my co-worker’s house and doing a little easy circuit together. Literally anything that would get my heart rate up. I honestly thought that the first week was going to be much more difficult than it was. I enjoyed not having a set schedule and doing whatever my body felt like doing at the time. It was easy for my not to find an excuse because the only rule was “just move.” I started getting used to doing something every day and if I ever missed a workout, I felt different, I felt like I wasn’t myself.
2. I incorporated a bit more structure.
I found the exercises that gave me the best bang for my buck, and the best results for the time put in. Running for me was the exercise that gave me the greatest calorie burn for the time put in, and that was completely free. I decided to make running a priority once again. I started running just two miles around 5 times a week. It was my worst out–of-shape experience ever. I didn’t even give myself a pace or anything sort of limit to make the run hard. It was just going for completion. I felt like my legs were made of concrete. My breathing? It sounded like I was having an asthma attack. I couldn’t catch my breath. I couldn’t run faster. My heart rate was through the roof and I had a headache at the end because although it was 7:00PM in Miami, it was still 90 degrees with 90% humidity… in November. I hated running.
3. I gave it two (strict) weeks and I paid close attention.
I ran a minimum of 2 miles, 5 times a week. Every person is different, and every person’s body reacts differently to exercise. Muscle memory is definitely a thing too, so I can’t say for sure that everyone’s experience will be the same. It takes me two weeks to say, “That wasn’t as bad as the first time.” By that, I mean that my breathing starts to get a bit easier, and just maybe that my legs start feeling like 90-pound stumps instead of 100. But when it does, I always pay attention, and I appreciate my body for getting stronger and better at doing what I am asking it to do. Most people quit or pull back before this moment even happens, and they never get to experience it. Which makes them hate it. You see, as you put more strain in your body the first week, it gets progressively harder. Why? Because you are building up lactic acid and getting progressively sore, because it’s basically torture. The second week (after a rest day) is not easy enough for you to ever recognize that there is a difference in how your body is feeling, and once again it gets progressively more difficult. But somewhere in the process of getting in running shape, there is something magical that happens. You take a rest day, and you go out on a run, and you suddenly don’t feel like death. And you suddenly see a flash of hope. You suddenly see yourself getting to complete that goal of running a 5K, 10K, whatever. And it seems all worth it.
4. I didn’t pull back.
What sucks about running is that it’s extremely easy to get out of shape again. Like so, so easy. So easy that most people get to that point where they feel better about running, and maybe decide to cut down their training regimen, and end up making all of their runs miserable again. At this point I would say that a minimum of 4 runs a week is pushing it. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for less, more meaningful runs, but not while just trying to develop a base from which to progress. This is something that only running in the past has taught me the hard way.
5. I incorporated different workouts.
Many professionals recommend cross training. I can’t sit here and tell you that I knew how amazing cross training was for you when I tried to get back into running, or before I started working at Flywheel, but I can say that my life would have been much easier should I have known that I can cycle three times a week and run three times a week for the same results as running 6 times a week (taking into very close consideration the type of cycling workout – Flywheel is the prime example of a great cross training workout). Apart from cross training, incorporating different strength training exercises can help support your running efforts and make it less torturous.
6. I understood that pulling back meant that it would not be easier.
The most important part about running is consistency. There is no other way to get better or for it to get easier. Create a program, be flexible, but be consistent with your training. Once I felt more in shape, I increased my distance, time pace, etc. I played with different variables and I started to run with friends, clubs, groups, etc. It became a fun thing for me. And when I wanted to opt for walking my mom’s dog instead of running, I did that too. I didn’t feel bad about it. I listened to my body and I took breaks when I needed them, but never long enough to leave me completely out of shape.
Running isn’t easy. Once you get more in shape, it doesn’t really get too much easier because of the competitive nature of the sport. You want to go faster, you want to get better, you want to push more, but that’s your choice at that point, and you are in control. Getting to this level comes with true appreciation of what it takes to get there. It comes from grind, hustle, and hard work. You may think you hate running but maybe that’s because you’ve never really given it enough time to show you what it has to offer.