Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How I Became A Runner

A few people have asked me how I got into running. To be honest, I have no idea why the last time I began running (about 3 years ago), it stuck. Since high school, I could run about two miles consistently; Eight times around the track and I was done. It wasn't until I was out of college that I considered long distance running a possibility for me.

While I ran a bit in high school, I really started up again when my roommate, who's an awesome runner (and running another Half this coming weekend - Go E!), was running the trails around Ohio State, and I asked to join her. I had decided to graduate the spring quarter of our junior year of college, so my course load was heavy that third year. I needed something to help get my mind off of all the what ifs. What if I fail a class; What if I don't find a job; What if I regret leaving college earlier than all my friends.

So we ran together. We only went about 15 minutes out and 15 minutes back for a quick 30 minute run a few times a week, but it was enough to get me started. In fact, it was the perfect distance, because I knew I could do it, but still found it challenging. Because I was running with someone else, I never wanted to stop and walk or hold her back in any way. And she also kept me accountable. It's hard to say, "I would rather sit on the couch and eat chips and queso" when someone asks you to go for a nice run outside.

Once I graduated, I kept it up for the summer. The winter of 2011, I moved to New York where I joined NY Sports Club. I suffered a small tendon injury in the spring of 2011 that kept me from running, but during that time of Physical Therapy, I learned about the importance of strength training and was more determined than ever to get back in the game. I moved back to NJ the summer of 2011, and that was the summer I went all out and never looked back. I signed up for my first race that August and fell in love.

What keeps me running?

While it's not my only purpose, staying fit is a huge incentive. Running is the number one exercise for keeping extra pounds away - though I am always quick to say, I do not believe running was the sole reason I lost the extra pounds that I had carried since childhood. It's up for debate, but I personally believe food management (with exercise) is the answer to losing weight. Once I changed my eating habits and began monitoring my portions, the weight came off, even during weeks when I only got to the gym twice. With that said, studies show that running is hard to beat when it comes to weight loss exercises. This Runner's World article is a great read on the subject.

Peace of mind is my other reason for running. I am not secretive about my past bouts with depression, and exercise has so far been the only thing that clears my head and makes me feel good inside and out. Whenever I have a rough day, a long run (preferably outside), solves my problems. It definitely is not the answer for everyone (and if you're feeling depressed, please reach out for help), but it worked for me.

So you want to start running?

First off, hooray! Running is such a wonderful sport, and I promise if you stick with it through the "I'm going to die" moments (we all have them!), it will become easier. The main thing to realize is that you're not going to go out and run 10 miles on your first run - you may not run one mile. But I can tell you that you can run one lap around a track, or down the block, or around the corner. Alternate between walking and running. Find a point, whether it be the next mailbox or the house at the end of the block or the tree up the hill, and tell yourself that you will run to that point. Once there, if you feel awesome, keep going. If you feel miserable, walk. And very soon you will see that you can go a little farther each time you try it. That's the other great thing about running - seeing improvements. Just make sure you go slow and short to start - too much too soon leads to injury.

I found this article on getting friends into running - can you tell I'm obsessed with Runner's World? To anyone in Columbus wanting a running buddy, I'm always up for a group run! And to those in NJ, I'll be home for the holidays. Start now, and by December, we'll be running the trails together.

Disclaimer: Please check with your doctor before starting any fitness routine.

How did you start running?

Any advice for newbie runners?

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