How to learn to love running

I’m too tired. I’m feeling too slow. I have too much to do.

You know what the hardest part of exercising is, for me? The hour before. With a full time job and a young child, there are plenty of days when I have to psych myself up to do it and remind myself that I’m making excuses. I’ve got emails to write, laundry to do and all kinds of other things that can, technically, wait a little bit.

The best way I know to overcome excuses is to pick an exercise you really enjoy — for me, its running. I started running in elementary school, mostly because I wanted to be athletic but wasn’t great at team sports. I tried out for the track and field team and made it; my race was the 800 metre event. I remember the day my mom took me out to buy my first pair of sneakers — not the playing outside, ok-for-beating-up kind of sneakers, but actual good running shoes: gray Reeboks, size six.

A bit like Forrest Gump, I just started running. After that track and field team I didn’t run competitively for years and years, but kept running for exercise, around the neighbourhood or a nearby lake. I lived for a while in Europe where road running (then, at least) wasn’t popular, and people told me it was a “silly North American thing.”  In the past five years or so, I’ve started running races, but my only goal in terms of competition is to beat my personal best every time.

Running, for me, is the ultimate exercise. It allows me to be athletic without all the self-consciousness that comes with playing team sports, and its physical health benefits are well-documented: muscle-building, increased bone density, better lung capacity, a stronger heart and increased cardiovascular health, decreased blood pressure and the burning of calories among them. But wait, there’s more: stress relief, better sleep and lower rates of depression have all been associated with running. As well, there’s a definite sense of confidence gained as you set new time or distance goals and attain them.

One of the best things? It’s free. If you have a pair of sneakers you’re good to go without any bi-weekly bank account deductions for a gym membership, or yearly enrollment fees.

To keep yourself on track and avoid excuses, try these motivational tips:

  • Use a running app with a GPS. I use Nike+ and love it — it tracks my runs (route, distance, pace, time and calories burned) and tells me in real time when I’ve hit certain distance milestones. You can use it to connect with other friends who have the app, and if you connect it to your Facebook and make a post when you’re starting a run, your Facebook friends can click the “like” button to send applause and cheers in your ears as you’re running.
  • Get a great music playlist for running — time goes much faster. “Eye of the Tiger” and “Chariots of Fire” are not mandatory, but lots of fun. Choose a “pump up” song to turn on when you feel yourself running out of steam (“Sandstorm” is a good one).
  • Run early in the day. You’ll feel energized! I find it also helps me choose healthier meals and snacks for the rest of the day, since I don’t want to ruin all the good I did with an early workout by eating junk.
  • Keep a personal running diary, and make sure you write in it every day/week. It keeps you accountable. Do you really want to put a zero or an X in for a day you had planned to run?
  • Set a reward. Tell yourself you’ll book in for a massage or buy some new sneakers or leggings once you hit a certain goal.

You know what the easiest part of exercising is? The hour after you do it.

You’ll feel exhilarated, proud of yourself and ready to take on anything.

ParticipACTION and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador are working together, with support from Recreation NL, to inspire families to make physical activity a higher priority in daily life.