It’s the dead of winter, the ground blanketed in snow and ice, and you’re thinking of heading outside for a run. Ever since you saw that article about how running is good for your heart, metabolism, and stress you’ve been telling yourself that you’d give it the ol’ college try – throw on some gear, breathe in some fresh air and knock out some miles. In preparation, you hit up your local running store, grabbing an assortment of “necessities” that have left your wallet gasping- high-end running shoes, merino wool, moisture wicking socks, a light, technical running base layer, a long-sleeve technical mid layer, a waterproof, windproof jacket, black fleece-lined running tights, wool hat, fleece-lined, windproof gloves, anti-chafing cream, GUs and other nutrition products, a hydration vest, and a few more fun looking trinkets. Now that the time has come, decked out in enough utility gear to look as if you’ll be fighting crime rather than jogging, you find that your motivation has vanished – your legs seizing up and your brain conjuring up every reason not to run:
It’s too cold.
I haven’t had enough water today.
I already showered today, I don’t want to take another.
I have errands I need to take care.
My calves are a bit sore.
I’ll just run tomorrow.
It can be easy to talk ourselves out of getting out the door and going for a run. When it comes to personal, physical exertion, many of us are conditioned excuse-machines – in an attempt to avoid something we don’t want to do, we create reasons that keep us from doing that very thing. We may think that we want to begin running, but often enough something holds us back.
Well, it’s simply who we are – fight or flight, as we often hear. Why push our mind and body out of its comfort zone when we don’t have to? Why begin to struggle when so many others are miles ahead of us? Perhaps we just weren’t meant for running?
All valid questions; however, when giving into our desires to relax into the comforting solace of backing away from struggle, we achieve nothing.
Beginning or restarting from zero is the most difficult part. By taking that first step, we are telling ourselves that we are taking on the pain and struggles that will come from tediously attempting and failing. With the miles to come, there will certainly be minor injuries, pain, and soreness, but it is a ritual of taking on the habit. To feign an attempt or to give up in the face of the mistakes or pain is not a failure in the act, but in ourselves.
A runner will make endless mistakes during their running career – running too fast on a LSD (long, slow distance) day, eating too much before a run, not hydrating enough for a sweltering, summer day, allowing their form to liken that of a rag doll when they become tired, not getting enough sleep the few nights before a race – the list goes on and on.
If you’re finding it difficult to start, understand that simplicity is your ally when you begin. There is no need to complicate a habit that you currently are not used to. Working in running specialty retail, I often have customers ask what they need to begin running – whether they need the vast amount of running accessories to begin logging miles on the roads and trails. Simply put, no. All that is required to begin running is a pair of shoes that are especially meant for you (if you can get properly fitted, do so!) and clothing that will suit the elements in which you are running in. If you’re running in the early, winter mornings or evenings, you may require a headlamp. But other than that, if you are running a few miles to start, your runs will not require the vast amount of running accessories that are currently saturating the market.
No matter who you are, mistakes will lie ahead, but they are mistakes that consistently strengthen you. The venture is not always an uphill battle though. Once you begin running, you have begun experiencing the craft. Reflecting post-run will provide you with insight for runs to come – how much/what you should eat before a run, how much water you need before/during a run, whether you should stretch before or after your run, etc.
The greatest struggle you will ever face is not allowing your mind to get the best of you and simply getting out the door each day. Once you have done that, you have hit the peak and are now on to the easy section – no longer scaling the summit, but easing your way down its face. By setting your foot out the door and beginning to run, you have already found success.
It’s just as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.