If you told 12-year-old me that I’d one day consider myself to be a runner, I wouldn’t have believed you. I was the slow kid who only ran to get to a food establishment more quickly, and thus hated exercise with a passion — always had and (according to my belief at the time) always would be.
Fast forward to 10th grade. I was lonely, aimless, and had recently gained close to 20 pounds thanks to an antipsychotic I had to take for my mental illness. I was searching for something active that would put power and success back in my hands. The only activity that came to mind was running, so I laced up some tennis shoes and hit the road. Within 3 months, I had transformed myself from a sad girl who couldn’t make it once around the track to a stronger young woman who could run around town for several miles with ease (and enjoyment).
I’d tried several times before then to start running and had always burned out early, so how did I do it? How can someone successfully shed their hatred for running?
First, have a plan. Just going outside and running for an unspecified time and distance will almost certainly lead to burnout, especially for a beginner who’s never tried running before. Give yourself something to work towards so you can track your progress. I used the Couch to 5K app. It starts slowly, alternating between running and walking, until you’re able to run the full 30 minutes after 9 weeks. The way it progresses is great for beginners who need something to guide them through the fitness process.
Stop telling yourself “I hate running” every waking minute. If you train your brain to hate, it will hate. However, if you change your mindset to something more positive, you open yourself up to new possibilities. When you start sweating, think “I’m helping make my body stronger” rather than “This is so difficult.” If you find yourself getting too negative, just take a walking break until you can get back into a positive exercise headspace.
Get off the treadmill. Treadmills are glorified hamster wheels, and even now I only use them because they’re convenient. It’s so much more inspiring to get out and go running in the neighborhood, if possible. Feel the wind, see the world zipping past you, and let your mind wander. Plus, depending on where you live, your legs will get the added strength boost of hills and differing elevations.
Ask yourself if you’d run better alone or with a partner. Some people (like me) prefer to exercise by themselves and use their workout time to sort out problems in life without the added stress of keeping up with another person. Others need to have a running buddy to help them stay motivated and accountable to a schedule. Figure out which strategy would work better for you and don’t be afraid to switch it up to keep yourself on your toes.
Start small. Don't expect yourself to sprint 5 miles right at the start. Most people, I think, hate running because they do too much, too fast, too soon. Don't fall into the trap. Taking walking breaks is okay!
Notice your progress. This is key to avoiding burnout. Start paying attention to how your legs feel more muscular, how you feel less tired running from point A to point B, and how much more energy you have. You’ll gain an appreciation for your sport (yes, running is a sport!).
No matter how long you’ve been running, there will be times when your runs are difficult and miserable. That’s part of the game. Once you’ve fallen in love with it, though, you’ll be able to recognize that the downs will only make the ups feel even more rewarding. Commit to the sport and make running your new husband or wife. Your body and mind will thank you, trust me.