I know, I know. You “can’t.” Your boobs are too big. Your knee keeps doing that thing. And every time you run, that thing happens where you can’t breathe and you wish you were dead. Also, how is it possible for a thing to be both agonizing and boring at the same time?
Running is horrible and sweaty and basically no fun at all.
It doesn’t have to be, though. I used to suck at running, and…wait, I still suck at running, who am I kidding? And yet I love to run—sweaty crotch, shin splints, blisters and all.
When I first took up running again after birthing my second kid, it was to lose the baby weight. I could only run for about 30 seconds before fiery cramps forced me to walk. I’d think, Why the hell am I doing this? I’d rather stay fat. But I forced myself to carry on, and each time I ran, the amount of seconds I was able to run increased by a tiny bit. A year later, I participated in Tough Mudder, a 13-mile obstacle course. I might have been one of the slowest participants out there, but I did it, and it felt great.
These days, I don’t run to lose weight. Now I run for my sanity. I have anxiety, and there is a huge difference in my anxiety levels on the days I run compared to the days I don’t run. Endorphins are great medicine for the mind. That runner’s high runners are always bragging about, I know, it’s so annoying when people brag about it, but dammit, it’s real, and every time I experience that high I wish I could bottle it and share it with everyone who tells me they’ll never run, nope, don’t even try to convince them. The sense of empowerment that comes with finishing a run, even a short one, is something everyone deserves to experience.
So, while I can’t bottle the high, for those of you whose interest I’ve piqued, I do have a few tips to help you get there on your own:
- Ladies, get a really good bra. It absolutely makes a difference for your running experience when your ta-tas are under control. I have two sports bras that squish me so flat my boobs all but disappear, and I assure you it is no small feat to immobilize these breastfeeding-damaged floppers.
- Get quality sneakers. It’s worth the investment. Go to a runner’s store and have your gait analyzed, your foot measured. If you can’t afford the boutique prices that often come with this kind of specialty store, let them know. They might have discontinued products in your size in the back. I once tried on a shoe I loved, but it was $130. Turned out they had the previous model in the back, and sold it to me for $80. And if that fails, at least now you know your gait and the type of shoe you need and can probably find a discounted shoe in your size online. Regardless of how you do it, make sure you get a solid shoe that will support you and protect your feet, ankles, and knees. Bad sneakers make you more likely to injure yourself.
- Get good headphones and a comfortable armband for your smart phone. Running is your special time to listen to music that would traumatize your children. My preference is dirty filthy rap music, but you do you. In my opinion, the louder, angrier, and more politically incorrect, the better, because catharsis. Another benefit to playing loud music in your ears: You can’t hear yourself breathing. I found out the other day that when I exercise, I make death noises. After a workout, I pulled my headphones out of my ears, and my son handed me a glass of water with a trembling hand, his eyes filled with tears. Poor kid literally thought I was dying. So, loud music in my ears makes it so I don’t have to listen to myself hyperventilate while I’m exercising. Two birds.
- Take it slow. Many new runners—myself included—start off way too fast. If you’re a beginner, you should run at the pace of a speed walk. It should almost feel like you’re not even running. If, while running, you find yourself wishing you were dead, that is a clue that your pace might be a little too fast.
- CALM DOWN. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Getting a cramp? STOP AND WALK. In pain? STOP AND WALK. Feeling angry at everything? STOP AND WALK. Your body will develop endurance even if you walk a lot in between tiny bursts of running. There is absolutely no benefit in pushing yourself so hard that you hurt yourself or end up hating running. The goal is empowerment, not self-inflicted torture.
Now put on that new sports bra, lace up your kicks, and get out there and run!