How I Learned to Love Running

I’ve found that for me, like most people, the New Year means a lot of self-reflection on the past year of your life and where you hope to be in the upcoming year. Even though I have lots of things I’d like to be better at in the New Year, I did learn a lot about myself in 2014 and made leaps and bounds forward when it came to my nutrition and fitness. I would have to say that my most notable fitness accomplishment of 2014 was definitely running my first half marathon (with an obstacle course and mud, no less). It’s a goal I’ve wanted to accomplish since 2008 and I’m so happy I can finally check it off my bucket list.
Charlie Horse RopeEven though I’m so proud of myself for completing such a huge fitness goal that I had, training for the half marathon (and Broad Street) also came with a lot of stress. I’m someone who is super competitive with not just others, but also with myself. I constantly want to push myself to see what I’m capable of (especially when it comes to exercise) and sometimes this can turn something that’s supposed to be healthy and good for me into an unhealthy hobby. Training for the half marathon meant I was constantly doing speed work to get faster times, doing long runs on days when my body just really needed to rest, and comparing my pace to other’s in the blogosphere/Instagram world (then inevitably getting down on myself when I wasn’t faster than this person or that person).

All of this is to say that not only did I turn running into something that was unhealthy for mentally (and physically), but I also turned it into something that I dreaded doing. Running was supposed to be something that was good for my body and helped to clear my mind, but instead I made it so that each time I went out for a run my stomach would be in knots because I would be so nervous that I either couldn’t finish the distance I had set in my mind or that I wouldn’t be happy with my time and would be upset with myself for the rest of the day. Looking back, I know that all of that was crazy to think. Who accomplishes something as great as completing a 10 mile run, then is disappointed in their performance?
Brick at Glasgow (2)After I finished the summer racing season last year, I was determined to start running simply for the fact that I enjoyed it and it was good stress relief. It took some time to get myself out of the mindset that I HAD to finish a run in a certain amount of time for it to be a successful and fun run, but now that I’ve finally gotten to a place where I actually enjoy running, I figured I’d share some of the ways I did it with you guys in case any of you have gone through a similar experience with it.

1. Stopped wearing my Garmin: One time during a run, my Garmin accidentally reset and I literally had a breakdown and cried. It seemed like I had just done all of that hard work for nothing. Totally irrational, I know, but I was so tied to what the watch said that it seemed like all of my efforts were in vain. I literally felt like I had been freed the first time I ran without my watch. I didn’t have to focus on my speed or time because I didn’t have a means to measure those things. I got to run at a pace that I felt comfortable with and didn’t have to stress over how fast (or slow) I was going.8 Mile Time2. Stopped listening to music: Most of the time I really enjoy listening to music when I exercise (sometimes I’ll even dance along mid-workout!), but I wanted to be more in tune to my body and surroundings when I was running so I’ve stopped listening altogether during my runs. It’s helped me to learn to simply enjoy the fact that I am running instead of trying to mentally remove myself from the situation.

3. Started having convos during my running buddy: Whenever Ed and I would run together before, I would immediately put my headphones in my ears and focus on running. If he ever did try to talk to me during our runs, I would get annoyed at him for throwing off my focus. Since I’m not listening to music when we run anymore and not focusing on my time, it’s easier to have conversations about our days or whatever which makes the time fly by much faster!

4. Accepting that I’m not going to be the fastest runner (and I really don’t want to be): There is always going to be someone faster than me or who can run longer. Truthfully, I’m just not that fast of a runner and in order to be faster, I would have to put a lot of time and effort into it and I just don’t have the desire to do that. It’s a lot easier to enjoy something when you stop playing the comparison game all the time.

Have any of you had a similar experience with running?
Love running or hate it?

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4 Responses to How I Learned to Love Running

  1. Shawna says:

    so glad you are able to reflect on your relationship with running in this way and be honest with yourself so that you could make the changes necessary for you to start enjoying it and not seeing it as a chore or a constant competition with yourself. i’ve had some similar experiences and thoughts, especially when i first started trying to up my distance and do some halves, but i really feel like i’ve come into my own as a runner — as someone who LOVES to run for the sheer joy of running and now cannot imagine living without it — since living in NYC the past 4 years. we all have our own journey, and have to figure things out for ourselves, and hopefully come to a place of acceptance and remember why we started. glad to hear you’re on that path.

  2. juliegagen says:

    I have a few friends that could stand to read this. They compete with themselves (and me, the least competitive person you could ever meet) and i just want to say a lot of what you mention here. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I think it’s really important take it slow and celebrate small victories when you’re first starting to run.

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