So it’s the second week of the year, and your new year’s resolution to take up running hasn’t quite turned you into the gazelle that you’d envisaged. In fact, you might have been a bit rash in deciding that you could become a runner after all. True, it seems that everyone else on the entire planet is either trail running, parkrunning, or embarking on a marathon training plan (or all three), but clearly they haven’t struggled the way you have. Clearly they haven’t got the excuses for staying sedentary that you have. WRONG! If you are using any, or all of the excuses below, to stall your running journey, you’re deceiving yourself. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. If you are physically healthy, you can run.
EXCUSE #1: I’ve tried running but it’s hard.
No shit Sherlock. If running was effortless, we’d never walk anywhere, we’d run. It’s precisely because it’s challenging, and physically and mentally demanding, that it’s rewarding. The truth is, that even after running becomes a well-established habit, it can feel hard some days (at times, every day). It’s also true however, that running isn’t half as hard as your brain will tell you it is. There’s nothing your mind will like better than to try and sabotage your early running efforts with an internal dialogue that stalks your every step with phrases like: Stop, it’s too hard, stop, this is crazy, it hurts, it must be bad for you, stop for goodness sake, stop, you mother is right, this is bad for your knees, stop for the love of all things sedentary STOP!
Remedies: Run with others. Running at a pace that allows you to chat with another runner is not only distracting from any pain but it also drowns out negative thoughts. If you don’t know anyone you can run with, get on Facebook, reach out to other beginners, join a running/coaching group, or form your own. Facebook is teeming with running forums. If you’re not ready to go public with your new activity, then follow a 0-5km (also called couch to 5km) program.Buy an app, listen to the instructions as you run-walk. As long as you stay committed to the 8, 10 or 16-week program, you’ll make progress. The trick is, for those challenging running stints, with no one to talk to, you need to talk to yourself. Try overwrite your negative inner voice with positive mantras such as I am strong, or I love running. The mantra doesn’t need to be true to be useful. Honestly, I ran Melbourne Marathon last year in a state of dehydration and nausea, and the only thing that kept me from completely freaking out was talking to myself, repeating such phrases over and over, to the beat of each footstep. Yet, six years ago, I struggled to talk myself into running 200m. Running, you will discover, really is a mental game, and nowhere is that more apparent than when you start out.
EXCUSE #2: I’m too slow
Granted I’ve never heard a man express fears that they can’t join a running group or a parkrun because of fear of being too slow to keep up but it is a comment I’ve heard from women. The answer to this fear is – it doesn’t matter if you’re slow. If you’re starting out, you should be running slowly, at a pace that allows you to speak full sentences as you run. Speed is irrelevant when you start. In fact, speed can be counterproductive because if you put your body under too much duress too soon, you are likely to get injured. You need to build up both pace and distance over a period of months to allow your muscles, ligaments, and tendons adjust to their new training loads. So, run slow. Running is running.
EXCUSE #3: I don’t have a runner’s body
Please go to your nearest parkrun and have a look at the diverse shapes, sizes, and running forms on display. The only thing you have to know about a runner’s body is that it runs. End of.
EXCUSE #4: I’m too old.
I always thought it a bit comical that when I started running in Malaysia at the ripe old age of 40, I automatically slotted into the Veteran category at races. My father thought I was crazy to start running ‘at my age’. Since moving to Perth and joining Masters Athletics Western Australia, I’ve discovered that being in one’s mid-forties is still fairly young in runners’ years. I’m frequently inspired by septuagenarian marathon runners, women in their mid-fifties who make me look slow as a snail, and former state champions who, though not as nimble as in their prime, keep moving forward one step at a time. If you’re healthy, age is no barrier, and honestly running can often feel like giving the onset of menopause and the encroachment of age the proverbial finger. Age (or death) will get you eventually but that’s no reason to give into it prematurely.
So, don’t lose heart, if the shine is going off your new year’s good intentions. Stick with it. Join a group or buy an app. Get a coach if you need one. Start walk-running at your local parkrun. Do whatever you need to do to get you started. You deserve it.