This article is for those who want to learn how to start running again and would like some tips on doing so. The insights shared here are from my own experience and how my initial attempt to start running again failed and led to important lessons being learned.
If you are getting back to running, the 3 most important aspects to focus on are Motivation, Accountability, and Routine. If you can have a plan to tackle all these then getting back to running will be much smoother. If these are ignored then it becomes an endeavor leading to disappointment and frustration. Some of the subsequent actions such as setting goals, creating a training plan, and sticking to routine becomes easier as a result.
How I started running again:
I used to be an avid runner for years until I took up a new job last year. The work schedules were hectic and stress was high, so finally the running stopped. About 6 months ago, being horrified at my fitness decline, I decided to start running again. I went for my first run and in about 15 mins I was intensely fatigued. I just couldn’t move anymore and was out of breath. I was so disappointed I thought of giving it up. I did give it up for a few months and my disappointment with myself kept increasing until I started feeling like a failure. This started affecting my usual cheery attitude and I could not get myself out of it.
Getting to know of my predicament a friend of mine who was a fitness coach agreed to work with me. It was incredible how a few ideas changed my entire outlook and motivation! I could get back into my old running form within 5 months. That experience gave me a lot of insights into the dynamics that come into play when you want to get back to running. I would like to share these learnings here.
10 Tips for Success
Ask the question – Why?
If you have a strong enough ‘why’ then you will certainly figure out the ‘how’. The issue of motivation is certainly central to getting back to running. It is possible that the reason why you stopped running is because something that is of higher priority came up and it clashed with your wanting to run (unless you stopped due to an injury or disability). It is important to spend some time and list out why you want to run. Are the reasons compelling or do you feel that other things are of greater priority? Think this through.
Take a paper and pen and jot down answers to the question – why do you want to run?
Your answers may be – “To be fit. To lose weight and to feel energetic. The pure joy of running and exhilaration ..”
List out the reasons that are personal to you and compelling enough.
Think also of the consequences if you do not take action now. Sometimes pain works better in motivating us than pleasure.
Ask yourself – Do you want to feel horrible all the time, inactive and useless? I am sure the answer is no! Think of all the feelings of regret and disappointment you would feel with yourself if you did not take action now? The trick is to get feeling involved.
Feel the pain of not doing and the pleasure you will get when you achieve your goal.
Put aside Time and Build Routine first
Start with some activity that you like. It need not be strenuous. It could be walking or light jogging.
The key is to do it every day.
Build a habit rather than trying to push yourself to prove your fitness. Have your training plan for the initial months set out so that it habituates you to use the time for refreshing activity. If you feel tired one day and don’t feel like jogging just walk slowly during the time.
You will be able to build a routine in this manner and it will become easier to go on the next steps.
A momentum gets built automatically which will allow the running endeavor to be easier as it becomes a routine activity.
Our minds crave routine and soon the new habit will become entrenched and you will not have trouble getting back your fitness levels.
Don’t be hard on yourself
Initially, when I couldn’t do it one day or a few days together due to travel or work I would get right back to my regimen without beating myself up.
I accepted I could not do it because work was important too. But I got right back to it as soon as my travel assignments stopped. There were up to 4-5 days where I could not meet my target time and had to travel, I even did walking in my hotel room some days to be on track.
In fact, in the initial 6 months, there were a few challenges that regularly came up and I could not follow my training plan well.
But I got back to it as soon as I could do that without feeling regret or engaging in self-blame.
These 2 emotions, I believe, are the root causes of inaction. You need to avoid indulging in these at all costs.
What is it that you want to achieve? You need to have goals concerning your fitness levels and also with regards to your weight (if weight loss is your motive also).
Having these goals in clear focus it becomes easier to make the choices necessary on a day to day basis when challenging situations come to thwart your success.
When you set goals remember the SMART rule. Your goal should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound.
Having these guidelines in mind will ensure that you do not set unreachable and irrational goals.
Also, remember that the goals will change and evolve as you get closer to achieving them. This is fine, be ready for the next steps as progress is natural to life.
Do a little, rather than not at all
I believe that doing little is better than doing nothing. So based on this, I had decided I would start walking initially if I could not run. But 20 mins was also a struggle so I did 10 mins. I kept a pedometer and started increasing my walking time daily to 3000 steps. Gradually I kept increasing and reached 10000 steps in about 2 months. I would do 5 mins of jogging towards the end of the 2 months.
Then I steadily increased the time by 5 minutes each week. Currently, I run for an hour each day and about 2 hours on weekends. I am quite happy with the progress I made. But it would not have been possible if I had not attempted doing a little initially and then gradually building it up. If I had given and done nothing at all, I would have had no progress. You will be running again in no time if you stick with it!
Have a Training Plan
While I was getting started I had decided that the first month I would only walk and increase my walking time from 20 mins to one hr.
After that I started walking initially and then running the last 10 mins. Then I increased the run time and decreased the walk time.
I also included in my plan – one day which helped in recouping and re-energizing.
Planning all these helps create a blueprint for the way ahead and gives you incredible clarity and focus
Tell a friend or someone who will hold you accountable. Tell them your running plan. It would be good if it is someone who is also active and fitness conscious. It may help if you join an online running group so that you can stay motivated and accountable at the same time.
Do not Compare
Do not compare your performance with others or even your older self. It can be a great temptation especially in your beginning stages of running to compare yourself to the more fit and active runners you may find around you. Some may look back on their performance earlier and then feel dejected that their performance does not compare to what they could do earlier. It may end up in self-blame and regret if you get into that mode. The only way is to keep your focus on the plan and keep at it. You will get there!
Congratulate and appreciate when you reach certain milestones that you have set as a part of your training goals. These will keep you motivated. Share your successes with those who are close to you. The thrill of achievement is the fuel that will drive your forward. For example, I had set one of my initial milestones as being able to run 30 mins continuously. When I achieved that I shared that with my online group as well as with my friends. I received a lot of positive feedback and appreciation. So some days when I feel motivation sagging, I remind myself of those achievements and get inspired to do more.
Use an App that can help track your progress
Many apps can help you with fitness, nutrition, and also connecting with like-minded people. I used apps such as Fitness tracker, Healthifyme, etc. and found them quite helpful. The tracking, monitoring, and reminding aspects are very well executed by these tools and definitely keep you on track.
So good luck with learning how to start running again. Remember- it is not difficult when you know how!