You can do it. Really!
I’m not sure if I can call myself a runner, mainly because of the speed I move. I’m more in the style of lolloping Labrador than whippet but, moving is what it’s all about and that’s what I do and I like Labradors. Anyway run, jog, plod, canter, whatever you want to call it, in this post I’m calling it running.
I started running in June 2013, the day I signed up to a half marathon. Admittedly this was quite ambitious but I’m an all or nothing sort of girl. Luckily for me my best lady mate is an experienced runner and assured me I could do it so, I believed her and got on with it. That day I could not run for 20 seconds, a total beginner.
I decided to run for the charity Wave Project and I documented some of the trials and tribulations of 0 – 13.1 miles on my fundraising page. Amazingly, a number of people said they felt inspired to give running a try after seeing me do it and reading my ramblings here. I was a normal, unfit, smoker who was significantly overweight and at almost 40 years old had not run anywhere since school. I had recently tried surfing for the first time and wanted to get fit to enable me to start learning properly rather than just bobbing around lying down on my board like a giant manatee. I went from zero to half marathon in 4 months. I am proof that anyone can do it so I guess people can relate to that.
Lessons I learnt, some the hard way!
What I learnt on day one was that running does not come naturally to me. As time went on I discovered running is bloody hard, it is challenging, rewarding, relaxing and frustrating all at the same time. You will love it and hate it and you will push yourself to do more than you ever thought you could. Here is a little of what I learnt from other people and things I discovered myself that might make your first days a little easier or just reassure you that everyone goes through the same thing when starting out.
1. Running is not just putting one foot in front of the other fast
If you just go out on your own with no plan and having done no research about how to get started you will make the mistake a lot of people make and leg it like a demented emu, hate every second of it and declare yourself someone who tried running but, just can’t take to it. On my very first attempt I found I didn’t know how to breathe, I didn’t know what was the most comfortable pace for me and I went too fast then too slow.
Your confidence will grow with some guidance. Follow a sensible beginners training plan like couch to 5k or any of the Runners World training plans. Most beginners plans are a combo of walking and jogging you should find it challenging but, achievable. Eventually you will learn to listen to your body and respond to it during your runs and you will build up a strong foundation of fitness and more importantly confidence that you CAN do it.
the first few weeks can be tough but, very quickly it becomes a habit and I find I look forward to going for a run. That feeling of achievement when you’ve reached a personal goal is amazing and I’m constantly suprised by what my previously unfit body can do – Laura Lou
- It is not glamorous and you will wobble – get used to it
You will wobble, sweat, pull faces, have mad hair, a bright red face and look a mess and you might get snot on your shoulder (guilty). Good. That means you are working hard. If you feel a little self-conscious as you run past people in the street or see all of the passengers on a passing bus look at you, remind yourself of the fact that you are out there doing it, they are not so don’t worry about what you think people are thinking when they see you . You may get heckled by knob heads, I had a few incidents of men shouting insults about my weight out of car windows and once even some bloke on the opposite side of a canal I was running by. Do not be put off. Quite simply they are knob heads , you are Zeena Warrior Princess, end of.
- Stop Looking at other people – dance to your own beat
At the very beginning you will feel like a slug dipped in treacle dragging yourself up a hill while trying to pull a HGV using a piece of elastic. You will be ok with this because at least you have started. That is until you start comparing yourself to other people. Stop it right now! It’s a huge error I made and still do make on a bad day.
Everyone encounters that super lean, super fit, sex kitten with buns of steel in the tight lycra who runs effortlessly past them like a gazelle. You jealously consider pushing her in a bush but, unfortunately she’s half a mile ahead of you now. Well, she was a beginner too. She knows exactly what you are going through. She remembers how bloody hard the first few months are and she is rooting for you. It’s highly likely she thought ‘good for her’ as she passed you. You don’t know what it took for her to get where she is. You are unique, you cannot compare yourself to anyone. Beginner or not, concentrate only on what you are doing.
No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everyone on the couch is a quote by Austyn Clark Fry. I have it printed off and on my wall. Everytime I think I can’t be bothered going out for a run I read it. – Jo
- Your progress will creep up on you suddenly
The hardest part of running is the early stages, it feels like a mountain to climb. How will you ever get to run for 10 minutes if you can’t even run for 1 ? Will you ever be able to control your breathing? Will you ever be able to do 5k? Yes you will, trust in the training plan, be consistent, eat well and look after yourself.
Each time you run your confidence will grow. You will have a moment about 6 weeks in where you realise how much progress you have made and you’ll probably cry like a baby because you are so shocked and proud of yourself. Enjoy the small victories, they add up to a massive achievement! You will look back on this time and realise that this may have been hard but, it was also the best time because those achievements and firsts were coming thick and fast.
Every bit of movement no matter how fast or slow is productive. You are worth the effort and the rewards will come. Take some positives home from every outing that are not just about your run, the surise,morning mist, reflections in the rain- Claire
- Figure out your why – very important
Why have you decided to take up running? What is your why? You are going to need a good why when you are having a tough day or are struggling to get motivated. For me it was because I wanted to get strong for surfing and to do that I had to lose weight and get fit. As a landlocked surfer I also needed a way to get an endorphin hit outdoors when I was unable to surf. Running answered all of these things.
If you are taking up running because you hate your fat belly or you can’t stand the sight of yourself in the mirror this is not a good reason to start or the right mind-set. Exercise should never be something we do because we are crap or fat or rubbish or because we hate our bodies and are not good enough. That is called punishment and we are all guilty of it. I exercise because Iove my body and the things it allows me to do and because I want to take care of me.
If your motivation for exercise is because you value your health, because you want to feel stronger, because to want to achieve something, raise money for a charity, run around more with your kids, be happier and more energetic or maybe you want to get fit and climb Mount Kilimanjaro you are much more likely to succeed. Running will be a positive addition to your life that will benefit you in other areas not a torture you have to endure because you ate a cake.
Find your why, brainwash yourself with it and visualise a healthier, fitter more energetic you. On a tough day I still visualise myself surfing inside an azure barrel, in tropical waters, looking like Venus crossed with Zena Warrior Princess, I know running is helping me get there and so I push on.
- It’s worth spending money on some quality kit
You don’t need to spend a fortune on pants/shorts/running tights and a top to start out, addiction to buying technical kit will come later. However, do get a good quality sports bra, that’s optional chaps! Decent socks are also a must, I wear hilly twin skins and love them.
Whatever you do get proper running shoes. Proper running shoes will keep you comfortable for extended periods of time, they will reduce the risk of injury and they will last.They also make you feel like a kangeroo for the first week which is fun. They may have been the most expensive trainers I have ever bought but, I swear it was the best money I have ever spent on a pair of shoes. If you think you are going to keep it up spend the money, it’s worth it. Go to a local, specialist running shop, talk to the staff, don’t be intimidated they love talking about running and shoes.
When I’m out runing and really struggling, when my head is saying I could just turn round and go home, I start to narrate my run using the voice of Morgan Freeman. This makes me laugh and stops me thinking about what I have to do, it’s also quite relaxing to hear his voice in my head and helps me get out of that moment – Surfabella
- Enlist the support of friends and family
Encouragement and support are really important to the beginner runner, it doesn’t matter if they are running with you or not. Just a pat on the back now and then and somebody to moan to or celebrate with is very important. However, it’s even better if you can get some mates to join you. Doing it together is so much more fun. My best mate started at the same time as me, a man with long legs. You won’t always be running the same pace so enjoy this time .
When we were beginners we kept each other on track, never backed out of a run we had arranged and often when one had a weak day the other would be stronger and we’d get through it together . Now we have found our own stride we can’t always train together as I just can’t keep up . When we do run together it’s a more of a social run or its a moral support run when one of us is recovering from injury or has been off the wagon and needs a little help.
- Warning! You will become addicted
Before you know it you will have completed your beginners running programme and you are regularly out there running more than you ever thought you could. Whether you continue as you are enjoying a few runs a week or decide to go for bigger distances, speed, races or charity runs it doesn’t matter. You are now a running addict and will turn into a demented banshee if you get injured or can’t run for a few weeks. You will have more running clothing in your wardrobe than normal clothing and bore everyone at work with boring stories about the boring run you plan to do tonight or the boring run you did last night! Welcome to the club. You’ve done it and proved to yourself that This Girl Can.
Still not sure you can do it?
While I was writing this post I thought about some of the people I know who run. Some helped me along when I was a beginner and some are new to running themselves. I asked them to give some words of advice for beginners, they are the quotes that appear throughout this post. These final, beautiful words sent to me by a friend who took up running around a year ago should have you convinced that anyone can do it including you!
Start small. Don’t aim for 10k on your first day. Take every run as it comes. Some days will be hard, some will be easier. Once you accept your limits, go beyond them, Push yourself to run the length of 2 extra lampposts on your next run. As you improve and as your distance gets longer, change your route. Go explore, see the beauty of the world and discover some place new. Don’t block out the “chore of running” with music. Open your ears to the sounds around you, get into your body’s rhythm instead of a musical one and let your mind wonder. And when you finally complete the great north run, and look back and think “a few month back I couldn’t run down the street without a break” you feel the greatest sense of pride you ever will. Oh! and enjoy every minute of it – Hannah
If you are at this page because you are after more surf specific info this is a great post from Landlocked Surf Girl which looks at where to begin to improve your surf fitness with some great suggestions and practical advice.