Up until a few years ago, when friends told me how much they loved running, I either didn’t believe them or assumed they were a little crazy. Who wants to huff and puff and sweat in front of regular people just going about their days? I enthusiastically declined offers to accompany them.
Nowadays, I have to admit that I am something of a running evangelist myself. Like many people, I got into running back in 2011 through the Couch to 5K program. Though I’ve never become a serious runner, I do love it for many reasons, and I want everyone to know that it is nothing to be afraid of.
Why should you try running? So glad you asked.
1. It’s Inexpensive
Running doesn’t require a gym membership or expensive equipment. For this reason alone it’s worth getting into! Thanks to grad school and the immigration process, I haven’t had a steady income in a while, but that hasn’t stopped me from being able to run. All you need is a good pair of shoes and a comfortable pair of running tights.
TIP: If your skin is prone to eczema or acne, you may want to try a headband to stop too much sweat from sitting on your face and neck. Wear loose fitting clothes in breathable fabrics, and be sure to apply sunscreen. Check out this guide to buying running shoes. Please know that you don’t need to buy them full price. I always buy my shoes out of season at discount stores like Rack Room.
2. It Gives You Time To Think
Running is amazing for its simplicity. At first it will take some getting used to, but eventually it will feel relaxing. If you are doing sprints, fartleks or intervals you will need to pay attention, but a casual run is wonderful for doing some deep thinking. Or for contemplating how you will defeat the patriarchy.
TIP: Keep a running journal. This will not only give you a space to write down everything that you thought about, it will also serve as a reminder that running puts you in a good mood, so you can reach for it any day that you are not feeling motivated.
3. It’s Easy To Fit Into Your Schedule
Running doesn’t take a huge amount of planning, and even just 5 minutes a day is still beneficial.
TIP: No matter where you are or how short the run is, make sure to warm up using kinetic (moving) stretches, and cool down with static stretches. Also, if you are on a treadmill, increase the incline by 2% or more so that you don’t have a completely flat terrain.
4. It’s A Way To Explore
Running is a fabulous way to explore a new place, or to get to know your home a little better. I know all the ins and outs of my historic neighborhood just from my running routes, and this inspired me to walk around and take photos one day. If your neighborhood isn’t safe to run in, seek out local parks and trails.
TIP: Map My Run puts you in touch with local routes, courses and groups.
5. You Can Do It Alone, or With a Friend
I first started running regularly in the city of Norwich, UK, with my then-housemate, Eleanor, who was doing her Master’s while I was finishing up my B.A. We lived with two other guys, one of whom was her boyfriend, so going for a run in the park was our way to bond outside of the house—and it balanced out our other shared hobby, drinking tea and eating cake.
Eleanor and I started in the same place, and we improved together. When I moved to Mississippi, I didn’t have anyone who was the same pace as me anymore, but I still bothered my friends about joining me for a run. They mostly recoiled and insisted they would be too slow for me. (I wore them down eventually.)
It made me laugh, because this was my reaction many years ago. But now I actually love running with beginners. I’m not there to show off or reprimand them for being “slow.” I am there to encourage them with their healthy decision—to matchmake them with running, if you will. Running together is a way of saying: I am here for you. I am with you every step of the way.
TIP: Join a running group for extra support and motivation.
6. You Can Set Goals (or Not)
I think one of the biggest mistakes people make with running is to set an arbitrarily high goal—“I’ll go run for 20 minutes, anything less would be embarrassing”—and then get disappointed when they can’t immediately achieve it.
It is imperative that you do not push too hard, especially if you are a beginner. Even if you are in great shape, go easy on yourself at first and ease into a running routine. Once you have a better idea of what works for you, you can start a more vigorous routine—or be a rebel and just do what feels good each time!
TIP: Couch to 5K is THE BEST. Get an app, or print out the plan with happy faces next to each workout, stick it up in your house, then color in the happy faces each time you finish a run. This sounds ridiculous, I know, but when you are struggling out there, the thought, “I can’t disappoint the happy face!” will totally pop into your head.☺
7. You Can Rock Out (Or Run In A State Of Suspense)
I recently read an interview with Taylor Swift about how she stays healthy on the road, and I was inspired by the fact that running is her way to listen to new music. She downloads new songs and doesn’t listen to them until she’s on the treadmill: “For me, running is about blasting a whole bunch of new songs and running to the beat.”
If music distracts you, feel free to try a podcast or audiobook instead, or watch a Netflix show on the treadmill. (No bingeing unless you’re running.) One of my friends once went for an unintentionally long run because she got caught up listening to “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” Run like you are a Muggle being personally victimized by Lord Voldemort!
8. It Helps You Feel Good Inside & Out
I know that you have heard of the “runner’s high.” Darling, it’s real. Running helps with your brain performance, mood, sleep and more.
And, if you feel you have a so-called “trouble zone,” whether it’s your thighs, your behind, or your stomach, running will tone it up nicely because it’s all-over-body exercise. Anecdotally, I will say that my legs changed shape—and never reverted—after I took up running, because now I actually have muscle definition. You don’t have to go really hard—a steady pace is great if your goal is fat loss.
TIP: It’s OK to run on empty, but you may prefer to eat something light beforehand. Personally, I tend to be a morning runner, so I like a smoothie or fresh juice as a pre-run snack, and a healthy breakfast post-run. If you are an afternoon or evening runner, check out our 5 Energy-Boosting Healthy Snacks.
It takes perseverance, and you may not love it right away, but after you get over the first couple of months it really is enjoyable.
BONUS TIP: Tie your shoes before you leave! At least you’ll be more successful than this guy.
Are you a runner? Tweet us @LitDarling!