How to Learn to Love Running

Jacklyn asks: Do you have any tips for struggling newbie runners?

I’ll never forget the day I took my first running step. I thought I was going to die. It was so horrible that I didn’t try again for another year, when a group of my coworkers challenged me to run a 5K. I accepted, they helped me train, and I finished that race upright and smiling. Little did I know that what I learned then would become the core of my coaching philosophy.

Start from where you are.

The difference between that horrible first run and the success of the training program that next year came down to one simple rule: Start from where you are fitness-wise, gradually build your running based on your body’s response, and aim to finish feeling challenged and happy, not spent and cranky.

The first time I started I tried to run as far as I could (which was to the end of my block). The second time I started with walking, then sprinkled in seconds of running within a walking workout, then built up the running time gradually. I enjoyed every workout because I finished feeling strong and happy.

Stay happy.

When you finish a run feeling happy and accomplished, you want to repeat it again and again. When you start out too hard (like I did the first time), you fuel feelings of defeat and failure. In order to become a master at any activity, you must be consistent, and that grows more readily from a sense of achievement rather than defeat.

Maintain motivation.

Running happily and within your comfort zone creates a momentum that fuels motivation to continue to run consistently. You skip fewer workouts because you’re enjoying them and seeing regular progress. You might be able to cover more distance or simply to walk less. These little high-five moments feed your motivation to keep moving forward.

Build confidence.

As you build your running fitness and skill level, with every mile you gain a sense of confidence from the familiarity of the routine you’ve created. This doesn’t happen overnight—confidence grows from the habit of running and from the many minutes you invest along the way. And with confidence you can begin to learn more skills, like how to run faster or improve your running form.

Keep it simple.

Learning to run is like starting kindergarten. If you begin with the fundamentals, you’ll set yourself up for years of success. It all begins with practicing patience, and progressing slowly and based on how your body feels.

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