I wanted to run for years. As a teenager I dreamt about it. Not scary dreams about running away from zombies but happy dreams about winning a race or just running. In reality running never gelled for me—until last year.
I tried running off and on in my 20s, overheated, and gave up. In my early 30s, my husband’s and my pilates instructor suggested that we sign up for a half marathon and train with her so we tried—and I quit after our first 6-mile walk left me with hip and knee pain. Brian hung in there and went on to walk/run his first half marathon that year. Last weekend he completed his sixth.
Every year he trained for and completed another half, and I sat on the sidelines cheering him on. I was beginning to think I’d never learn to run.
And then he offered to train with me, even though he’s twice as fast, even though he wants to run longer distances, just because he loves me and knew I wanted to do it. So during 2014, we trained together and I completed my first 10K.
5 Things Starting a Running Program Taught Me About Starting Anything New
1. Get support. Until I had a training partner, I didn’t run. Once I had someone else counting on me, I felt accountable to him and more accountable to myself. I wanted to show up to spend time with my partner.
Whatever change you want to make—adopting an exercise program, cultivating an artistic practice, or eating healthier—find a cheerleader, training partner, or accountability partner. They will provide the support system you need for success.
On the other hand, if you know someone in your life won’t support the changes you’re making, either don’t tell them about it or minimize your discussion about it with them. The last thing you need when you’re just starting something is a naysayer.
2. Set a schedule. It’s so easy to put off a goal when it’s not in the calendar. To change a dream or goal into reality, you need a plan of action.
My plan had two components: first, I signed up for the Giant Race so I had a deadline, and then I scheduled three training runs per week in my calendar. With the added support of a training partner, I knew I needed to get out there even when I didn’t feel like it.
To apply this point to anything else, step one is to create a concrete goal with a deadline, step two is to create a system through which you will achieve your goal, and step three is to check in regularly with your support team to let them know how you’re doing and get support when you are struggling.
3. Take it slow. I am probably the slowest runner on the planet. And I’m really a walker/jogger. What I learned this time is that, before, I was trying too hard, running too fast, and not giving myself time to acclimate to the new endeavor. I was taking an all-or-nothing approach.
Brian forced me to slow down. Instead of paying attention to covering distance, we focused on up-and-down cadences. It felt strange at first but eventually it became natural.
Applying the “take it slow” principle to anything else: If you want to write, just write. You don’t need to commit to writing the next Great American novel. Determine what you want to write and instead commit to doing it three times per week. If you want a deadline, create it around scenes or chapters or blog posts. Make your goal attainable.
4. Focus on your results, not anyone else’s. As I said before, Brian is a much faster runner than I am but even he isn’t running 3:30 marathons like his younger sister can. When you’re starting anything new, it doesn’t matter that someone you know earns $1 million per year doing what you want to do. It doesn’t matter that your sister just published a photo in National Geographic. It doesn’t matter if your neighbors think you look silly prancing down the street (as I felt sure they did when I was just starting my running program.)
What matters is where you are. If you honor that and keep going, you will get better.
One more thing about results. We only see the external results of others’ success. We miss the hours of preparation, both physical and mental, that got them there. We also don’t often see the obstacles they’ve overcome. For those reasons and more, we can’t really compare ourselves to anyone else. We’re each on our own journey.
5. Take care of yourself. There are a lot of things Brian and I do to care for ourselves before, during, and after a run. For example, to train for the 10k, I followed Jeff Galloway’s beginner training program. While running, we both use a pacing watch with a heart rate monitor (like this one) to ensure we’re in an aerobic zone instead of overtaxing ourselves. After a workout, we stretch and roll out our muscles to ensure a smooth recovery.
Taking care of yourself applies to starting anything new. Whether you’re starting a business, undertaking new responsibilities at work, or adopting a cat, make sure you carve out time to care for yourself, too—mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Did I miss anything? What have you learned about starting something new?