I’ve spent several years of my life jogging, and have a wide range of experiences to show for it, from wiping out in front of 20 cars on Philadelphia’s icy sidewalks, to googling the symptoms of heat stroke after a long run in Austin, to trying to maintain my pace while wrangling my Jack Russell away from the fake deer he picked a fight with every. single. time. we passed him. And who knows how many times I’ve awkwardly jogged back and forth in place while my dog poops for the tenth time on a 30-minute run. I’d say it’s in the hundreds by now. This wasn’t what I envisioned when I first decided to become a runner. Somehow, despite the wipeouts and weather and fake animals and poop, it’s better.
Running through the years has provided me with endless benefits, almost all of them mental. Sure, there are physical benefits. And when I first started running, it was strictly to reap the physical benefits. But I quickly learned that there was so much more to be gained!
Why to Become a Runner
- First, it provides an opportunity to think…or not think. I mean, don’t check out all the way, or you’ll end up like me, wiping out in an embarrassing display. But running doesn’t require any special attention to detail, which means that your body can go on autopilot while you replay the day’s events, think through difficult decisions, or think absolutely nothing at all. It forces you out of the multitasking mode in which we often find ourselves, and allows your mind to run freely.
- Second, running provides a fantastic chance to enjoy, and move to, your favorite music. I’ve taken great joy in creating jogging playlists over the years. Songs that build momentum to warm up and get motivated, upbeat, kick-a** songs for the peak of my jog, and calm, soothing songs to cool down. No one’s around to roll their eyes at my music choices (I’m looking at you, husband!), and I get to step a little harder and jump a little higher to my favorite parts. Score bonus points when you find songs with the right bpm (beats per minute) to match your pace!
- Third, it can force you outside to breathe fresh air. I’m the outdoorsy type…as long as the outdoors aren’t too hot…or cold…or dirty…and there’s not a single bug in sight. Okay, I’m not outdoorsy, but there are physical and mental benefits to breathing in fresh air. Running encourages me to be outdoorsy…on sidewalks…where my chances of running into wild animals are slim to none.
- Fourth, running keeps pets happy. Words cannot express how happy and content my dog is after taking a jog with me. He gets to be outdoors, stretch his legs, and work out lots of energy. Plus it keeps me in the number one spot in his heart, above my husband, which is obviously very important. Priorities, people!
- And finally, it teaches mental and emotional endurance. I’ve run several half-marathons, and could never decide in the middle of a race that I was going to just stop running and give up. I mean, I could, but then I would have to somehow find my husband to pick me up in the middle of marathon madness, where streets are closed off and thousands of people are gathered for the race. So instead, I just kept moving and trusting that I would reach the end, even if it was at the pace of a sloth riding a turtle. I learned to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even in the most challenging of circumstances. And it’s a lesson I’ve applied to a lot of areas in my life – from surviving life after divorce, to moving backwards in my career, to becoming a new parent.
How to Become a Runner
So how can you become a runner? I distinctly remember my first attempt at jogging. I got all pumped up with my favorite song, ran at a quick pace around the town square, and finally slowed to look at my watch when I felt like I was running out of steam. One minute, 15 seconds. Guys. That’s sad.
The trick is to start with jog/walk combos. For example, you could jog for 2 minutes, then walk for 3 minutes to recover, then repeat back and forth, jogging for 2, walking for 3, until you’ve been moving for 30 minutes.
A good rule of thumb is to plan on running 30 minutes, 3 times a week, and to bump up the challenge factor (more jogging, less walking) every week. Here’s a schedule that I like to follow when I’m revving up my jogging again. Enter your email address to have it sent straight to your inbox!
So once you’re running for 30 minutes at a time, what’s your next goal? I always feel like jogging can get a little boring unless you’re working toward a goal.
My first goal was to run a half-marathon. Your goal could be any race, from a 5K (3.1 miles) to a full marathon (26.2). If you’re training for a race, after you’re running consistently for 30 minutes using the above schedule, I highly suggest Hal Higdon’s training calendars.
Or you could take Phil’s approach on Modern Family and jog a certain distance. His goal was to ride his elliptical “to Canada” over the course of a year. He hung a map on the wall and marked his distance each day.
Find whatever gets you motivated and encourages you to push for that goal. Then…go for it!
Wrap It Up
You (Yes, you!) can become a runner, and enjoy all of the physical and mental benefits that come with it. Start easy, with jog/walk intervals, until you can jog for 30 minutes, then find a fun goal that will motivate you to continue.
And if you happen to be in San Antonio and see a woman awkwardly jogging in place around her pooping Jack Russell…well…look away, please. Because my dog can’t poop if anyone’s watching him.
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