For a few weeks now I’ve been stepping up my morning routine. I have been rising somewhere in the five o’clock hour on most days and try to be out the door at, or before the sun rises. I enjoy the quiet, solitude, and coolness of the dawn hours.
Since January I’ve been doing pretty well at resuming my morning walk routine. A few years back this was a regular habit of mine, but it had been buried by many other activities vying for priority in my life. When I finally decided to change my eating habits (again) I also picked up the walking habit.
Then one day I tried running.
It was strangely difficult, and also easier than I thought it might be.
I’ve tried running before. One of my biggest problems with running is not actually with running—the problem is me. I’m fast. I run fast. So even when I am trying to jog, my “jog” is faster than many might run! This, as you might guess, quickly depletes one’s energy supply—too quickly! I could never run very far, so I stuck to walking.
But I’ve pushed through it this time. I’ve been running a mile or two, usually three or four days a week. One recent morning, as I covered just under 2.5 miles, I realized I’ve learned a few things.
Getting Started is the Hardest Part
The very first day, my feet felt as though I’d never actually run at all! Ever! I couldn’t quite find a good gait. I felt stiff, awkward, and was getting tired again. But I was determined to really give it a good effort, and I pushed through it.
That day I probably only ran about half a mile, two separate times—with a break, and some walking in the middle. But I was happy with what I had accomplished.
As I have continued, I’ve added a bit more distance, and I’ve grown more comfortable overall. But over these few weeks I have noticed that, for me, the beginning is still surprisingly difficult.
Without fail, the first hundred steps or so (it’s not very far!) are stiff, awkward, and oppressive. I just want to stop. But I’ve already learned that once I push past that very short beginning, I settle into the steady pace I am looking for and I run for a long time after that before I even think about it again.
Of course, even before I have dressed, stretched, and headed out the door, the other hard part is just getting up! There are many days when I debate with myself the pros and cons of braving whatever weather awaits me, only to push my body to its sweaty limits—even though I was looking forward to the morning’s run when I closed my eyes the night before.
It seems that getting started is, perhaps, the hardest part.
Discouragement Will Come
Another thing I’ve noticed is that somewhere along the way, despite the groove I’ve attained early in the run, and even if what I’m listening to in my headphones is still holding my interest… I start to feel like I “should quit”.
My body begins to notice its tiredness. My limbs are looser than I want them to be. My brain starts the debate afresh: “Maybe that’s enough for today? You’re getting pretty winded. This is starting to be a bit uncomfortable…” — “But, I haven’t gone as far as I’d like to… I did more than this yesterday, didn’t I?”
I have so far been able to press through those moments of wanting to quit. Each time that I have, I find myself regaining that steady pace, finding my second wind, and—almost unintentionally—the debate subsides. Peace is restored, and I can pursue the next short goal.
I have found that mentally setting short goals helps me immensely. Looking ahead and finding the next bend in the path, or an opening, or a large tree… any marker in the distance that I can press toward, especially in those discouraging moments.
It’s really amazing to me how much this helps.
I have marked out a place on my normal running path where I know there is only a short distance left to go. When that place is in view, I prepare myself for my final push. Once I reach that marker I begin running at what I used to call my “running” pace. It’s not a sprint, but it’s pretty fast. When you’ve already been running a while, this is harder than I imagine it to be—every time!
But with a short goal in sight, I have made it every time.
(And once the goal is reached, I happily suck in all the air my lungs can accommodate and resume a much slower walking pace!)
Sweat, Feel Good, Do It Again!
I walk fast. My arms move, aiding my gait, and I generally maintain a 4 MPH pace over a two-mile stretch. This does work up a sweat, but it’s surprising how a slow-and-steady run at about 5.5 MPH increases the amount of work my body is doing, which greatly increases the sweating!
But it does feel good. It’s a really good, sweaty exhaustion. When I reach home I walk a bit more around our yard, regaining my breath. A few glasses of water soon rehydrate me. A nice warm shower cleans and refreshes me.
And I feel awake, alive, and ready for whatever is next.
I know that I also feel much better in general than I have for a long time.
I am NOT a runner. I know runners. They’re crazy! 🙂 And I do not presume to even be mentioned in the same conversation with these dedicated, 26.2-mile-running stalwarts.
But I do think I might keep this up. For a while at least.
I might need a new pair of shoes…