Without a doubt, the best part of this weekend, when I got to meet so many of you who stopped by our booth at the DC Vegfest, was getting to really learn what you’re about — what inspires you, what’s going really well for you, and what you’re having problems with.
“I’d love to run, but I just hate running!”
I like to think of myself as a positive guy, but today, it’s that last part I want to focus on. The problems.
The biggest one: several of you told me you want to be runners, but aren’t. We’ve got to do something about that.
How to fix the problems that keep you from running
If you’d like to be a runner but it’s just not happening, I’ve got some answers to help you get over the five most common obstacles that prevent people from ever starting to run. Here we go.
Problem #1: “The thought of running for even half an hour is overwhelming. I mean, that’s an entire sitcom!”
Solution: Totally. All of us have days when we feel the same way, though for experienced runners it’s more a mental hurdle than a physical one. But if you’re just starting out (maybe you want to run a 5K) and you wonder how you’ll ever train your body to go that long without stopping, here’s what to do.
Get a stopwatch and get yourself outside (or on a treadmill, or wherever else you want to run). Set the watch for half an hour, then start running. Doesn’t have to be fast, just run.
The trick is to keep doing something until the bell rings. Stop when you get tired, but keep walking. When you’re ready to run again, do it, and alternate running and walking until the half hour is up.
If this approach works for you, get a plan (or make one yourself) that gradually increases the length of time that you run, relative to the amount of time you spend walking. Within a few weeks, running for half an hour in the park will be way more fun than watching Parks and Recreation.
Problem #2: “I need to buy _____ before I can run.”
Solution: Running is a neat sport, in that you don’t need all that much stuff to do it. Get just enough clothes to cover your naughty bits and you’re all set. Even shoes are optional, these days.
But if you’d like to start training seriously, you’ll probably want a few things. A watch, a decent pair of shoes, a sports bra if you’re a woman. Socks that won’t give you blisters, a place to record your runs, a water bottle.
Whatever the thing is that you need, don’t let it become your excuse. It’s one thing to keep telling yourself, “I need _____ before I can run,” over and over. It’s another to notice, “I keep telling myself I need _____ before I can run, and yet I never actually do anything about it.”
That excuse is no longer valid. Go get what you need so you can start running.
Problem #3: “Running is boring.”
Solution: Sometimes. Sort of. Especially when you’re talking about 15 or 20 miles. But we’re just talking about a few miles at a time right now, and once you get into the rhythm and get comfortable with running, you’ll probably find what most runners do: the endorphins are completely addictive.
When I was starting out, music was a huge help. Download a few songs you’re ashamed to love — they’re the best for really getting amped up during your run. (At one time or another I’ve had Spice Girls, Hanson, and Kelly Clarkson on my running playlist. So lame, yet so perfect.)
Another idea: If you know how far you’re going to run, use a tool like Gmaps Pedometer to plot a route that actually gets you somewhere. If you’re planning to run three miles, for example, pick a spot a mile and a half away to run to. Starbucks, 7-Eleven, a friend’s house. Even if you’re not going to go in, there’s something cool about running to a place you’ve always driven to.
Problem #4: “I’ll look stupid because I’m out of shape (or because I run funny).”
Solution: This one’s all in your head. Almost no runner is going to judge you for not looking like a runner.
When I drive by someone who is out of shape and struggling really hard to run, it makes me want to run. I want to tell them to keep it up, that it’s awesome that they’re out there getting it done when it’s tough. That feeling of pushing through something, of doing the little things that amount to huge changes, is one almost every runner knows and wishes they could experience more of.
There are runners — some really strong, solid runners — who don’t look like they could run a mile, much less a marathon or an ultra. Sure, we can take a pretty good guess about someone’s ability by looking at their form, but it’s not a judgy thing. Everybody gets it done differently.
If you’re really worried about this, plan your route to be on a quiet trail rather than a busy road until you’re comfortable. But I hope that’s soon, because I’m telling you, nobody cares what you look like. And if you’re running while they’re driving, well, you should be the one smiling to yourself.
Problem #5: “I’d love to run, but I just hate running.”
Solution: Guess what? Almost nobody, the first time they went for a run that wasn’t for some other sport, liked it.
Running is tough. People who enjoy running are those who have done it a lot, those who have gotten used to it and have trained their bodies to do it efficiently and comfortably, without an extreme amount of effort. And for those people, it actually becomes fun.
If you hate running, it’s probably because you’re not yet good at it. If you want to become a runner, you’ve got to accept that the first few runs might not be so much fun.
But your second run will be a little easier than your first. And after a week or two, you’ll start noticing gains.
Your body will change. You might lose a little weight, and your legs will be a little stronger.
And then it will be a little easier. Which leads to more gains, more changes. Soon you’ll look forward to your run; it’ll be your grown-up recess.
And then one day, you’ll realize you’re a runner. That you, the last person on earth who could ever like running, actually like running.
How to really get started right
Two of my good buddies, Steve Kamb from Nerd Fitness and Jason Fitzgerald from Strength Running, just finished up a comprehensive guide for new runners that I’m really excited about, called the Rebel Running Guide. I’ve read through the entire thing, and I can’t say enough good things about it.
When I wrote my marathon and half marathon guides, I wanted to include not just the big stuff like running form and diet, but also the little things that you don’t realize make such a huge difference in your results — where to even go for your runs, how to choose your first race, how to pick out the right shoes, what changes you need to make to your routine during the week before and the day of your race itself.
With the Rebel Running Guide, Steve and Jason have accomplished exactly that — but for the new runner, say, the person who wants to run their first 5K. (And there’s also a very cool section on adventure racing, ’cause hey, it’s for rebels.)
I’m really proud to have been a part of it, too. Steve interviewed me to get a vegan perspective on nutrition, as well as my personal advice for new runners. Our interview is included with the deluxe version of the guide.
A special bonus, from me!
I’m very choosy about what products I promote these days, but the Rebel Running Guide is one I can totally get behind. I’m an affiliate for it, and I’ve got a great bonus for you if you pick up your copy through my link.
The bonus? Well, Steve and Jason aren’t vegetarian; they’re Paleo guys. With some input from me, they touch on a vegan/vegetarian approach in the guide, but it’s only a short section.
So what I’m going to do, if you get the Rebel Running Guide through my link, is send you the entire nutrition section of my Half Marathon Roadmap — over 50 pages of plant-based nutrition info for endurance running, including a sample two-week meal plan and 17 of my favorite recipes for training, so that you can use it as your vegetarian or vegan nutrition guide while you use the Rebel Running Guide to train for your first race.
Click here to check out the the Rebel Running Guide. And if you decide to get it, just forward me a copy of your receipt and I’ll send you the nutrition section of my Half Marathon Roadmap and you’ll be all set!