Running has become one of my favorite things. It provides me with goals that are measurable, is 100% for me, clears my head, and provides me with an immeasurable amount of confidence and self worth. Running is an amazing thing for me.
For most of my life, I thought that I couldn’t run. I could do any machine in the gym for endless periods of time, but the treadmill seemed formidable. Elliptical for an hour? Sure! Stationary bike for half the day? No problem? But the treadmill? Completely scary. Every time I got on, I felt like I was ready to crumple into a heap within five minutes. I always felt like running was harder for me than for other people.
A few years ago, I decided to face my gym enemy. I would grudgingly get on the treadmill a couple times a week. I remember how much I hated it. How 12 minutes felt like an insufferable eternity. How I would decide before I got on the treadmill that I would run for the length of four songs on my iPod, then give up after three. It was a miserable experience and I soon returned to cardio exercise that didn’t make me want to vomit or make my body feel like melting wax. I remember reading magazine articles proclaiming that anyone could run and thinking that that statement was bull, because I couldn’t run. I really believed it was something that I could not do.
I stayed away from the treadmill for a long time. I always went to the gym regularly, but never went near the treadmill. I would scowl at it from across the gym as I lifted weights or used the arc trainers.
I didn’t consider trying to run again until I was laid off from my desk job. Suddenly I had endless hours to spend at the gym. Because my life was no longer filled with the mental challenges my job had provided me, I began to consider physical challenges.
As I would sit on the stationary bike, going nowhere, I began to eye the treadmills. Should I try to run again? Would I hate it? Was running a good idea? After much thought, I decided to try it again.
I remember how terrible it was when I started running. I would jog for a few minutes, then walk, then jog. I would make rules in my head that I was not allowed to get off the treadmill for 10 minutes, then 12 minutes, then 15. I still hated it, but was encouraged by my slight progress.
At this time, I had a boyfriend who had taken a running class when he was in college. His college had a physical education requirement that many people satisfied by taking “Run 101.” After discussing the goals of Run 101 and the requirements for passing the class, I decided that I wanted to pass Run 101. For girls, this meant running three miles in half an hour.
Once I had a goal in mind, running had a new purpose for me. I began to look forward to running on the treadmill and getting closer to passing Run 101.
I was stuck at two miles for a while, then one day broke through to three miles. I had done it! I passed Run 101! It was a satisfying accomplishment and I wanted more. I began to look around for a race to run. At this point, I was only running on the treadmill, I never ran outside. Running outside seemed scarier than the indoor, quantifiable comforts of the treadmill. However, I saw it as a new challenge. By achieving my goal of passing Run 101, my relationship with running was beginning to change.
My town has a Thanksgiving Day race every year called the “Gobble Gobble Gobble.” I had a friend who had run it the previous year, so I asked him about the race. He told me it was a fun, four miles. People racing dressed up like turkeys and pilgrims and other Thanksgiving related things. He said the crowd was always happy and it was a good race. Within the next week, I was registered.
At this point, I tried to start running outside. I could run three miles on the treadmill, but one mile outside felt difficult and terrible. I quickly retreated back to the treadmill. As the race got closer though, I knew I had to force myself outside. It was a hard transition.
Around this time, I decided to leave my old career behind and look into becoming a personal trainer at a gym. I had hated my old desk jobs and wanted to spend all my time at the gym. Why not work at the gym? Being a personal trainer was something I had kicked around before, but it had seemed too scary to go for. At that time, I didn’t have a job I needed to leave to chase this dream, so it felt like the right time to give personal training a try.
A few calls and meetings later and I got a job at one of the nicer gyms in my town. I was not allowed to train anyone until I passed one of my first personal training certifications and I worked long days simply hanging around the gym. When the gym was empty, my supervisor said it was okay to work out. All the sudden I had hours where I was trapped in an empty gym. I had to be there whether the gym was empty or not and this felt like a lot of time to fill. I started filling this empty time with farther and farther runs on the treadmill. It didn’t take long before I was well past the distance I needed to run for the Gobble Gobble Gobble. I was running for an hour at a time, covering six miles.
I started to slowly take my running outside. By the time the Gobble Gobble Gobble came, I was more than ready. I easily ran the race at a ten-minute-mile pace.
Around this time, I was also studying for my final personal trainer certification exam. Through my studies, I started to learn about using heart rate theory when doing cardio. The first day I seriously applied these theories to my running, I went from six miles to nine miles. It was amazing and I was felt satisfied and proud of myself. This made me want more. I decided to go for a half marathon.
Using my new knowledge, I was able to push myself to 12 miles on the treadmill. As the weather got warmer, I started to wean myself off the treadmill and run outside. I now run outside a few times week. I do two shorter runs and one long run. When I wake up on a run day and it’s sunny and temperate outside, I feel an immediate excitement. Running continues to provide me with personal goals and offers me the chance to clear my head. Some days are still harder than others, but running makes me feel so good that I always keep at it.
My half marathon is now a month away. Running 13.1 miles still provides me with a challenge I have not surpassed. When I finish the race and my friends and family are waiting for me, it will be an amazing feeling. Maybe at that point, I will decide to go for a full marathon.
Go run! You can do it!
Rosenberg, S. (2009). My Relationship with Running. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 22, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/2009/my-relationship-with-running/
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.