lessons i’ve learned in my sneakers

I started running in February. Running had never been something that I particularly enjoyed, although I did more of it in high school than I have in the past few years. February brought some difficult personal challenges, and for some reason the only thing I wanted to do was take it to the pavement. Something about pounding out my frustration and all my questions on a run was therapeutic for me. I could clear my head on a run in a way that I couldn’t anywhere else. As long as I was doing it anyways, I looked up a couple of training programs and started running to them. Every week, I could run further without needing to slow down or walk. The runs still helped me work through all of the stress and change, but they also kick-started a health transformation that I’m still working through. I’ve started working with a personal trainer, I’ve set and met personal and fitness goals, I’m losing the extra fluff that I put on my butt and belly in 2010, and I feel pretty damn empowered. When I started running, I couldn’t run a mile. Tonight, I finished a 5 mile run in the time it took me to run 3 miles just over a month ago. I ran a 5k, and am currently training to run an overnight team relay race from Chattanooga to Nashville in November. It feels SO good to be getting better at this.

Something shifted for me this week. It was as if my body said, “Alright, so we’re really doing this, huh?” and I ran over 2 miles before I realized I hadn’t stopped or slowed down. My endurance increases with every run now. On my way back tonight, I got to thinking about how much I’ve taken from this whole running thing. There is more to it than less belly fat. This blog is all about what I think about during and after my runs. Tonight, because I just ran 5 miles and I’m pooped, I’ll keep it simple. There’s a lot to flesh out here, though, and I’ll be doing that over the next few days. Life lessons and all.

Complete, don’t compete.
The most helpful advice I’ve read since I started running is to focus on completing your run before you worry about competing. It takes a lot of training to build your endurance and increase your speed. If you start the whole process with the expectation that you can compete with experienced runners, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Decide how far you want to go or how long you want to run, and do that for a few weeks before you ask yourself to start winning races. Be ambitious. Set goals. But make sure you can finish the run before you ask your body to beat the clock.

Run YOUR race.
The most helpful advice I’ve gotten since starting to run with a number on my chest was at my first 5k. One of my pastors was running the race with his family and his wife told me this, “Don’t worry about the people beside you. Just run YOUR race.” The term “race” gave me this idea that I needed to compete with the other runners if I was going to do it right, but focusing on MY race was so much more satisfying. I felt a little intimated going into the run, but taking the pressure of beating the other runners’ times off of my shoulders and focusing on my own time made the whole experience incredibly rewarding. It also gave me a way to set goals for future runs. Now I know what my mile is, and I can work on improving that time. Don’t underestimate how rewarding it is to outdo yourself.

It’s all about what you put in your head.
It took me weeks and weeks of making different playlists before I found the music that puts me in the zone and carries me through a long run, but finding that music has made such a difference in my state of mind while I run. When I started, I needed the accountability of a driving beat to keep time and keep my feet moving. I listened to a lot of Phoenix, Pink, Linkin Park, and Kanye. Now that I’ve built up some endurance and don’t have to force my feet to move in time with the song, I run to Pat Green. Something about that Texas country makes me feel connected to the ground and the air and makes me think about home. I feel like that music is in my blood. When Pat and Willie Nelson sing about that “Threadbare gypsy soul,” I pump my fist along to “Southbound on 35” and I can almost see the bluebonnets along the highway, or he begs this woman to “let me be the one to set your feet up on a road where they’ve never been,” I go to this place where my feet don’t hurt and I don’t have to tell my body to keep moving forward. It just goes. The music literally moves me. Find what moves you and wear it out.

Be good to your body, and it will show up for you.
It is no coincidence that the week that my body has run the hardest and lasted the longest came after I cut out almost all processed foods and eaten almost entirely fresh produce, whole grains, beans, and fish. The less crap you put in your body, the more often it will show up when you really need it to. Be good to your body. You only get one.

Be thankful and generous.
If you are going to place extraordinary demands on your body (and the definition of extraordinary is different for every body), be gracious when your body shows up for you. Any number of injuries, diseases, or accidents could have prevented you from doing what you just did. Be thankful that your body stepped up and did what you asked it to do, and then be generous with your rewards. Say a prayer of gratitude, and give yourself a tangible treat. You better believe I took a long, hot bubble bath after my 5 miles tonight.

Make it to the stoplight.
Sometimes all you can do is make it to the stoplight. Then make it to the next one. Then the next one. Then make it to the corner. Before you know it you’ve finished a hell of a run, one stoplight at a time.

Know your goal.
This one’s simple, but easy to miss. If you want to run 15 minutes, know what that feels like and run 15 minutes. If you want to run 5 miles, make sure you know exactly where you’re headed and stick to the path as well as you can. When you have a specific goal, make sure you know how to get there.

Just do it.
I did not want to run tonight. I was supposed to do it yesterday morning. Then this morning. Then, it was Sunday night and I still had a weekend run to finish. I did it anyways. It was a battle against my mind to get my body out the door, but after I finished- and in 20 minutes less than I thought it would take- I felt like a champion. I’m so glad I got myself out the door tonight. When you tell yourself (and all of Facebook) that you’re going to do a run, just do it. It might suck at first, but finishing is so glorious. Finishing at a sprint after 5 grueling miles so you can beat your own time… that’s totally worth it.

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2 Comments on “lessons i’ve learned in my sneakers

  1. You’ve inspired me to start running again! After work today I’m going to try and do a mile without stopping. We’ll see what happens and go from there. I’m actually kinda excited!

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