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How to Get Into Running When You Hate It — From Someone Who Once Hated It

I used to tell people that I hated running, because I really, genuinely did. I couldn’t run for the train without feeling as if I was on the brink — experiencing stabbing pains in my side and gasping for air after only a minute. And I’m young and fit.

I was convinced the world was divided into two: those who could run, and those who just never, ever would. I fought hard to excuse myself from laps around the park at bootcamp, I searched for physiological excuses against it, citing my knobbly knees and weak ankles, and I truly made peace with the fact that I would never even try. “I’m good at other things,” I thought to myself.

Sometime in late 2019, I was in between gyms and on the hunt for a new establishment that would fulfil my fitness needs. I like expert-run classes and nice clean facilities close to my inner-city home, but these criteria, while sounding simple enough, meant I was looking at around $75 a week. The thought of spending that much made me feel kind of ill.

My boyfriend had been trying to convince me to run with him for a while. I’d fought it hard and done a good job to assure him it would never happen. But then he said three magic words that went on to change everything.

Running is free. 

Guys, running is free! Why hadn’t I thought of that? I love free stuff! And you mean to tell me there’s a way I can my achieve fitness goals… for free? Well that’s worth a try, right?

Almost instantly, my perspective shifted, and I was ready to give running the good old college try. I downloaded the Nike Run Club App (absolutely crucial to my success) and started small with my goals. Like really small.

Six months on and I’m still no expert. A marathon feels really far off for me and I may never take on a challenge so large, but I’m looking to share the most valuable lessons I’ve learned so far, in the event it could help you — a fellow running hater — enjoy free fitness too.

Set small goals

In the beginning, I had very little expectations for what I could achieve, and I think this actually proved to be a good thing in starting my running journey. To begin, I challenged myself according to time, not distance, and I think this to be a helpful tip for anyone in the same boat.

One of the best parts of the Nike Run Club app is the guided runs available (again, all for free!), which start at just five minutes long. Over the course of the guided run, the coach checks in on you, gives pointers for levelling out your breath and reminds you of the correct posture — all in a tangential way that distracts you from the pain and makes the whole ordeal feel quicker.

The coach in your ear reminds you take things slow and acts as your constant cheerleader, handing out praise and kudos for the fact you started the run, nevermind how far you get and whether you feel you have to stop. It’s incredibly encouraging, and I would credit around 90% of my running success to this app.

Get the gear

I’m the kind of person who is inspired to move by new activewear. I know it’s not actually that important to have the right gear, but at least looking the part truly helps me find the motivation to get started.

If you think it may help, go wild at Nagnata, Outdoor Voices, and P.E. Nation. Even if you give up running, you can still wear these to brunch on a Sunday (it’s acceptable now!).

Having the right shoes is actually important though, and so it’s worth investing in a pair that will take care of your feet and joints. I opted for a pair of Under Armour HOVR™ Infinite 2 running shoes, and I reckon they’ve made a huge difference for their springy sole and extreme comfort. A super supportive sports bra will go a long way, too.

Take it slow

Figuratively and literally. Starting slow, in both the entire journey and on each individual run will really help you adapt to running, especially if the process feels as foriegn on your body as it did mine.

Start with short jogs and try to level up in small increments each time. Just two more minutes, 500 more metres, just a little bit faster. Despite how it might feel, running is not a race, and you’re only ever versing yourself.

This means you can and should give credit for your smallest accomplishments and go easy on yourself, even when you feel like you need to stop. Know that becoming a runner isn’t an overnight job, and accept that it won’t always feel good while you’re doing it.

Always, however, be proud that you tried, and push yourself slowly, because you actually can do it most of the time. And yes, you will always feel amazing afterwards.

After around three months of running maybe twice a week, I’ve discovered I can run for around 40 minutes at a slow and steady pace, or for five kilometres.

I barely look at my pace per kilometre because I don’t think that matters yet, but when I feel comfortable in this routine my next goal will be to go a little faster.

This is what worked for me, but I understand that every runner finds their own inspiration. Influencer and entrepreneur, Elle Ferguson, is another former-hater who has found joy in running during this time of isolation. I asked her what sparked her new-found passion for the sport.

Katie Skelly: Elle! Thanks for chatting to me. Tell me, have you ever been someone who enjoyed running?

Elle Ferguson: Hand on heart, I am not a runner, have never been one. Also, I think I was someone that was told I shouldn’t run cause I’m too tall. It was a love-hate relationship. [My fiance] Joel and I were trying to run three times a week before COVID, but it was a real chore… it was hard work. I knew the results you get from running, though, so I was sticking to it.

KS: The results do feel worth it. Why did you decide to give it a go, and what steps did you take to shift your mindset?

EF: When the lockdown happened and we were only allowed outside for a short moment of time each day I realised how grateful I was to have previously been able to take those long walks/run outside. I didn’t want to lose that feeling so I invested in a treadmill. This enabled me to get those 10,000 steps in a day. But what I didn’t realise was that getting on the treadmill each day would become my reward, not my chore.

KS: What sort of wins have you seen from your own running efforts? Are you proud of yourself?

EF: It’s been all mental at the moment. I’ve learnt that I can push myself further than I thought. I like the power that comes with achieving the daily goal I’m setting myself, and most of all I love the fact that I’m inspiring other people to move.

KS: Yes you are! And tell me, what advice would you have for someone wanting to try running for themselves?

EF: It’s like anything in life: you have to practice to become perfect. When Joel and I started running I was lucky to run 10 seconds straight, but each day we added a little more and a little more. Day by day, I got better. Also, don’t be too hard on yourself.

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It’s been quite the home isolation journey so far… Week One: clean the entire house from top to bottom. Reorganise EVERYTHING Week Two: watch every possible episode of every single show on Netflix. Become the Tiger Kings number one fan and limit sleep time Week Three: HOME WORKOUTS. It’s taken me two weeks to get here but now I feel calm, I feel much better about myself and I’m getting stronger. I’ve set myself goals and I’m going for it. We are all doing this self isolation our own way but the most important thing is to stay inside and follow the rules. I want to know what home workouts you are doing to stay healthy and moving? My favs at the moment are @fluidformpilates @esther.hesse.pt @iontraining @asquadcalledsavage @aloyoga and my number one #JPPT @joelpatfull

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