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Thinking like a runner

Getting off on the right foot means understanding enough about yourself, your life, and your willingness to commit to this new activity to begin to think about your life as a runner. It's about giving yourself permission to find the time to be a runner.

Time is often a big factor, particularly in the early days and weeks of our running lives. Many of us are already so busy that it's hard to imagine adding another time-consuming activity to our overstuffed schedules, although running is one of the most time efficient exercises around. You need to find a strategy that will allow you to make time for it.

If you are new to running or being active, one of the best ways to get started is to take an entire week to think about running. Each day that week, think about when and where you might have run that day. Think about how fast or how far you would run. Remind yourself that next week, you really are going to run.

In the beginning, running doesn't need to take a lot of time. In the first few months, try to establish a schedule. You are more likely to succeed if you find just a few minutes several times a week that you can commit to running than if you devise an elaborate and completely undoable schedule that will fall apart in a matter of days.

Plan your runs on the basis of time rather than distance. Plan to get out of the house for a certain amount of time. Forget how far you go. Forget how fast you go. Just get out the door and stay out. For many people, twenty minutes of activity is a good place to begin. That does not mean running for twenty minutes. It means staying on your feet moving forward for twenty minutes. If you can run, run. If you can walk, walk. Do whatever you can, but keep moving forward. If it gets too hard, slow down.

A program of alternating running and walking is a good way to begin. The first week that may mean running for thirty seconds and walking for five minutes to recover. In time, it may mean running one minute and walking five, or running one and walking one. The truth is, it doesn't matter. What matters is that you are learning to use your body as a means of transportation.

Improvement is defined as being closer to where you want to be than you are right now. Remember, I couldn't run for more than a few steps in the beginning. Improvement for me was running farther than my driveway. You'll have to decide what improvement means for you. Is it to walk around your block without stopping? Then work toward that!

For better or worse, you are the only you that you will ever get. What you decide to do with you is up to you. Tomorrow you will still be you. The question is whether you will move closer today to who you want to be.

If you are patient, if you are persistent, if you are consistent, an amazing transformation will begin to occur. Your wonderfully adaptive body will begin to cooperate. It will happen in your own time and at your own pace, to be sure, but the transformation will take place.

Movement, which may have seemed so foreign to you, will become more natural. Being active every day will stop being something that you want to end and become something that you can't wait to start. It isn't just a matter of going farther or faster every day. It's knowing that you are in control of your body and, for a few minutes every day, your life.

You are becoming a runner. You are becoming a person for whom the activity of running is no longer completely foreign. Those brand-new running shoes will begin to show signs of wear. Those once bright white running socks will become dulled by the sweat of your transformation.

Not only are you becoming a runner, but you are becoming a runner in training. You will have goals. You will have good days and bad days. You will have days when you can't wait to run and days when you will have to force yourself out the door. In other words, you will be just like all the other runners. Every day you will be trying to do your best.


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