Three things running’s taught me (so far)

by Rebecca A. Watson on May 23, 2013

in beach, change, exercise, habits, life, music

Ever since I was a young adult I have looked at people who run for fun as some sort of alien life form. Or perhaps more like genetic mutants. How could you possibly want to do that? It looked miserable.

Of course, for much of that time I was a smoker, so that didn’t help the cause. But still, even after I got really into athletics and quit my pack-a-day habit, there was no way I was going jogging.

Except that for 2013 I decided it would be a good idea to put race a trail run on my list of goals. Probably because I saw all these amazing people training for a marathon on the trails of Nisene Marks. That would be 26.2 miles of running in the mountains. These folks are both inspirational and insane.

So I thought, if they could do 26 miles, why can’t I do three? And I signed up for the 5k race. Since I was doing that, my friends asked, why don’t I sign up for this 5k they were doing? And why not just try Wharf to Wharf?

So now I’ve been convinced to run a 10k as well. All this from the girl who used to say, “I’d run a mile … for a cigarette.” Yeah. That was my motto in high school. That girl wouldn’t even know what to do with the woman I became.

Although I'd like to have a few words with her about that hat.

Although I’d like to have a few words with her about that hat.

Because I’m not a total lunatic, I’ve been training a little bit to make sure I can handle myself on the trails. So for the last few months I have been running for an extended period of time. Sometimes with friends. Most times on the beach. Once in the rain, which was awesome. And (surprise!) it taught me a few things.

It’s kind of fun to not be good at something. Most of my life I have only done things I’m naturally talented at. Because of this, whenever I am not so gifted I tend to throw a bit of a temper tantrum. Ask my hubby. He has tolerated my moods while teaching me to mountain bike.

Unlike mountain biking, running has actually stuck for me, even though I don’t appear to be very good at. At least, not yet. (I may also have not continued to mountain bike because I’m terrified of going fast down hills, which is pretty much the essence of the sport.)

This looks dangerous.

This looks dangerous.

And since I’ve continued to run, although not being a naturally gifted marathon racer, I’ve started to really enjoy not being good at it. There’s something so freeing about not having any expectations in terms of my performance. At this point, I would just like to run a whole race. Doing something just to do it is totally new for me, and I like it.

Plus, my improvement week after week is huge! I used to run an 11:15 mile. In a week that went down to 10:30. Holy Jesus, I know loads of people that would love to knock that much time off their mile. Of course, these people run six-minute miles, but still!

So yeah, not being good at something is actually pretty fun and, paradoxically, very good for my self-esteem.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable. While running my first 5k, someone told me that they finally started to be OK with running when they realized they weren’t going to be comfortable. That made a lot of sense to me.

Here I was trying to make myself comfortable while I was out running through the sand. Is that even possible? And when I worked out on the eliptical machine, did I expect to be comfortable then? Hell no! I was out of breath, sweaty and loving it! So why should running (or any work out for that matter) be different?

power lifter

If it was easy, everyone would do it.

It sort of helped me to relearn a lesson I’d picked up in life a few years ago, albeit not about running or physical activity in general. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

If you’re comfortable, chances are you’ll get stagnant. If you’re uncomfortable, chances are you’ll change and adapt more readily. And since life is really pretty uncertain anyway, if you want to have any chance of enjoying the moment, you have to get used to that very true fact. 

I guess I’d kind of forgotten that. I’ve gotten a little complacent in my fitness routine and maybe a little in life as well. Time to shake things up!

Sometimes silence is the best workout playlist. For the first few runs I did, I popped in my headphones and jammed out to some T.I. And nothing against my hip-hop playlist, but it just wasn’t doing the trick. The entire 30-minute run was no fun, even with all that Dirty South love.

When I ran with a girlfriend, she told me she doesn’t listen to anything when she runs. That idea seemed foreign to me. I pretty much have a soundtrack going at all times of my life — music has always been a part of my life. And it has always been a huge part of my workouts. But I gave it a try.

What a difference that one thing made! Suddenly I was running longer and faster without any motivation from a song. I felt like I found what was missing. I loved hearing the birds, the ocean and me. Listening to myself breathe kept me really connected. And that was all she wrote.

Now I’m loving my training and plan to keep running as a part of my workouts far beyond the 10k in June. I also realize that this means I’m one step closer to trying a triathlon. Maybe that’ll show up on my 2014 list.

For now, unbelievably I’m just going to say, yes, I am a runner. And if I’ve learned these things in just a few months, I’m sure the next year will be full of lessons. And probably some races too. Is there anything you want to do for no good reason at all? How are you going to make that happen?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen May 24, 2013 at 7:40 am

Love this! I used to say the only reason I would only run is if someone was chasing me. Then I gave up drinking and smoking and did couch25K and it stuck. Still haven’t worked up to a 10K…yet. I love what you say about not being good at it and accepting that it will never feel comfortable, though somehow it still feels good. I’ll make more an effort to run without headphones. I like how you can find new small challenges or experiments like that…there is nothing quite like running. Great post!

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Ms. Becca May 24, 2013 at 7:57 am

Thanks Kristen! “I would only run if someone was chasing me.” … Nice. Yep, those vices really can keep us from doing things or convince us we don’t want to do anything. I love the couch25k idea. I wish I would’ve known about it before my first 5k. Probably would have made it easier. Let me know how you get along without the headphones.

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Olivia May 24, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Awesome post. I’m so not a runner… but I’d love to run a 5k just to say I’ve done it. It was on the list this year and I hope it gets crossed off.

If not- parasailing definitely is next week! (laughing) Vacation here I come! That one is easy, and I’m super excited.

Now I just need to find someone to go skydiving with me… and a good pair of running shoes for the 5k. I’m going to follow the couch to 5k method, and I agree about the no music thing. And this might be kind of funny/crazy, but I once tried to read a book and run on the treadmill. Totally dangerous and very frustrating. haha

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Ms. Becca May 27, 2013 at 9:34 am

Ooooo skydiving! That sounds like such a wild time. I would definitely try that some time in my life. Your story about reading a book and running on the treadmill sounds scary. Treadmills in general scare me but adding multitasking? No thank you! Let me know if you try to the couch to 5k method. I’m curious to see how you like it.

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Christy June 12, 2013 at 6:49 pm

Loved the post! I never dreamed I’d be a runner either, but it is so good for my sanity and health.

I usually run with music–it’s one of the rare times I can blast the music and listen to whatever the hell I want. But every once and a while I do turn it off and focus on my breathing or the sights around me.

Thanks for the post! Christy

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Ms. Becca June 13, 2013 at 9:06 am

Thanks for the kind words, Christy! I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one that running was insane and then went and changed their mind 😉 Sanity and health are choices we make, right? Not everyone has them as a priority, that’s for sure. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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