Running: The Hardest Part: Starting

January 5, 2012

A year ago, I decided to start running. I was pretty much sedentary before then. My only saving grace was taking mass transit to work, walking about half an hour a day to and from the CalTrain station. But other than that – zip.

The goal and plan were easy to solidify. Goal: exercise on a regular basis. Plan: a “couch to 5K” running schedule. It ramps up from zero to running for half an hour straight (at a relatively leisurely 10 minute mile = about three miles). Looked totally doable.

But then came the hard part – the place I would most likely fail – following through. And this is where I had to employ a long list of motivational techniques and psychological tricks:

But now for the hurdles – despite this list, I initially hated the entire experience. Meaning, I’d get out the door, start moving, and within five minutes I’d think “this is ridiculous” and consider giving up and walking home. Around the halfway mark I’d relax, and I’d sometimes – sort of; kinda like it. Nearer to the end, I’d feel exhausted and grumpy and want to quit, but my mind would say “You’ve already done the majority of the workout, just stick it out.” And at last it would be over, and I’d feel pretty good about half an hour later after a hot shower.

This pattern of wanting to quit each and every time and the internal tug-of-war lasted for… a few months. It wasn’t until month three (running about 3 – 4 miles straight) that I built up some semblance of endurance and started looking forward to the whole ordeal.

Another hurdle was unfamiliar aches and pains (chest, shins, knees, ankles, thighs, feet). Being paranoid about injury, every pain became an excuse to quit. I was ready to blame just about anything (bad shoes, bad form, maybe my body wasn’t designed for running). But in retrospect, I believe my body just wasn’t familiar with exercise – not used to breathing so deeply or employing muscles unused in years. I also couldn’t tell the difference between a hard workout vs. genuine injuries. So I pushed through the physical discomfort, and so far, the pains proved temporary.

Today, that difficult initial month has become a huge motivator. I truly dread the thought of going sedentary for a few weeks and having to repeat that crappy first month again. While there are days I don’t want to run, the desire of repeating that first month ranks even lower. And so I forge ahead.