If you would have told me years ago that I would run for fun, and for a reason other than fitness, I would have laughed. I didn’t think I could ever be a “runner”—runners enjoy every minute of the run (false), they’re fast (false), and they always prefer to run instead of sleep for another 20 minutes (definitely false). But running has taught me to not believe the lies that I’ve told myself for years, including:

  • There’s no benefit to running except for fitness.
  • I could never run more than 3 miles at a time, let alone 13.1.
  • It’s too cold to run.
  • It’s too dark to run.
  • I can’t run in the rain or snow.
  • I’m not fast enough to be a “real” runner. (Actually, the dictionary simply describes a runner as “a person who runs”)

I began running occasionally for fitness in high school, and continued through college and into my 20’s. Every few months I would get into running and do it once or twice a week for several weeks, then lose my motivation. I would only ever run a couple of miles at a time. I never really enjoyed it, but I did it for the exercise.

stephanie
stephanie running

Then, I had kids. Other parents can relate— “me time” becomes a luxury after having kids. Parenting is overwhelming and exhausting, and it is easy to neglect self-care. I started running to lose the baby weight, but I kept running because of the mental health benefits I experienced. I discovered that running gave me the “me time” I desperately needed. It gave me some peace and quiet (a rarity with little ones!), time to think and reflect, and an outlet for my stress (and the endorphins didn’t hurt either). I also found a hobby in running, another thing I was lacking after having kids. My mental health improved drastically, and running pulled me out of my postpartum funk when I felt a bit lost with my new identity as a mom.

It sounds corny, but running changed my life. It also proved to me I was capable of much more than I ever imagined. The first time I ran 4 miles, I was ecstatic. When I ran 6, I was shocked. When I finished my first half marathon, I knew that I had to stop believing the lies that I tell myself.  

To be honest, I’ve never lost much weight running. In 2019 I ran several races, including two half marathons, and barely lost a couple of pounds during training, But, what I gained was invaluable. Running is now one of the top ways I nurture my mental health. It saves me on the worst of days, and is one of the quickest ways to boost my mood. It also makes me a better mom, wife, and all around better person. It’s the days that I think I’m too busy or too tired to run that I need to run the most. I’ve never regretted a run.

marc williams singing
woman and man at race

Here are a few of my top tips and lessons learned along the way:

  • It will be hard at first, but it gets easier. While some people are naturally gifted runners, most of us aren’t. It’s going to be tough and challenge you in new ways, but that’s part of the journey that makes it so rewarding in the end.
  • The right gear makes all the difference and will improve your performance, but don’t let it hold you back from getting started. Start running before you invest in new clothes, shoes, or a running watch. Then you can determine what you need based your individual running style (and save you money in the end). I started running in my 10-year-old Nike shoes and workout gear from college before investing in anything new. I learned that I enjoy running in the cold and at night, so I invested in warmer clothes and a visibility vest. Proper gear will make a huge impact on your performance—but first figure out what’s right for you.
  • Find your running style. Try running in different weather and at various times of day to figure out what works best for you. Try trail running, road running, different distances and different routes. Try running with a partner or a group, and running solo. Back when I was running for fitness, I would run in the morning or before dinner, and always just around the neighborhood. I only ran when it was warm out, and preferably sunny. But I’ve learned through trial and error that none of that actually works well for me and is probably why I never enjoyed it. I’m at my best midday or at night, on cloudy days and in colder weather. I never would have thought that I would go out in the cold and rain and run. Or, head out at 9 p.m. and run in the dark. But it’s when I enjoy running the most, and there’s nothing like the peace of a night run. Run when and where it works for you—there is no right or wrong. I always eat before my run, but my husband runs best on an empty stomach. I like to run alone to clear my head, and my husband enjoys running with a partner. I prefer music, and my husband prefers the quiet. Some love the treadmill, with a good book or movie to keep them company, and others (like me) love running outdoors. It’s through trial and error that you’ll find your running style, and once you find it, embrace it. It will make all the difference.
  • Never let your energy when you start running dictate the rest of your run. Most of my runs are pretty rough for the first few minutes. My muscles are warming up, I’m working to find my pace, and knowing that I have miles ahead of me can be intimidating. But I’ve found running actually gets easier the farther I go. I always felt better on mile 4 than mile 3. When I ran for fitness, I’d always stop at mile 3 because I was tired, but now I know that if I can push through the tough spots it always gets better.
  • Mix up your running route. Usually when I start my run, I don’t know where I’m going, I just decide along the way. This makes it less routine and more of an adventure. When I run in new areas, I find that I’m less focused on how tired I am because I’m distracted by the scenery. Need some inspiration to get started? Check out Fishers Running Club’s favorite running trails.
  • It’s not about how fast you run. I used to obsessively focus on my time, always trying to be faster. I’d be lying to say that I don’t care about my time now, but it’s not my focus for where I am in my running journey. Make sure you know WHY you’re running. If it’s for fitness, focus on that. If it’s for “me time” and enjoyment, focus on that. You can be a “runner” and not be fast.
  • Find your motivation. Signing up for a race is what forced me to start running regularly. I still love racing, but it’s no longer my main motivation for running. I currently use the Strava app to track my runs and share my stats with others, which helps to keep me accountable. For others, a motivation may be to tackle a health issue, to spend time with a running partner, or to accomplish a personal goal.
  • Don’t be intimidated by the faster, more experienced runners. Or the passersby watching you as you struggle through a difficult run. It’s not your responsibility to impress anyone, and most likely, people are just lost in their own thoughts anyway.

Most importantly, don’t believe the lies you tell yourself or the self-imposed limitations you’ve set. You might just find that something you thought you hated will change your life for the better.