I’m not a runner. Or at least I thought it wasn’t. It now turns out that I am.

I started running 30 days ago. I’m starting very easy by following a couch to 5K program that takes 9 weeks to build up to 5 km. To be honest, I thought I’d hate running. I always have. But this time round, it has been a really different experience. Overall, I’m loving it.

This was never going to be easy though. I’m a 42-year-old man who weighs 225lbs who started this year weighing closer to 250lbs. So, it’s not like I am an natural long-distance athlete. Why on earth you might ask have I decided to do this then?

Why running?

I was always that kid at school that hated physical education. I especially hated cross-country in the winter when we had to go out in freezing cold, wet conditions, jog around a field and come back feeling miserable. I always came second or third from last as well.

This year I decided that I really wanted to uplevel everything in my life, including my physicality. I want to have adventure in my life so I would like to be in the physical condition that allows that. I was also fed up with being defeated by running.

Running would fit conveniently into my schedule and it is great self care. I love the idea of the freedom of just being able to run. It didn’t help that I just re-watched Forrest Gump a few weeks ago!

So here’s the list of reasons why I decided I wanted to complete a 5K by the end of August this year:

  • I want to get into really good shape and enjoy my body
  • I want the energy and vitality to really enjoy adventures and live a really full life
  • I want to get past my mental block around running
  • It will help me with all my other goals physically and mentally
  • I want to get this nailed before it gets harder as I get older
  • I am so fed up with feeling heavy and having no energy
  • If I can do this I will really be proving to myself how much I can change

So, I started with a friend in mid-February and here’s what I’ve learned from the first 30 days.

Start slow and trust the process

I deliberately chose a program that ramped up very slowly because I wanted to make this an easy process. There are times when it’s downright painful, so I do go slower. Frankly, I don’t care if I’m going at snail’s pace! There are also times when it is easy and I want to skip ahead or go faster. However, this is a tried and trusted process, so I am choosing to be patient and to trust it.

A buddy makes it much easier

I have started running at 7 AM in late winter/early spring and I’m sure that at times, without a friend to run with, I wouldn’t be doing this. My bed is simply too nice and warm! Knowing that my friend is there waiting for me and we are going to have a really good conversation is enough to get me out of bed and get moving. When the going gets tough, we encourage each other along without competing without trying to compete.

Get the right equipment for the right job

I started getting shin splints right away as I have done in the past. I had a good pair of running shoes but they weren’t helping. So I went to local running shop and it turns out that my shoes were too motion-controlling. I got a pair of stability shoes with some good cushioning (useful when you are larger like me) and things got better straightaway. A foam roller to help massage the muscles was also a godsend.

Listen to the pain but don’t let it stop you

Shin splints aside, there have been a few niggles and little pains. In the past this would have stopped me in my tracks as I’m a wuss when it comes to pain. I’ve been doing loads of stretching (there are loads of great articles, blogs and videos on runners stretching) and if we need to slow down or walk, we allow ourselves to. However, the guiding principle is to keep going even if that means really slowly.

Listen to yourself

Everyone has an opinion on running. I used to pass judgement on runners who passed me by the looks of pain and agony on the face. Because I’m a bit larger, several friends questioned whether running was the right thing and were worried about my knees.

However, I am notorious for doing research and so I started well equipped. This is a personal journey and challenge from me and so it is better to keep my own counsel and only share selectively. While well-meaning, other people’s opinions can sink your dreams very quickly so listen to yourself first.

Go somewhere nice

Running on a treadmill, yuck! I’m really lucky, I live on the coast so my friend and I run down by the sea. The fresh air and the huge vista help immeasurably. I have also run in the local park where the flowers beginning to blossom. It might seem like an old cliche, but being outside with good clean air just makes you feel better.

Exercise is good for the soul

Last Wednesday I woke up in a complete funk. I could feel the black clouds gathering and I was in a really bad mood. My friend couldn’t run that day so would have been easier to just stay in bed feeling sorry for myself. However a little nagging voice inside kept saying “Go for a run. Go for a run.” Eventually I listened and got outside. It wasn’t easy but it changed my day completely and the rest of the day was great. Exercise as they say is indeed good for the soul.

I still have a long way to go – figuratively and literally — but am enjoying the process so far. I’ve entered a 5K race in July which now seems like a ridiculously long way off. I’m not even sure I want to progress past 5K as I’m not even at 5K yet. However I’m feeling confident and this is the best shot I’ve ever taken. So let’s see where my feet take me!

[reminder]What do you love about exercise?[/reminder]