By Vanessa Parr
"How do I start running?"
If you are anything like me, running was never something you enjoyed as a child. Perhaps you ran a 25 minute mile in high school, idly circling the track with you beastie while gossiping - the real favorite sport.
Maybe, you've never actually - run - a mile in your life.
This was me. I was very athletic, but not a runner. It always seemed was too exhausting, and, honestly, too boring to consider.
In my early thirties, that changed. I was living in southern California, where the weather is so comically temperate that some days having a gym membership seemed like a waste of money.
I was already a dedicated yogi, but was looking for a way to add more endurance and cardiovascular strength to my repertoire. I decided to try running. I grinded it out for months, suffered injuries, and made many mistakes. Eventually I found a place of balance, and began running races. I ran 6 half marathons, and countless 5 and 10ks. I was in great shape. I hit awesome PRs. Between the running and the yoga, my asthma had all but disappeared. I was feeling like I had it all figured out.
But doesn’t life always have other plans?? My mid thirties hit me like a truck. Severe health problems. Not being able to work because of my health problems. Having to pack up and move across country to live with my family while I healed.
and finally ... global pandemic!!
All of the sudden, again, I felt like a total beginner. So, I started to run again. And bonus: now is a great time to start again, because running feels the one thing I can really do out here 'in the sticks', and not worry about social distancing. I've started to run again, and boy... does. it. suck.
I thought it would come back quicker, but I am a different person now. I am a larger person now. My body is different now. But I’ve pushed through, and the other day I had the best run I’ve had in years. I felt light, strong, and ready to write a blog geared to help YOU realize what I've realized (again) it’s never to late to do try something new!
But how do we begin?? Isn’t that always the hardest part? Here are my thoughts on how to carve this new path for yourself:
Nothing comes easy, not learning a language, not starting a yoga practice, not learning to run. The great thing about running is all you need is your body, a good sports bra (for the ladies), and some sneakers. Everything else is optional. So just begin. Chose a day, and decide to start. It really is that simple.
Set small, attainable goals.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. You wouldn’t do a handstand your first yoga class, and neither would you run a 5k your first time out. Set a small goal, a mile, maybe even half a mile. Something you can hit. Attempt that goal 2-3 times a week, and increase your mileage by 10% a week once you comfortably hit it. A little bit of change daily, over time, adds to much bigger gains than going all-out, one time.
Don’t be afraid to walk.
I'm going to let you in on a secret.
So.... running is going to suck when you start. Please know that going in.
Go as long as you can, and take walk breaks when you need them. Don’t worry about how many you take. It’s a process.
Run at a conversational pace.
A conversational pace is exactly what it sounds like. Unless you are sprinting, you should be able to carry on a conversation while you run. At first this will seem impossible, but I promise it will happen. All things with time. Why? Well you want to make sure that you are getting into a cardio 'zone' rather than crossing into an anaerobic threshold. There's a reason you CAN sprint... and there is also a reason why the body can't continuously spring. A comfortable, conversational pace, is a place where you body is going to be able to consistently convert the energy you're going to need to sustain a significant time moving.
Get the right shoes.
There are a billion books and schools of thought on how we should be running (read “Born to Run” if you haven’t already!), but only you know what works best for your body. I am a mid-foot striker, so I favor semi minimal shoes with a wide toe box, but hey! That’s me! For example, maybe you’re a heel striker, and you need more padding. Do some research, and find a shoe that doesn’t draw attention to your feet while you run. And, if your shoes don't fit and you have the means, get new shoes. It's not worth losing a toenail before you find the right pair (note: feet swell during running... so don't be surprised if you need to be a half size up)
You alignment matters.
Just like in yoga, the posture you inhabit off that mat carries into how you run. Work on you foot and calf strength and agility. Do heel bobs and lifts, run on uneven surfaces when you can, like grass, to help strengthen your feet. And as always, neutral pelvis, core strength/ stability, and proper hip flexion will take you far.
Fuel your run.
In most endurance sports, what you eat and drink the night before matters more than what you eat or drink day of. Well-rounded and balanced meals the night before, accompanied by lots of water, will go a long way. The day of, I tend to favor easily digestible foods, such as simple carbs and lean protein. No one wants a gassy run!
Stiches will happen.
Stiches, man. They suck. We all get them. But you’ll work though it. For me, managing stiches is a combination of core control, smooth and easy breathing, and allowing my shoulders to move. I think of keeping my pelvis stable, but allow my shoulders to move and glide around my rib cage the way they are supposed to when walking or running. But everyone is different. It may take a while to figure out what works.
Be kind to yourself!
Yeah, this is the most important one. Be kind to yourself, practice ahimsa. Listen to your body. Take rest days, it really helps improve the quality of your next run. Cross train. If you’re reading this, you probably already practice yoga, so keep doing it! Don’t run through injuries. Seek help when you need it. Most importantly, and I can’t stress this enough, don’t beat yourself up if it’s not going well. Some days you just can’t. Some days it’s raining. Some days you can’t get rid of that stitch. It’s fine, tomorrow is another day. You are doing great! Say it again, you are doing great.
Build a kick-ass playlist!
If you are like me, you need a badass playlist to get you in the mood to run. Pick songs with a good beat for your stride, that excite you, and motivate you. Heck, if it motivates you to mainline podcasts and meditation apps while you run, do that! Make it work for you.
Ok, ok, running isn’t ALWAYS fun, but I’m here to tell you, the runner’s high is real!
It doesn’t kick in as quickly as I would like, for me I have to be running for 2 or 3 miles before it does, but it’s a real phenomenon. I have done weird stuff on a runners high, I have high-fived total strangers (that is NOT COVID approved!), I have mat-talked other runners on the path (if you don’t know what that is, watch “Cheer” immediately. Go now. I’ll wait), I have even started singing and dancing. It’s a real thing, so enjoy it.
I hope this helps motivate you to run. It can feel like a pain in the butt, but man it’s worth it. Running can help your cardiovascular health, it can improve your pulmonary health, it can help you clear your mind. Personally, it really helps my mental health. I sleep better, I’m happier, and I love that feeling of accomplishment that comes from doing hard things. People are designed by their nature to do hard things.
YOU can do hard things. So get out there and do it!!
Vanessa Parr brings to her classes that special blend of science and art that helps you know you're in for a solid class, but you also can drop out of your head enough to feel presence in your moving meditation. She comes by this skill honestly gleaning from her career in music and sound, and her dedication to continuing her studies of movement with her beloved teacher. Hop into one of Vanessa's class to find your alignment, and get lost in the flow.