A little over a month ago, I was inspired by Alex, my business partner at BaileyHill Media, to start running again. Way (way, way) back in the day, I used to be fairly in shape. In college, I could run a decent eight minute mile but through the intervening years I stopped running regularly. Oh, I tried to pick it up again every so often, but I’d find an excuse to stop and let myself get out of shape again.
As with all men who find themselves getting older, we begin to see our friends cope with health issues and weight problems. And then we wake up one day, look in the mirror and say (or curse), “Oh crap, when did I start to get fat? And why I am tired so often? And why is my doctor (plus wife and parents) nagging my about my cholesterol?” For the longest time, I heard all of this from my internal voice but chose to ignore it.
So one day in early September, I decided it was time to stop ignoring my health and do something about it. I decided to commit to the Couch-to-5K running program which is tailor-made for my slug-like self and also downloaded the C25K app for my iPod Touch (which turns out to be the best $3-4 dollars I’ve ever spent on myself). And as the cherry-on-top, I learned a few things about persistence and motivation.
Learning #1: Starting out sucks, but it gets easier the longer you stick with it.
The first week, I was sucking wind after only running for a couple of minutes. By the time I got home, I was a sweaty, pained mess. I’m convinced the only thing that got me through it was a deep commitment to keeping with the program and seeing it to the end. Far too many times in the past, I’d figure out a way to shirk off an exercise program and never finish. But not this time…I had a burning desire to complete the C25k program. And then, I noticed that week two was a little easier even though the intensity of the run schedule increased. The burning in my legs and lungs was more manageable. It was similar for weeks three and four. I felt stronger and I discovered I enjoyed the way I felt after a good run.
Learning #2: Start small and accept small victories.
The C25K Program eases us couch potatoes into a running routine by starting with incredibly short runs mixed in with longer walks. Each session gradually builds up so that after roughly nine weeks on the program a slug like myself can plan to run a 5K. From the start, I gave myself lots of internal applause and praise for just making it through a run interval without stopping. Then, I’d do the same when I finished a week. And now that I’m up to running eight minute intervals, I continue to do a little celebration. The key is to not be stingy with the internal encouragement. Give yourself props for the small victories and the bigger ones will come naturally.
Learning #3: The right equipment means everything.
It doesn’t matter what you do in life, don’t skimp on your equipment. I started running again using the same shoes I bought at a running store in 2004(!). Hard to imagine why my knees hurt like hell those first couple of week, huh? If I was going to get serious about running again, I needed to visit a good running store (like RunTex here in Austin) and get fitted for quality shoes. Since then, I’m happy to say I’ve had zero knee pain.
Learning #4: Find a partner (or partners).
Partners can make everything easier and more rewarding in life. Like the partner I love and have been married to for nearly 15 years, Caroline. Like the partner I’m building a business with, Alex. For my running routine, I usually run alone but I still have a partner. His name is Ray Lewis and he’s a linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. He’s a complete figment of my imagination, but when I need someone to help me push myself up a hill or finish off a long run interval, Ray is there. Why Ray? Because he’s intense and I can only imagine that if he was running with me, he’s be pushing me to move my ass. It’s sort of a “What Would Ray Shout?” kind of thing.
Learning #5: Goals are important.
I know, this one almost goes without saying. But I can’t tell you how much motivation I get during each run knowing that I’m working toward being able to race an official 5K in early November. It adds just a little more psychic nudge when I’m feeling like not finishing a run hard. This goal is also exciting because I have a couple of partners, Julie and Chris, who are going to run with me for this 5K race. And I’m also roping my father into running a 5K when he comes to visit me next spring.