Here comes now, I’m afraid, my Running Story.
Running stories are boring. They all go “I hated exercise I was so shit then I took up running and now I run the marathon and I love life and tra la la la la!”
But I really did hate exercise. Seriously. From little. I failed the bleep test at school, I purposefully walked during all the running-round-the-park exercise test things. I bunked off games, I got notes off games. Anything to avoid it.
There were dabbles with it later in life, but I just couldn’t be arsed, it wasn’t my thing. I loathed how much time it took up, (not that I had anything better to do), was astonished at how crushingly boring it all was. How shit I was at it, how I never seemed to get any better, how it never made me feel better. I hated the bouncy, positive evangelical people it seemed to attract.
Then I had two children and got fat and unfit and wobbly and knackered and hated myself. Then recently I found spinning and got fit and thinner and thought FUCKING HELL YES MAN YES YES YES THIS IS IT.
Then my spin class got bloody cancelled – some spat between the exercise dudes and the church hall ladies – and that was months ago and it still hasn’t been resolved.
So before the Easter holidays I went for a run. A slow one. I didn’t take off like a shot, like I’ve always done in past dalliances with running, only to knacker myself and my knees and my lungs within minutes, then get a stitch, then dawdle a bit and walk home and never go again.
I rumbled along slowly and kept going and going and going until the short playlist on my phone ran out. Then I walked home. Then I had three days off and then I went out again for another run and went up a hill, which wasn’t very nice, but I stopped at the top and blew my nose on my sleeve – and at least everything else was downhill from there.
The thing I find a bit annoying about running is that it is a truism that the first twenty minutes are ghastly and all jangly and shit and you constantly want to go home and you’re a bit asthmatic and phlegmy and then after twenty minutes things clear and lighten up and breathing is easier and you’re cantering along without really realising it.
But 30 minutes is pretty much my limit for a run because I squeeze it in after bath time and before dinner with my husband and there is only, frankly, so long I am willing to wait for my dinner and a glass of wine. Such dedication! But that knowledge, that after twenty minutes it suddenly gets easier, is enough to turf me out onto the streets once or twice a week.
Anyway, here are my very predictable tips for first time runners. If anyone has anything insightful and useful to add to this list, please leave a comment in the handy box at the bottom of the page.
1 No-one knows you’re a first time runner. No-one knows that you’re red-faced from just pottering down the road. No-one knows when you heave to a slap-footed stop that you’ve only been going for three minutes. No-one knows.
2 You don’t need to stretch before. You don’t even need to stretch immediately after – but it IS important to stretch after the post-run bath or shower. It will also be more effective. Just a bit. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds.
3 Likewise don’t tank up on a lot of water before you go, or take water with you, it will just slosh around in your stomach and make you feel sick. Have a glass when you come back.
4 Hold this truth dear: all you need to do is work your way up to being able to run gently for 20 minutes non-stop and then it will stop jangling and start being fine. Not, like, lovely or anything – but fine.
5 Have rest days. If you’re new to running leave at least two days clear before runs, otherwise you will hurt yourself. I have in the past ignored this advice and I properly crippled myself for about a week. It was awful and I felt like such a dick.
5 Runner’s high is a myth (I think). So are all those mood and emotional benefits of exercise everyone goes on about. The only thing that I like about exercise is that it means I fit back into certain clothes that I had dismissed as Never-Agains.
The exercise I do doesn’t even mean I can eat what I like. I still eat fucking nothing but weeds, fish and pulses and I have to go running to stay in shape. Getting older is no laughing matter.
6 Don’t go running expecting it to change your life, or to be nice because you will only be disappointed when it doesn’t. No-one likes going for a run. Everyone likes having gone for a run and for it to be the longest possible time before they need to go for a run again.
But do go.
If you need extra inspiration from a proper expert, read this book.
I have never had the mythical runners high and I am a fairly crap and sporadic runner HOWEVER when I was at university around exams and deadlines I was a terrible terrible crazy stress head and then in my final year I was running most days and my exams came and suddenly I was eerily calm. I think after heaving myself round the block and not actually dying I had some new sense of being able to get shit done or something. Obviously once I finished the exams I was usually too hungover to move at all let alone run but I do credit a lot of my having not gone completely mad to the running.
I hated running but did used to force myself out for a bit. I didn’t enjoy it but it got the job done. After my two pregnancies I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to do prolonged high impact exercise again. I never thought running would be something I could miss, but there is such an easiness about just sticking your trainers on and that’s exercise covered without faffing about finding a class, or a boring video, that when you can no longer run, it is so hard to replace it. Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a great book about running.
Do you have good trainers? Have you had your gait analysed?
My chiropractor says one shouldn’t run for longer than twenty minutes but I go a bit longer than this (25 to 30 minutes). I assume that she sees a lot of injuries caused by long distance running.
Faith A. says
“Everyone likes having gone for a run”. So true. I would like to have run a marathon, but not the actual running of it (never gonna happen). Instead I’m staggering through couch to 5k because I need a nagging voice in my ear telling me what to do.
On the money. Except for runners’ high not existing. It does. Not every time. But it exists. It also does help with my moods in that I revert to being extremely mental and angry if I stop going for a while. But apart from that, you’ve basically just described my running trajectory.
I’ve never experienced the runners high either…I got into doing 30 mins runs recently with the couch to 5k app which was great, I can highly recommend it for anyone wanting to get into running.
Ditto to all of this being how I feel about running. I do it because it works and for no other reason. And here’s the good news – the runners high does exist. The bad news is that it seems to kick in at about 35 – 40 minutes. I know, I’m sorry. I find having an absolutely favourite song on my playlist that I’m not allowed to listen to until 35 minutes can help me keep going til then. Carrots, sticks, I’m so basic.
Runners’ high definitely does exist, but it takes a while to kick in. The discovery I made shamefully late is that music makes a massive difference to your pace: used to poole along listening to radio 4 and then smashed my 5K time once listening to crazy dance shit. Am delighted to be pregnant and am SO looking forward to pulling on running shoes again in about 6 months.
Oh, and the BEST thing about running is that once uou have good bra and shoes you can do it anywhere- best way to explore new place on holidays.
I started running last autumn- I was also very shit and unsporty at school and HATED running in particular. It seemed to be so regimented and designed to weed out and humiliate the unfit/fat kids (I mean the bleep test ffs?!) I think I just hated the way PE was taught at secondary school in the 90’s, because later on I did discover exercise that I enjoyed (including spinning) and got a certain level of fitness. But I’d convinced myself that I couldn’t run really, that it wasn’t for me. I did the nhs couch to 5k programme with a friend who’d bullied me into doing the 5k Santa run for charity. It’s a great begginers programme and the phone app is brilliant, I recommend it highly. I run x3 week now which I never thought I’d do and I’ve signed up to do half marathon next Feb (I know, I know, as you said, bore off right?!) One tip I would give is to use insoles/orthotics in your trainers, they really helped with my knees. Knee pain is really common when you start running; it’s actually just that the muscles round your knees aren’t used to it and it usually resolves as they strengthen up- but I found that insoles really helped too. Alexandra heminsleys book is great too👌🏼
*Oh, btw- my sister bought a spin bike 2nd hand on eBay for £130! She had similar issues not being able to get to classes/ childcare/work issues. She keeps it in her garage and thrashes herself on it a couple of times a week when she’s got time! Just a thought 😁
7) The high DOES come. It comes around 25-30 minutes in and starts as relief that the run is nearly over, pride at having done it, realisation that you don’t have to do it again for a couple of days, and then turns into general joy and “fuck yeah I’ll write a film this shit and maybe wear green to the Oscars, or maybe blue…” (It actually comes earlier on warm days because the hallucinatory element is a facet of exhaustion and water loss, I think, but in a good way.)
8) If you want a book to inspire you and you’re for some reason a man, a) stop perving over my wife’s blog, b) read Harumi Murakami’s What I Think About When I Think About Running
I recommended that book a few posts up, it’s good isn’t it? I even loved it despite being a woman who can’t run.
you even got the title right, unlike me
I’m so pleased you recommended that book! I love running in a totally tedious, smug, competitive way (I am regularly reminded how unendearing that quality is by my husband, but anyway…) and I thought that book was brilliant! Runners’ high usually kicks in for me when I run without a route and get a bit lost on my local common and I feel intrepid and less like I live in London. Agree with Madeleine re holiday runs – also a good excuse to get away from everyone entirely for a bit on family holidays!
This is great. I second (third/fourth) the couch to 5k apps. I started with the NHS one, which was good, but I stopped and started so many times I got fed up of Laura’s chat and the shitty sounds-a-bit-like-Take-That-but-isn’t-because-of-licensing music. I recently found an app that let’s you use your own playlist and just prompts you when to run/walk and that combination has made a huge difference to .
A friend of mine once said “You never regret going for a run” and, while it’s a bit annoying, it’s true – I often hear myself saying it when I force myself out in the rain and cold.
I have just started running too. Yet to find runner’s high nirvana but my jeans fit better so that’s good enough for me. Just need to find a sports bra that prevents my boobs doing their own independent workout whilst I run.
I hate running. I’ve tried so hard so many times by doing endless couch to 5k apps and ‘1 min walk 1min run’ pyramid running schemes and I can run, but I just find it so boring.
The one time that worked was when I joined a women’s only beginners running group which was brilliant – we were all a bit fat and hopeless and the first session involved us walking for 30 minutes. After 10 weeks we all ran 5k and it was such an amazing feeling. It was only about half way through the course that I realised I was the only straight woman in the group and this led to me getting a job as a freelance PR for one of my fellow runners who had an online business selling sex toys. So see, even if you hate it, running can bring amazing experiences to your life!
I do other exercise instead now – it doesn’t matter what you do: netball, spinning, hockey, dancing, etc just do it!
OMG your running story is the same as mine! WHY do all the good spin classes get cancelled?! I have a love / hate relationship with it and at the minute it’s hate but I still drag myself out for 40 mins once a week and swim another day. My top tip would be to fork out for proper running trainers. I found nothing motivated me so much as spending £115 on a pair of bloody running trainers.
Yikes!!!! I used to run a lot. Ex Army. So often with 40lbs webbing and back packs, in big boots. Was also a purple belt at karate back then. But I think that was more done to the bad perm. Even that mention of the “bleep test” will give me nightmares. That was invented by a sadist. Same person thought up shin splints.
Absolutely what the lady above says (thestarter1978.) Shoes are so important. They have to cushion the impact and support your lower legs, which should then support you. Or these things really do hit you, joints, tendons, ligaments do not always completely recover if pushed too hard, and MY GOD! You feel it on a day like today. Almost MAY!! When it is snowing and I can’t feel my nose.
Watch your breathing too, if it’s feeling like it’s ripping your lungs apart it’s probably not good. Esther you are beautiful, intelligent, not even plump! Have two lovely children, a witty stud muffin husband (he may still be around), just be happy, we live once! If running makes you happy, fantastic! These days I stick to horse riding, absolutely exhilarating! Tai Chi.. good for the mind too! Breathing exercises, yoga and meditation. basically gently! I intent to be around for a long while, and hopefully with all bits still working!
Quarter French says
I hate running ; it’s no good for your joints in the end and completely knackers your body.
Tennis and yoga and walking fast is the key …..
(what the fuck do I know anyway…;)
Btilliant story. That was me this time last year. PE teachers put me off exercise for at least 15 years then the tedium of being at home with 2 under 5 forced me back into it.
I started like you amazed I could reach a point where I could stop wobbling and now I am running half marathons (I know, I know).
Listen to podcasts makes it way less boring.
I like Woman’s Hour and This American Life.
Have a jelly baby/fizzy haribo as a reward for every km.
If you are worried about being bright red (as I am) wear a cap. This was a revelation to me.
I wear a cap. Always. For self same reason
Eilidh McFlurry says
These are good tips. I’m one of the shirkers that does more walking than running when I go out for a ‘run’ as I dislike the disquieting sensation of my arse having a splodgy battle with gravity, but I do enjoy sitting with a victory pint of West at the end. Unfortunately, I need to promise myself a treat in order to go through with it in the first place.
You should think about cycling, I’ve been spinning for years and have recently stopped (combo of crap instructors and inconvenient times). Colleague convinced me to start cycling to work-cried the first couple of times as I was so scared but now absolutely love it-if you’re already a road user in London you’ll be aware of what to watch out for, I really do recommend it!
PS absolutely hate running.
Oh also. Yoga with Adrienne Runners Cool Down vid on YouTube really good if like me you don’t really know where/what you should be stretching.
oh my god I so needed to read this. I have procrastinated for too long. I have downloaded every app going (couch to 5k etc / Map my run ). I have spent hours deciding which pair of running shoes to buy. I have spent weeks building up a wardrobe of outfits. I have got a Fitbit. Now I actually need to put down the biscuits and do it.
My boobs are a GG. This is going to hurt. I am going to be that person you read about in the paper that got pointed at by people who laughed at the fat bird and I will have to appear alongside my story in the Daily Mail with a sad face whilst pointing to my new running shoes in the bin.
But your article has given me a bit more confidence to think I can actually do this. That maybe by the time I am 50 in three years I wont still be a size 22.
And for that I thank you
GO FOR A FUCKING RUN!!! no-one is going to laugh at you. if you’re worried they are, do what I do and wear a cap and go in the evening when the only people you encounter are other runners, who are in a world of such personal pain they’re not looking at anyone else. keep me posted! don’t go too fast. don’t expect miracles. but you MUST go!!!
Jen (aka RandomlyGenerated) says
Shock Absorber sports bras are the only way I can run 🙂
I go running with a friend, so we get a good gossip in while we’re out. Knowing someone is waiting for me on the corner keeps me from blowing off a run on the evenings I don’t feel like it. You’re not likely to get runner’s high complaining about your neighbors, but it keeps me going. Strength training helps makes running easier (while preventing injuries) and keeps age-related weight gain at bay–you can get a full body workout at home in 21 minutes while streaming TV. I set a timer for 60-90 seconds on my phone rather than count reps (which would interfere with keeping up with the jokes on “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”). The Gaiam yoga app for iOS is very good for post-run stretching; some of the routines are only 10-15 minutes.
Annabel Fenwick Elliott says
As you may or may not recall, I am Annabel (used to write for the Daily Mail, gross) and you are my favourite writer in the whole world, living or dead. You’ve sometimes given me career advice.
First of all…
Facebook told me. Don’t worry, I’m only a fan, not a stalker.
Second, I just loved this post because I have recently embarked on a mission to be a person who jogs and just wrote my own post on it.
I said a lot of the same things you did which, after reading yours, made me feel all proud.
You probably don’t care, but if you do… you can read it here: https://annabelfenwickelliott.wordpress.com/2016/03/29/is-it-possible-for-a-wino-who-hates-exercise-to-become-a-sober-person-who-likes-it-annabel-finds-out/
Annabel Fenwick Elliott Instagram @annabelmaud Twitter @annabelmaud Pinterest @annabelmaud http://www.annabelfenwickelliott.com
Now travelling the world, read about it here: https://annabelfenwickelliott.wordpress.com/
I am also a reluctant runner. I totally don’t believe in runners high – after all when was the last time u saw a smiling runner? Never! But I read in the amazing book “run fat bitch run” that the only run u regret is the one u don’t do and that keeps me going out for my half assed little trots