I’ve experienced a lot of changes in the past six months.  I finished grad school in December.  I started a new job.  I quit that job.  I got another new job.  I asked my girlfriend to marry me.  Life has been a carousel of change.

I also started running.

If you know me in any capacity, that last sentence is probably the most surprising of all the life changes I have made.  All through college and into my grad school years, I was a die-hard anti-runner.  This is not to say that I didn’t run.  I ran if there was a reason to.  Put a soccer ball at my feet and I would run with purpose.  Toss a frisbee or a football anywhere near me and I would take off.  But running for the sake of running made zero sense to me.  I simply did not understand the point or the appeal.  Self-competition was not nearly as motivational to me as outrunning the guy next to me to a ball.

But this was something that my at-the-time girlfriend enjoyed doing.  Between wanting to be able to spend more time with her and attempting to appease her request that I outlive her (which means being healthier than I was at the time), I decided (after a handful of backing-outs) to go running with her.

And it sucked.

The first time out was brutal.  My lungs were on fire, my heart was racing, my legs were questioning me with every step.  We went just a bit over a mile, and that took me over 11 minutes to do.  As someone who could run a sub-eight-minute mile in high school, my ego was incredibly bruised.

Instead of calling it quits, I upped the ante.  Three days later, I went with my fiancée and three of my friends on a three-mile run.  I’ve now been running at least once a week for the last month.  I figured I’d share my tips on how I’ve gone from an avid anti-runner to someone who has seen the light and runs for fun now.

Find people to run with

This for me was key.  I needed people to encourage me to run, to go with me, to make sure that I actually did what I said that I would do.  I tried running by myself when I lived in California once.  Key word in that sentence is “once.”  I didn’t run with anyone else, so there was no one to keep me accountable.  The main difference between running there and running in Chattanooga is the people I have running with me.

Run with people who will leave you in the dust.

Maybe this is a gender thing, maybe not.  My fiancée and my friends at first stayed back and ran with me, but I made them leave me behind.  In my mind, I didn’t want to hold them back from their normal pace they ran.  I also knew that the only thing that would keep me running for the long term was the competitive nature in me that couldn’t stand being slower than everyone else.  Even after a month, I’m still lagging behind everyone else, but I’ve also shaved off 1-2 minutes per mile from where my pace started.

Stretch

This is common sense but will destroy you if you forget.  The one time that I didn’t stretch as best as I should have, I almost blew out my knee.  Seriously.  Stretch.

Don’t run in worn-out shoes

I did this for a month and things felt relatively good, or so I thought at the time.  But my running shoes were four years old and it was time to get some new ones.  The first run that I went on with my new shoes was so much better than my previous runs.  I wasn’t sore at all.  I ran my fastest pace yet to date, almost back to where I was in high school.  Fresh shoes really do make a difference.

Most bigger cities will have shoe stores specifically for running where they can figure out the precise type of shoe you need, with the right support and tread that is best for you.  If you have money to spend on shoes, I recommend taking this route, especially if you don’t know what type of shoe is best for you.  If you don’t have extra money to throw around (and being a 20 something, I certainly don’t), hit up a department store or discount shoe store and find the shoe that feels best on your feet without hurting the bank account.

Keep a steady pace and push through

If you a just starting out, don’t kill yourself right off the bat.  Don’t try to run as fast as you can.  Everyone has a pace that you can jog at for an extended distance and not get tired.  Find that pace and stick with it until you are more comfortable with running.  Even if that pace is at fourteen minutes, start there.  If it gets hard, take a breather and push through it.  It isn’t going to be easy in the beginning, especially if you like junk food, ice cream, and Netflix as much as I do.  You’ll be sore for days after your first run.  Your lung capacity isn’t going to be what you want it to be.  But the next run gets a little easier, and each run after that is a step easier than the run before.  On top of that, you will feel healthier the more you run.

These tips are what helped me.  There is no guarantee that they may work for you.  Bottom line for those of you who want to run but just can’t bring yourself to do it, set aside a time to run, tell someone you are going to run, and then be like Nike and just do it!  I promise Netflix will still be there for you when you come back.