I’ve been a runner for three years now. Time has flown, and my milestones and fitness have changed hugely. It’s been a journey to say the least.
When I first started running, I couldn’t run on the treadmill for more than three minutes at a time. It felt impossible, and I couldn’t understand how people did it. Then, I added a minute, and another, and another. Every time I visited the gym I kept increasing my stamina, until I could run 3km in 20 minutes.
From there, I kept building on my fitness, speed, and endurance. During the pandemic lockdowns, I began running outside, and was able to run 5ks. Then I started running 5km, then walking 5km home. This was how I gradually worked my way up to a 10km run.
However, in May 2022, I tore a ligament in my foot, which set me back to square one. I couldn’t walk for a few weeks, so there was no way I could run.
While I was impatient, and wanted to get back to running as soon as possible, I opted for weight lifting instead, as I knew that not letting this injury heal could impact my running long-term if I didn’t take it easy.
After around seven or eight months, I slowly started getting back into running again. My injury had healed, but it took a while to reconnect with cardio instead of weight training. Until I found my stride.
Since finding my love of running again, I’m never been more grateful for this ability to move and feel fit. Not every run is a great one, but I have a new understanding of how freeing it is to be able to run.
I recently completed my first half-marathon race, and it only spurred me on to keep hitting milestones. Maybe one day I’ll do a marathon.
Now you know my story, this is what running has taught me, and how it could help you too.
#1 Everyone starts off as a beginner
Yes, really. It’s an obvious point, but it’s true.
Whether you started running as a child, or have never even jogged, we all have to start somewhere. Looking back at when I was barely able to run 3km on a treadmill, I feel amazed at how far I’ve come. And what’s so brilliant, is that you can also achieve amazing things and go far beyond your boundaries. It just takes time and consistency.
Enjoy the journey, and remember: everyone starts off as a beginner.
#2 How to push yourself
It’s not meant to be easy. At least, not to begin with anyway, and if it’s easy, you’re probably not pushing yourself.
Learning to push yourself is a skill in itself. If we’re forever in our comfort zone, then we’re never going to grow.
I was once in a spin class, and the instructor yelled at the class ‘this ISN’T meant to be easy’. This simple phrase flipped my thinking about exercise. I’d thought that everyone else in the class found it easy, and I was the only one struggling. At that moment, I realised that was the whole point.
It’s not easy, because you’re pushing yourself to the limits in order to get fitter, so enjoy that feeling of discomfort.
As you get fitter, your previous targets will become easier. That’s when you know it’s time to push yourself again, and aim for something bigger and better. Aim for something hard. Because you’ll just keep improving.
#3 A respect for rest
As important as pushing yourself is, so is rest. Balance really is key.
I learned this one the hard way after I was forced to rest my ligament injury for months on end. At the time, it felt like the resting would never end, but I’m now pleased I respected that time, because my foot is completely healed and never causes any trouble.
It doesn’t need to be a big injury for this premise to apply. I notice that on runs where I’ve been out exercising for a consistent number of days beforehand, or I have DOMS from weight lifting, then my legs feel heavy and I don’t perform as well. But if I’ve had lots of food, and I’m rested (good sleep and well recovered muscles) then I’m setting myself up for a great run.
#4 Discipline and practice
Unfortunately, you can’t expect to run once a month and see progress. That’s why running teaches you discipline and practice.
I had to carve out time for running, which meant setting goals and weekly distances for myself and sticking to them. This only becomes more crucial if you’re training for a race.
The discipline aspect really comes into play when the weather outside is rainy or cold. On those dark morning runs, you’ll find yourself asking…what am I doing? But those runs are the ones that teach you the most about discipline. The more you get on with it, and know you have no choice but to get it done, the stronger the habit becomes.
I always just tell myself ‘it’ll be over in an hour’ as it reminds me that I can move on with my day once the run is out of the way. I feel so much better afterwards. The runner’s high is real.
#5 You’re capable of more than you think
This was one I really reflected on when I was getting back into running after my injury. I realised how amazing it was to be able to run a 10k, and then 15k, and so on, until I was completing a half-marathon race.
Wherever you are in your running journey, you will find that you’re capable of so much more than you think. Whether it’s today, next week, or next year, you only have to keep going to find out what you’re capable of.
I truly believe that these lessons from running aren’t just about exercise, but are life lessons. Running has taught me transferrable skills. I know how to start something knew and be ok with not being good at it; I know how to push myself in other aspects of life; I know how to listen to my body when it needs rest; and I know how to exercise discipline to achieve the results I want.
Armed with these 5 lessons, you may feel inspired — whether that’s to go for your first ever jog, pick up the running shoes for the first time in a while, or make a new PR. You’ve got nothing to lose, and so much to learn. Whichever one it is, enjoy it.
Oh, and a bonus tip? Protein. Eat lots and lots of protein.