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Running can be the biggest dichotomy ever.
On the plus side, running makes you feel indestructible and strong. It leaves you a more mellow, relaxed version of yourself. Running gives naturally nosy RVers (like me) an excuse to get out and explore our new surroundings wherever we park. There’s this intoxicating feeling of actually doing something besides slacking in the lawn chair at the RV park all day that makes running pretty addictive.
But on the flip side, running can be SO hard and grueling. While you’re actually doing it, it can be a total mindgame. “I can’t do this! Yes, I can. But I’m tired. Just a little more…” Okay, let’s just come out and say it. Sometimes, running just sucks.
But here’s the thing. Running is one of the best calorie-torching, disease-fighting workouts around. It’s a low-maintenance form of exercise, doesn’t cost a thing, and adds years to your life. And, despite any misinformed beliefs you might have, it’s never too late to take up running.
If you’ve ever considered taking up running, I encourage you to give it a try (with doctor’s clearance, of course). We get one shot at “life,” and I look at running as one of those big life tests we can take. It’s a chance for us to test our resolve, to unleash our potential, and to see how far we can push ourselves. I know, it seems lofty for the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other. But, until you’re out there pounding the pavement, you’ll never know how profound the experience of running can actually be, both mentally and physically. That’s why I hope you’ll consider it. Sure, your know-it-all athletic kids and/or grandkids might chuckle, and your spouse might think you’ve gone crazy. That’s the hazard of making such a huge life change out of the blue and later in life. But once you start putting on the miles, just wait. Their giggling turns to pride, inspiration, and a little awe. For them AND for you. It’ll happen. TRUST me.
Beginner’s Guide to Unleashing Your Inner Runner
Running, when you’re not conditioned for it, can be hazardous. It’s something you need to ease into slowly. So before you go, make a smart plan for yourself using my tips below. And again, ALWAYS check with your doctor before beginning any new physical activity.
#1. You need a GOOD pair of running shoes. Don’t skimp here. This is your one big investment with running, and you need something comfortable and supportive. It’s sort of like shopping for an RV. Do your research, shop around, talk to some experts, and then choose the right fit for you. My best advice is to walk into your local running store, and tell the helpful sales associate you’d like to see their 3 most cushioned and supportive running shoes they carry. Your goal in picking a shoe is injury prevention. Don’t let them talk you into a stealth, super-light shoe because it will make you faster. You want your shoes like tanks, not motorcycles.
#2. Always warm-up. Especially as older adults, our bodies need extra time getting prepped for a workout. A warm-up can be as simple as a 5 minute walk or it can be a series of gentle exercises. Here’s hubby James demonstrating his 5 minute pre-run warm-up routine. He religiously (OCD-ously, more like) does this exact same warm-up every September through November as he prepares for his one running event of the year…a Thanksgiving Turkey Trot 5k.
#3. Start with the 10×10 Plan. If you haven’t run since your mortifying PE fitness tests days, this one’s important. You’ll only be jogging 10 steps, once every minute, for 10 minutes. So your very first workout will be 10 minutes long (after the warm-up). At the start of every minute, on the minute, slowly jog 10 steps. That’s it! You’ll be walking the rest of the time. (By 10 steps I mean 10 on your right foot and 10 on your left.) Yes, you’ll probably feel motivated to do more, since it’s your jogging honeymoon and you’ll have that new-runner-excitement, but force yourself to stop jogging and walk. You’ll repeat this workout 3 times in your first week. Think of it sort of like doing a “patch” test. Your first week is to test how your body responds. If you have any pains or problems, stop and check with your doctor. If, however, everything went well that first week, then ONWARD!
#4. Gradually build how much running you do. 10 minutes per session is plenty for your first month, but as you progress each week, slowly increase the number of steps you jog. Try to set a goal that by the end of your 2nd month, you’ll be able to jog an entire minute without stopping. And see if you can repeat that twice in the same 10 minute session…for two 1 minute jogging intervals within your workout.
#5. Get in the habit of 3 jogs per week. The key to being successful with running is making it a habit, and being consistent. If you set a goal from the beginning that you’ll NO EXCUSES get out 3 times each week for 10 minutes, you’re more likely to stick with it, and make it a regular part of your life. Plus, if you yo-yo with your running, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. An example: if you take off 3 weeks from your training plan, and then jump back in and try to pick up where you left off, you’ll be more susceptible to injuries. Your body will adapt to the demands of running, but only if you are consistent.
#6. Jog slowly. You should be able to carry out a conversation while jogging, even though it might be a little difficult. If you are too winded to talk, immediately stop and walk. You’re new to this stuff, and your body is still trying to figure it all out. You need a good 6 months of consistent slow jogging before you start worrying about increasing the intensity. Be patient, and give your body the time it needs for adaptations to occur.
Eventually, as you endure and overcome those hard parts about running…the mindgame, the days it sucks and feels so hard, the sore muscles, etc., you’ll start discovering many things about yourself. With every tiny triumph, running will redefine your belief in yourself. You’ll gain a new level of self-respect, and the strength to never give up on yourself. You’ll get out and experience your surroundings through a different lens; as an observer on the periphery of the world around you. This leads to an incredible sense of freedom and achievement.
And when your run is over for the day, and you’ve made it back to the RV, you’ll unlace your running shoes…for me, that’s one of the best times of the day. THAT’S what keeps me running. That moment. “Bring it on, world. I’m unstoppable.”