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How to Start Running – Without Feeling Like a Failure

How to Start Running – Without Feeling Like a Failure

runner on beach

    Do you sometimes wish you were fitter? And maybe slimmer? I do. In fact, I’m determined to lose 7 kg in four weeks and get really fit. But how to get fit in a hurry – without spending hours at the gym?

    One of the fastest ways to get fit is to start running.

    It can be daunting if you’ve never run before. Especially if you have friends, colleagues or family members who talk casually about how they run 7 miles each morning before breakfast. (Don’t you sometimes want to throttle them?)

    I just spent three weeks with my family and two of them, my brother and my niece, thought nothing of running for an hour-and-a-half after spending an exhausting day stumbling through thick rain forest. It made me feel like a fitness failure…

    In the end, I started to run too. Because running is great for getting fit fast. There are some important advantages of running as a fitness strategy:

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    1. It boosts cardiovascular fitness.
    2. It tones your whole body because so many muscle groups are involved when you run.
    3. Weight-bearing exercise, such as running, is especially good in promoting bone density and protecting against osteoporosis, which affects men as well as women.
    4. Running is a natural movement. The body is designed to be able to run.
    5. As one of the most vigorous exercises out there, running is an efficient way to burn calories and drop pounds.

    Here are some tips that will help you develop running:

    1. Buy good shoes

    It’s worth going to a specialty shop to buy a pair of running shoes. Make sure that the salesperson looks at the shape and arch of your foot to figure out the best shoes for you. The reason good shoes are important is because it will soften the impact and protect your joints.

    2. Take it slow

    When you start running, it doesn’t matter how slow you go. Remember that your body needs to get used to new movement.

    3. Ease into running with interval training.

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    The best way to get fit fast is through interval training. This means short burst of high intensity exercise alternating with recovery periods. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, more calories are burned in short, high intensity exercise.

    Try alternating 5 minutes of walking and one minute of running for twenty minutes. As you get fitter, you can lengthen the periods of running. Once you get used to running, you can alternate slow jogging with fast sprints.

    4. Warm up first

    It’s important to warm up your body before running. Otherwise running will feel very hard and your body will moan and groan. Walking is a great way to warm up the body. Stride out and pump your arms. Start with a medium paced walk and then speed up until you start to sweat. Once your body is warm, you are ready to run.

    5. Use correct running technique

    Beginners like me find it difficult to relax while running. Keep your head up and your lower arms in hip height, and run without bouncing. It all helps to work your body more efficiently. Check out this video about correct running technique.

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    6. Run with others

    A great way to keep up your motivation is to run with others. See if a colleague or a friend is willing to come running with you. Set an interval schedule for your run and stick to it.

    7. Keep an exercise diary

    Keep a record of your new exercise routine. Write down each day what kind of exercise you have done. A great way to track your growing fitness is by measuring your resting pulse before you get up in the morning. As you get fitter, your resting pulse will get lower.

    8. Add strength exercises to the mix

    Building strength in your legs will help you to run. A simple way to build your leg muscles is by doing squats. Stand with feet a little more than shoulder width apart. As you squat, keep your feet on the ground and swing your arms to the front in order to keep your balance. Start with 3 sets of 10 squats but don’t get carried away. If you do too many at one time, you might have difficulty walking the next day! As you get fitter, you can add more sets to your squat routine.

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    9. Add a cool-down period after exercise

    It’s important for the body to cool down after running. The best way is to walk at a medium pace until your heart-rate returns to normal.

    10. Stretch after running

    It’s a good practice to stretch after running because it keeps your body flexible. Watch this short video on which stretches to do after running.

    If you follow the ten points above, you will become a runner – without feeling like a failure. Remember that you can start running at any age. Bob Hayes took up running when he was 60. After a little while, he decided to enter a 5km fun-run and his son gave him his first pair of trainers. He said afterwards, “I wasn’t feeling as fit as I would have liked to. Perhaps age is catching up on me?” Yeah, right!

    Fast forward 20 years…
    At age 80, Bob completed his tenth 50-mile ultra-marathon in Montana and has made running history. He said afterwards:

    “I’m in the best shape of my life.”

    If you follow these 10 tips, you will get into the swing of running. Soon you will feel your body tone up and slim down in response to the exercise. Best of all, you’ll begin to feel confident, healthy, and attractive.

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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