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Beginning a running program can be an overwhelming mental and physical leap, especially for self-proclaimed “couch potatoes.” Many will start running with energy and enthusiasm, but only a few will make a lifelong commitment. If you have made the choice to run, here are a few tips to keep you on the trail and/or pavement and off the couch.
In running, it doesn’t matter whether you come in first or last. You can say, ‘I have finished.’ There is a lot of satisfaction in that.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start with a mile, and if that is too much, make it a half mile. Your body will let you know, so listen to it. It is important to be successful when you are just starting out, so push yourself, but not too hard. Increase your distance gradually, and when you can run three miles without stopping, fairly comfortably, you can begin to play with your pace.
After the initial “starting out” period, set realistic goals for yourself. Goal setting involves making a personal investment, and when achieved can greatly enhance motivation. However, you want to be careful not to move too fast. Be patient with your mind and body!
Chart your progress.
Sometimes it helps to have a visual aid. Cut out a picture of your “ideal runner” and tape it to your cupboard or refrigerator, with a chart for your distance and times. Actually “seeing” progress is a great way to maintain motivation!
Try keeping a running log. It’s great when you can maintain it in good shape, and write down your 1000th mile over some time!
Tune in to your body.
Experiment with different times of the day, if possible, to find the time when your body performs most efficiently. This can be very different for some people, and is one reason that many are not successful. If you are trying to run in the wee hours of the morning, and your peak performance time is late afternoon, then you will feel tired, sluggish and far less motivated.
Equip yourself with the right tools.
Comfort is the key above all else when you are just starting out! Visit your local running store for advice on the proper gear (shoes, socks and other clothing) for your running level. Make sure that your shoes and socks fit properly, feel great and that all of your clothing is weather appropriate. Add a pedometer, a water bottle belt, or an IPod into the mix if it makes your run more enjoyable.
When you hit a rut, shake things up!
Sometimes it just takes a tiny change to recharge our motivation levels. Chart a new route or switch to a treadmill for a change of pace. Try running with a partner or alone, depending on your current circumstance. Load some energetic new tunes onto your iPod or check out a new pair of running shoes.
Exercise your body, relax your mind.
Try interrupting your running week with a day for yoga, tai chi or meditation. Not only will this help to break up the monotony and improve your focus, but a little less stress never hurt anyone!
Staying motivated to run is a long-term process, but just starting is the hardest part. Everyone has their own unique formula to stay motivated, but with consistency and attention to the ideas above, the experience will be much more enjoyable.