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How To Become A Person Who Goes Running For Fun

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Running, even for someone who likes it and does it a lot, is never really pleasant. (There are probably a few people who will disagree, but they’re wrong.) It is always a little bit painful and a little bit uncomfortable. Meditative, sure! Ultimately satisfying, yes. But the discomfort keeps a lot of us from finding motivation to do it. Running is hard, so combined with the culture that surrounds a dedication to running—sports can often feel exclusionary—it’s easy to wonder why run at all?

One answer is that there are the expected, physical benefits: lowered blood pressure and cholesterol levels, increased bone density, improved circulation, regulated diet, to name a few. And then there’s the fact that aerobic exercise like running improves your mental fitness as well as your emotional well-being—the endorphins are no joke. Running can literally make you smarter and more beautiful. Definitely happier. Worth it? When Nike asked me to train for six weeks with them in New York, I decided that yes, it probably was.

This offer came to me at a perfect time. I’d run throughout high school and stuck with it for a few years afterward. But when I moved to New York, I fell out of the habit. And once you’re out of the habit, it can feel like you were never in it at all. Getting in shape is tricky because if you lose even a fraction of your momentum, it’s that much more difficult to pick it back up. When I started training with Nike NYC Running Coach Jes Woods back in March, the number one piece of advice she offered was that “Consistency is key.” She explained, “It’s hard to go from nothing to running three days a week, so it helps if you stick to the same days and times. If you’re consistent, something magical happens around the three week mark—it goes from feeling like a chore to a habit. You’ll be like, ‘I get it now!’”

On the day of our very first training session, Jes had us write down a personal goal for the coming six weeks. “It’s important to know why you’re about to do what you’re embarking on,” she told us. “Otherwise, you’ll get halfway through the training, you’ll have a bad day, and you’ll be like, ‘why am I doing this?’ My goal was simple: To once again become someone who runs. “It’s good to have an intention set at the beginning before you even take off with training,” Jes added. It helps frame your thinking so that you worry less about the painfulness of the process, and think more about what’s on the other side of it.

Here is how I prepared:

DIET
I’m vegetarian, so my main concern was getting enough protein to balance the added exertion of running a few times a week. I had to make a conscious shift from simply removing meat from whatever meal I was having to adding other sources of protein and nutrient dense ingredients. My grocery cart filled up with things like quinoa, eggs, sweet potatoes, kale, avocados, nuts and nut butters, farro, oatmeal, berries, bananas, apples, carrots, cheese, whole grain bread... I didn’t really cut anything out completely, I just figured I’d fill my refrigerator with primarily healthy foods, and then eat whatever I felt like the rest of the time.

THE GEAR
Things you need include a pair of shoes that are lightweight enough and comfortable enough—this year's Nike React Flyknits are my new running shoe go-to. Let's be real—Nike is Nike. They pretty much have the lock on good workout gear. Regardless of brand though, a good sports bra, a pair of slick running tights to prevent chafing, and a lightweight jacket became my favorite things to wear in a mild climate. All that said, what makes running gear especially great is the fact that it can singlehandedly get you into shape. Because new gear is fun. That alone could be the single motivating factor that gets you out of bed every time.

SCHEDULE
Adjusting your everyday schedule might be the most important thing you can do when you’re getting in shape; that’s how it becomes a habit. The running has to be built into your routine just like showering, eating, and applying mascara already are. That’s why I recommend adding it in sustainable ways. Waking up early—not my thing. But I despise exercising after work. I hate it. I can’t. I’d rather be tired. I live near a park, so I struggled out of bed a couple mornings a week, put in my headphones, and ran. I run in the morning because I’m OK with eventually doing that on a regular basis. It fits. I eat my breakfast directly after, then I shower and go to work. When I start my day this way, my skin looks better too.

TRAINING
The training schedule! So glad mine was cut out for me (thanks Jes), because there is a lot of strategy involved. “You want to make it a gradual build,” Jes advised. “Don’t do too much too soon. We didn’t just dive in and run a 10K in the first week. Over the course of six weeks it was a gradual progression build—starting with 2-3 miles, and eventually working up to the 6 miles.”

-3-4 runs per week—one speed run, one long run, and one to two recovery runs in between
-A couple days per week of cross training—targeted muscle workouts, walking, swimming, biking, pilates; whichever low impact workout you like most
- 1-2 days off each week

Ultimately, each of my six weeks went something like this:

Monday mornings: 10-minute warm-up workout—i.e. crunches, planks, jumping jacks, light weight-lifting etc.
Tuesday evenings: Training sessions with Jes at the Nike New York Headquarters.
Wednesdays: Off, unless I was feeling motivated enough to do a Karen Lord video on my living room floor.
Thursday mornings: Easy, 30-minute progression runs
Fridays: Off, thank God
Saturdays: Set mileage runs, typically a little longer. This was OK, because I never had to wake up early, and the weather happened to be nicer most of those weekends.
Sundays: Off or an optional 30-minute run, which I admittedly never did once

And that was it. I promise you can do this too. It takes 3-4 weeks to develop a habit, so like Coach Jes said, "consistency is key." As it turned out, getting in shape was a lot less painful than I remember it being. Maybe my body just knew what it needed. Yours probably does too. Good luck out there.

—Anna Stevenett

Photos via the author and Nike.