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"I hate running, it's really hard!" Would you believe me if I told you that I said this before I became a runner? I had every excuse in the book for my weight and health issues and probably could have given Kelly Roberts a run for her money as President of the 'I Hate Running Club' - a position that I think my 12 year old son has taken over in the meantime.  

The Pros of Running

Running is not fun. I am not even going to lie to you. Especially if you aren't innately good at it or if you struggle with fitness or your weight. I've been there, I know how it feels. I was 25kgs overweight and couldn't run to save my life. So why do millions of people do it every day and why has it been one of the fastest growing leisure sports of the decade?

  • It's cheaper than most sports and you can do it anywhere. All you really need is a good pair of running shoes and a road/trail. No fancy equipment, no gym membership.

  • It is a great activity you can do alone if you aren't into team sports or are desperate for alone time away from the craziness of work and home life. Conversely, it can be a great social activity if you are a social butterfly and would prefer to run with a group or join a running club.

  • It will help you get fitter, stronger, healthier and lose weight (if thats your goal).

  • You can easily do it when you are travelling or away from home. It is a great way to see a new city from a different perspective, when I travel the first thing I pack is my running gear.

  • It elevates your mood, helps you sleep better, improves cognitive function and reduces your risk of Cancer, Alzheimers and Cardiovascular Disease.

  • It increases your bone strength as it is a weight bearing exercise.

  • It's cheaper than therapy (trust me I know)!

Motivation vs Excuses

There is a long list of reasons I could give you as to why you should start running. You have probably read (and ignored) them all if you are anything like I was. So how did I, and why should you, become a runner? In researching this article I asked friends and family all across the fitness level scale from absolute beginners to marathon runners what motivated them to get running in the first place and what it is that sees them through the hard days when they really don't feel like it. I got some amazing responses.

"Be stronger than your excuses!" Shathiso Coyne from The Gaborone Runner blog.   

Shathiso lists all her excuses not to run and strikes them off one by one with a positive reason as to why she should run.

Naeem Bhamjee says he enjoys the challenge of constantly trying to improve his 5km time and uses this as motivation. When he doesn't feel like going for a run he remembers the reasons he is running, "I remind myself of how I want to lose weight, get fitter and that I always feel good after a run."

"Running makes me and keeps me happy; when I don't feel like going for a run I remind myself of the benefits and the joy I will feel after." Elisa Davis.

Angelique Punt says running is her therapy and doesn't believe in having a bad run, "Even on the absolute worst days I know that by throwing on my takkies and hitting the pavement, treadmill or dirt road, I will be able to come to peace with whatever is going on in my mind. celebrate the wins and let go of the losses."

Tips To Get Started (and Keep Going)

  1. Prioritise running as you would anything else. Carve out specific times in your schedule for running and stick to it.

  2. Be prepared; keep your running gear together in a basket in your pantry near the door or in an easy accessible pile in your wardrobe so you aren't hunting for them when its time to go for a run, you can just get out the door which is usually the hard part - convincing yourself to get out there.

  3. Join a development running group like The Pack Gbe, that will encourage and assist you on your journey. They can share their struggles and advice and having company while you run makes it more enjoyable.

  4. Have a plan. There are loads of 'Couch to 5k' plans you can download off the internet. Or you can use Kelly Robert's Guided Runs on her Run Selfie Repeat Podcast which are great because you listen to them while you run and she guides you through the entire sequence.

  5. Listen to music, your favourite podcast or an audio book while you run, it makes the time and the kilometres a lot more enjoyable.

  6. Make yourself accountable. To your partner, a running group, your friends or yourself.

Show up for yourself each run and remember why you want to do this.

Set Yourself Up For Success

The key is to start slow. A huge mistake a lot of new runners make is doing too much too quickly. If you haven't run before it suffices to say that graduating to running a 5k will take time. 

Start with walk/jogging intervals three times a week. The simplest interval to start with is:

5 minute brisk walk to warm up

90 second jog, 90 second walk - repeat x 4

5 minute brisk walk to cool down

Increase your frequency and the time interval that you're able to run slowly over a number of weeks. It usually takes about three months to get to running a full 5 kilometres, depending on your fitness levels. A great article on starting to run with a guided plan for novices is Leo Babauta's 'How to Go From Sedentary to Running in Five Steps.'

Don't get discouraged or frustrated and do not compare yourself to other runners; all this does is demotivate you. Focus on your journey and celebrate your accomplishments however small. Running 1km without stopping when you have never been able to do that before is an accomplishment. It means you had the strength, courage and motivation to stick with something. It IS going to be hard in the beginning; expect that and don't give up, you're not a quitter. Remember why you want to do this.

Running is a journey, not a destination; once it begins it does not end. You are constantly evolving and developing as a runner in terms of your achievements and fitness levels. Running has taken me to different countries, taught me resilience and allowed me to see life from a completely different experience. I have met the most amazing people through running who have become friends and mentors alike. Enjoy the journey!

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