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Step One: Start Small

I wasn’t an athlete at any point in my adolescent life. In fact I was quite the opposite. I was lazy, I ate junk food, and I was repulsed by the idea that going for a walk was a fun evening activity. It was a surprise to my mom when at 19 years old I started waking up at 5 AM to exercise. Heck, I was surprised by my action, as I have never risen at that hour until I was on my own weight loss quest.

It is no longer a surprise as I now coach others to find a positive relationship with exercise. It has become a part of me. Exercise has shaped me physically and mentally. I wake up not asking if I will workout, but because I get to workout. Movement has shaped not only me, but my schedule as I plan my days around my activity. I believe that everyone could form a more positive relationship with physical activity.

You must know that it is normal to hate even the idea of exercise at first. Starting from square one isn’t generally a love at first sight experience. You need to find something you enjoy-ish and allow it to naturally morph into something you look forward to. For me, I started with group fitness classes. At the time, I needed accountability. I needed instruction. As I did it, and kept doing it, I got better at it. I began to feel better, and so I wanted to do more. This may be a personality flaw, but it worked in my favor.

Once I became a mom the morning classes no longer worked for me. I decided I wanted to start running, but I didn’t know how. It seems like a funny thing to say, but if you don’t run, it is likely you’ve thought the same thing. How do I even start? To begin, I will urge you to remember to start slow. Not just your pace, but also your distance. Allow yourself to be a beginner. Allow yourself to be proud that you only ran down the street and back. Be okay with the idea that you will only run 1 mile at a pace just slightly above walking. Many beginners quit because they run too fast, too far, too soon. The result of their need to push is pain that causes them to never return.

There are many reasons why it is wise for a runner to start small. Injury and disappointment are common. A runner that has some fitness and finds they can run several miles on their first run will experience the repercussions of their mistake a little bit slower. These lessons come in the form of shin splints, runner’s knee, or Achilles tendonitis, just to name a few. The runner that attempts a couple miles on their first run and doesn’t measure up to their personal expectations may feel defeated, deflated, and discouraged.

You don’t need to overthink how to be a runner. Speak to yourself as you would speak to your 5 year old self. Be gentle. Be proud of your small victories. Push a little further each day so you improve. No matter what form of exercise you find yourself drawn to, just start small.

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