And a coach might be just the thing to get you on the road, one step at a time.
I RAN A 5K, once. I was the running leg of a triathlon relay at Seward Park. I felt running would take less training than swimming or biking, and my friends agreed.
I did it partly to get over a serious mental block around running. I ran probably twice a week for four weeks and called it “training.”
The race wasn’t the worst experience I’ve ever had. I also didn’t get over my mental block; I have not run a race since.
Find out more
Find classes to help get you running and more at runningevolution.com.
Running coach Beth Baker of Running Evolution sees lots of people like me. They are active and fit, but can’t stand running.
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There are plenty of reasons for the running resistance. Some are based on human biology, like fight or flight, she says. When you start running, your brain thinks you are in danger. Another common challenge is new people, especially fit ones, often run too fast and get tired quickly. You need to build endurance versus relying on anaerobic conditioning. A third is that some think they’re not supposed to walk when running.
I’m pretty certain I fall into the second and third categories.
Baker works with new runners in a Couch to 5K class. It’s designed for people from all categories — those who want to get in shape, those who want to run a race and those who are determined to conquer their running blocks. She likes a 5,000-meter race as a goal for people to focus on.
You can train for a 5K in roughly a month, she says. Instead of thinking about how far you’re running, she recommends doing time chunks. Go for a walk/run for 30 to 40 minutes three or four times a week. Use small visual goals, like the trash cans around Green Lake. Go slow, and walk if you need to.
But what if you can’t even motivate to run to begin with? Baker has a few more ideas.
One way to get over fight or flight is to run in a pack so you no longer feel like you’re in danger. Although group running can bring up another worry — people don’t want to be last.
Baker understands. “Psychologically, as a primal person, if you’re dead last, you’re picked off,” she says.
In her classes, everyone runs in a pack and has a buddy, so no one is last. Buddies also help with another critical element for runners — pacing. She has her runners talk to each other. If you can’t talk, you’re going too fast.
Then there are deeper challenges from childhood. I still haven’t gotten over my one year running track in high school, after which I declared I hated running.
Baker has a similar story. She lost a relay race because she stopped 2 feet before the finish line, thinking it was over. It took her until her mid-20s to run again. Even then, it took her a year to run a 5K. Six weeks later, she did a half-marathon. A year later, she did her first marathon.
She picked up running to ease anxiety.
“I started running and it really helped,” she says.
Whatever your reason to start running, remember that if you are training for a race, the goal first is to finish the 5K. After that, your goal might change to running faster. You might surprise yourself and decide to train next for a half-marathon or marathon.
“The first three miles are the hardest,” Baker says. “Once people get past that, they can run forever, it’s just training your body.”
I’ll start with the 5K, thanks.