I hate running. There, I said it. For as long as I can remember, I've passionately hated running with the fire of a thousand suns. It all stems from my P.E. days when our middle school gym teacher would make us run the mile in gym class during what always felt like the most sweltering day of the entire year. The frustration and exhaustion I felt after pushing to get through that neverending mile really stayed with me, and despite my best efforts at athleticism, running and I simply never meshed.
Cut to last spring when, on a whim, I signed myself up for a 5K run on the beach in Santa Monica as part of a larger event with Wanderlust. Like most things I hated doing at first but ended up loving (see next, meditation), I dove in headfirst instead of carefully dipping my toes in. Over the course of roughly three months, my attitude toward running completely transformed, and in the end, it helped me overcome way more than my silly resentment toward it. Running became my tool to beat stress, fight anxiety and depression, clear my head, and make me more energized. That was just the start of it. The benefits of running are seemingly endless as new studies are published left and right.
I'm no expert yet, but if you find yourself having the same attitude toward running that I did, you might find my 5K running tips help you kick-start your newfound routine. Ahead, I'm sharing the seven ways I finally learned to love running through my experience training for a 3.1-mile race.
1. A killer playlist is a must.
Nothing gets me motivated to hit the pavement more than a playlist full of bangers. Even on days when I feel the most exhausted, a motivating, heartbeat-raising, uptempo song is like a mental kick in the butt to lace up my sneakers and just go. I prefer pop music—the cheesier the better—and have curated a playlist full of Ariana Grande and Beyoncé that works like a charm. I've even noticed that getting lost in a certain song will make my runs go by much faster and, dare I say, make them downright enjoyable.
2. The right workout outfit can get you out the door.
"Look good, feel good" definitely applies here. As one of Who What Wear's fashion editors, I'm naturally hyper-aware of how stylish my workout outfits are since I'm constantly researching and reporting on new trends. So I'm much more likely to want to go on a run in the first place if I'm reaching for a leggings-bra set in a fun color or slipping on a pair of trendy new sneakers than something plain or just boring. Fun fact: The color orange is known to have an especially energizing effect on your mood. All the more reason to reach for that bright color, if you ask me.
3. Run when you're tired. Run when you're frustrated. Run when you're bored.
In order to get myself out and onto the pavement, I used to wait until the "perfect moment" where I was energized, not too full but not too hungry, and in a good mood. As you can imagine, that only left me with a sliver of time during the week to capitalize on a running-ready moment. Instead of running only when I found the perfect moment, I started running in spite of not feeling at 100%. It was a subtle shift in perspective, but one that changed everything for me.
Once I realized that I'd be more energized and in a better mood after going for a run, that endorphin high began to serve as its own motivator. Now I use running as a way to relieve stress, clear my mind, get energized, and put myself in a better mood—instantly. Changing my reason for running from an athletic and potential weight-loss pursuit to a mental health pursuit changed everything. No longer was running a chore, now it was like a free therapy session.
4. Run twice a week (at the very least).
Being consistent with anything is the key to success, be it a new hobby or mindfulness practice. There are tons of running plans out there if you're training for a specific race like a 5K that outline how often and how far you should be running. But to be honest, I didn't use them. I started out by running just a mile or two twice a week and just pushing myself to run (let's be honest, jog/walk) for as long and far as I could. I kept at it until eventually, I was running (and not walking at all) consistently for more and more miles.
There's a fine line between running too little and too much, though. Run too inconsistently and you'll find it challenging to ever get into running shape, but on the other hand, doing too much too soon can lead to injury or burnout, according to Stacy Sims, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist and sports nutritionist. Instead, experts suggest beginning with a run-walk approach: Run for 30 seconds, walk four and a half minutes, and repeat five times (30 minutes total). Do this three times a week, adding 30 seconds of running during each outing until you work up to about 30 minutes of running.
5. Train with a friend.
Buddy up. It sounds so simple, but training alongside a friend will help keep each of you motivated and held accountable. Studies show that people who work out with someone else exercise more often than those who go it alone. Even if you don't physically run together all the time, sharing your progress with someone who's working toward the same goal ensures you'll both be successful. That same study that found a workout buddy leads to more workouts also found that when those people are emotionally supportive as well, the amount and frequency of the workouts skyrocketed. Think about it, if you're feeling lazy and your couch is calling your name more than your sneakers are, it will be much harder to give in knowing you have the support of a friend to talk you out of quitting.
6. Track your progress.
Whether you're training for a 5K like I did or simply running for yourself, there's an app for that. Actually, there are zillions of apps for tracking your runs, and I've grown fond of one called RunKeeper, though really any of them will have similar functions. Most people find it helpful to track the mileage and time of each run, and if you sync it up with a smart device, you can also keep track of things like GPS and heart rate. All this is to say that the technology out there will help you run smarter.
7. There will be a brief moment in which you start enjoying the run. Don't quit until you get there.
I still don't think I've truly experienced a "runner's high" yet, but there came a point several weeks into my 5K training where, for a brief moment, my legs didn't hurt, my lungs didn't ache, and I felt a genuine smile creep its way onto my face. Endorphins, man, they're no joke. The euphoric feeling was gone nearly as soon as I became aware of it, but I've been chasing that same feeling each time I lace up my sneakers and hit the road.
I hated running for far too long, and in the end, all it took was a little bit of determination, a lot of sweat, and a few tips and tricks to help me push past the discomfort. Now that I've broken through that mental barrier, running has become an important tool in physical, mental, and overall well-being.