The Serious Non-Runner’s Guide to Running

Last month, Annie wrote an awesome post about her love of running and gave some tips on how to make the most of your run (incase you missed it, you can read that entry here).  But for someone like myself who hasn’t run a mile since freshman year of high school and is athletically and/or motivationally challenged, it can be difficult to even get started.  Let me start off by saying I hate running – it hurts, it’s uncomfortable, and I feel like I’m going to die every time I do it.  I don’t find it pleasant and it doesn’t help me relax or unwind.  Despite all that, I hear that it can do amazing things for your health, so after years and years of couch sitting, I recently decided to give it a try.  I’m only a couple months in to this “running routine” (and am just starting up again after an extended hiatus…it happens), so I don’t have anywhere near all the answers.  What I do have is real, personal experience in going from lazy-ass to slightly-less-lazy-ass.  So, without any further ado, here is a non-runner’s guide to running for those of you who would rather run into oncoming traffic than on a treadmill.

1. Start small.  One of the hardest parts about getting started with running is actually starting.  If you haven’t run in a long time (or ever), you’re never going to stay motivated if you jump in the deep end without learning how to swim.  I tried many times to just go run – it sounds so easy, but it just made me feel miserable and unmotivated to go again.  To solve this problem, I started with interval training – alternating jogging and walking for short periods of time and eventually working up to more time jogging and less time walking.  It was still miserable when I started, but I was motivated to keep up with it because really, how hard can running for one minute be?!  You can find running plans online, or you can download an app called Couch to 5k that does all the timing work for you – perfect for us lazy people!  There are many different versions of this plan/app, so find the one that works best for you.

2. Be realistic.  Running for a couple weeks isn’t going to make you lose a ton of weight and look like a Victoria’s Secret model.  It’s just not.  But don’t let that get you down – there’s plenty of good that comes with it.  You’ll feel healthier and stronger and all around better about yourself.  And if you stick with it, that weight loss thing will happen, too (I think).  You’re also probably not going to feel great after every run, sometimes you’re going to feel miserable, but I promise it gets better and the good feelings majorly outweigh the bad.

3. Set goals.  If you decide to use C25K, that part is kind of already done for you as it times your intervals and keeps track of your completed days.  But, as someone who gets obsessive about checking when the torture ends and I can walk again, the time doesn’t serve as the best motivator.  So, I like to give myself small, attainable goals throughout my entire run.  For example, I’ll tell myself that I can look at the time when I get to the end of a street or when a song ends.  I’m still obsessive about the time, but this way at least I’m making myself work for it.

4. Make your own rules.  There’s a lot of decision making that goes into running, and everyone will tell you the “best” way to do it.  I say screw that and figure out how you like to run.  Outside or on a treadmill.  Music or no music.  Early in the morning or late at night.  In fancy workout clothes or in shorts and a frumpy t-shirt.  Alone or with a buddy.  Or mix it up from day to day.  It doesn’t matter as long as you do it.  Try different combinations until you feel as comfortable as possible while performing self-inflicted torture.

Want to horizontal run? You do you.

5. Don’t worry about what other people think.  I will be the first to admit that when I run I look like an absolute fool.  So what?  If you’re worried about people judging you, whether in the gym or on the street, don’t be.  If people in the gym are judging you they’re just downright rude and clearly have issues.  And the only people who will judge you for running outside are just jealous that you have the motivation to get active and they don’t.  Trust me, been there.

6. Acknowledge your progress.  Running is hard.  Running sucks.  When you finish a run, you sure as hell should feel proud.  You bet I bragged when I completed a 20-minute run with no walking breaks!  Talking about your progress with people who care about you and support you can be a great way to keep yourself motivated.

7. Let yourself make mistakes.  With success comes failure.  And just as you acknowledge your successes, acknowledge your failures and MOVE ON.  Skip a day or two (or 20) of running?  Let it go.  Too tired to run one night?  No big.  Just can’t go another minute?  Walk it off.  Frustrated about struggling through an interval?  Remember that it will only get easier.  My very first day of C25K had me so discouraged – I felt horrible, I struggled through the entire workout, and I wondered if it was worth it.  I decided to try another day and see how I felt – the improvement was unbelievable, and to this day I keep that in mind whenever I have an off day.  Not all your progress is going to be that sudden, but it will happen.  The more you get hung up on your “failures,” the less likely you are to stay motivated.

Try fall on the floor therapy when a run’s got you down.

8. Mind over matter.  Annie did a really good job explaining this aspect of running (See #6).  As she said, “Your body can always go further than your mind thinks you can.”  Your brain is going to come up with every excuse to try to get you to stop, and to be able to push through that crap is quite frankly really difficult.  I still have trouble shutting up those voices, but time and time again I surprise myself by how much farther I can make myself go when I do.  I don’t know that this skill is ever mastered and if those voices ever completely shut off, but I do know that you can at the very least find the strength to prove them wrong.

9. Finish BIG.  Ah, the best part of running – the end.  No matter how horrible I feel during a run, when that little iPhone voice says “Begin Cool Down”, I feel on top of the world.  Some people talk about getting runner’s high, but I personally get end-of-run runner’s high – it’s a truly magnificent feeling finishing a good run.  Which is why the finish BIG thing matters.  The more I push myself to finish strong, the better I feel post workout.  Those last few minutes may feel like torture, but the bigger you finish the better you’ll feel.

10. Kick ass.  Just because I thought 10 would look more professional than 9.

Hopefully these tips help you hate running just a little less, and let me know if they do or if you have any tips of your own to add!




  1. Parks and Rec, Pitch Perfect, Arrested Development. All my favorites, and they made it bearable to read about running haha 🙂

  2. Thank you, glad you enjoyed it!

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