New to running? Here's how to fall in love with the sport (or at least learn to tolerate it!)

How I Learned to Tolerate Running Again

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Remember those days when I was a marathoner? Yeah, me neither.

For four solid years, there was hardly a day I didn’t run. I averaged a minimum of 30 miles a week, every week, and I ran a half-marathon every second or third month. And then I moved back to the South and I … stopped. Entirely.

New to running? Here's how to fall in love with the sport (or at least learn to tolerate it!)

Don’t get me wrong; for five years after returning to Tennessee, I did everything but run: Zumba, yoga, SUP, various HIIT classes. But I just couldn’t get back into the swing of running.

And then, on a whim, last fall, I signed up for a race, the race, in fact. The Oak Barrel Half Marathon in Lynchburg, Tennessee, known for its menacing hill that I would come to find was so much worse than I was led to believe. And if there’s anything that’s going to get my butt back into a routine, it’s having a date looming on the calendar, a race that I’ve paid for and can’t back out. So training time was on.

New to running? Here's how to fall in love with the sport (or at least learn to tolerate it!)

But still, it was far from easy.

For one, I have already traveled a lot this year, so my training time quickly became condensed. I’d run three days in one week while I was home and then not again for two weeks until I got back. Paired with the rainy, wet spring we’ve had in the South, and there just wasn’t as much training that went into the race as I would have liked. Apparently, this wasn’t the first time I went into a race in this condition.

New to running? Here's how to fall in love with the sport (or at least learn to tolerate it!)

But I survived, and at 2:08 (factoring in a five-mile hill), the end result wasn’t quite as awful as I expected. And now I feel like I’ve got my groove back and can train more for speed for the two (flat) races I’m plotting later in the year.

New to running? Here's how to fall in love with the sport (or at least learn to tolerate it!)

So how’d I do it? Well….

I started slow. Real slow. In San Francisco, I never ran less than five miles. This training plan? I spent a solid month in the fall just running between two and four miles at varying paces ranging from 8:30-minute 10-minute miles. And it took a long time for that to feel comfortable, too.

I went to the doctor. At first I thought it was merely the Smoky Mountain wildfires; after all, I started training when Tennessee’s air quality control was at the “don’t do any strenuous activity” outside level. But when in month two, my breathing wasn’t getting any better despite daily Zyrtec and repetitive use of my rescue inhaler, I forked over $500 to go to a new doctor of immunology and get everything tested (allergies, respiratory, the whole nine yards). The verdict? I needed a daily allergy pill beyond Zyrtec, a daily inhaler on top of my Albuterol and allergy shots. I’m still going through the build-up phase, but I hope that over time this lethal combination will finally help reduce the onset of my exercise- and allergy-induced asthma.

I didn’t beat myself up when my run time was less than ideal. In fact, unless I was running a longer distance and needed my Garmin for pacing purposes, I stopped timing myself altogether. I’m competitive to a fault—especially when my competition is myself—and I was constantly watching my watch to ensure I didn’t creep up above a 9-minute mile pace. Yes, I’m crazy. This is why I started leaving the watch behind.

I looked at my weekly runs as rare uninterrupted time when I do my best thinking. Story ideas for magazine articles and blog posts seem to crop up in my head while I’m running—the only problem is racing home to write them all down when I’m done before they disappear again! To combat this, I started running with my iPhone in hand and voice dictate notes to myself whenever I get a genius idea.

I got fitted for new running shoes. I’d long been an Asics brand loyalist, but an hour-long visit with a fit expert at Fleet Feet introduced me to the Brooks Ghost 9, and I have a new love. Getting fitted is something I’ve done since day one of my running, as it’s very important to measure both your arches and your pronation in order to get the best prescribed shoe for your feet.

New to running? Here's how to fall in love with the sport (or at least learn to tolerate it!)

Running is a good catalyst for weight loss. I’ve been struggling to maintain a weight that I’m happy with this past year with all the food and drink assignments I’ve been sent on. It’s tough to keep up a fitness and healthy eating plan when you’re gone six months out of the year (or more). Running helps keep my metabolism up and my waistline trim(mer). It’s an ongoing battle, you guys, but I’m getting there.

I saw it a fun way to see a new place. Though it wasn’t exactly my first visit to Charleston, when I was there last month, I ran a 12-miler with my San Francisco training buddy Sarah, a born-and-bred Charlestonian, and what a cool way to see a city in a different light.

I scaled back on the cross-training. In fact, the past few months, I stuck to running and yoga and backed out of my personal training and HIIT classes. A running expert told me to go light on the cross-training until I was back into running full-time and I listened for a change. I have missed strength-training, though, and can’t wait to get back in the gym after my next trip!

I cut myself some slack overall. Not feeling up to running? Fine, I didn’t run. After more than 25 years an athlete, I know that the quickest way to burn out is to force myself to do something I don’t want to. The days I didn’t feel like running, I quite simply didn’t. I went to yoga, worked on my handstands or—gasp!—didn’t work out at all.

New to running? Here's how to fall in love with the sport (or at least learn to tolerate it!)

Some other tips and tricks to follow:

Find a running buddy. Due to where we live, I’ve yet to find someone local that I can pound the pavement with, but the one day my cousin Rebecca was in town and we did a long run together, it was magic. It suddenly didn’t feel like work, and I wasn’t even winded an hour-and-a-half later. I wish I could run like that every day. Still, having Rebecca as my accountability partner from afar (in Memphis) was helpful as we’d text each other screenshots of our mileage to keep each other on track. My friend Justin also ran the half “with” us, in so much that he sped ahead and wound up placing second in his division. I’m telling you, misery loves company, and running races with friends helps ease the agony ever so slightly (even if Justin finished a solid 40 minutes ahead of me!).

New to running? Here's how to fall in love with the sport (or at least learn to tolerate it!)

Plan your training based on the seasons. First-timer and hate the heat? Definitely don’t train for your inaugural distance race in the summer months. An April race was actually perfect for me as the first part of the year is generally a bit slower for me on the work front, and Tennessee’s winters are mild enough that I don’t have to worry about training indoors (that gets a huge NO from me). And I am not a morning person, so you’ll never see me out on the greenway before 8am so long runs in the heat of July are also out. My next two halves will be in October and December so I won’t be really ramping up my mileage until around Labor Day, at least avoiding the bulk of the summer months.

My Workout Gear

I’ve always used a Garmin Forerunner, but I’m thinking of changing it up for my next race. I want a flat-screen fitness tracker that shows me pace, altitude, overall time, splits, the works. But I’m also torn: Do I just want to cave and get an Apple Watch so I can also listen to my tunes via wireless ear buds? What do you guys think—any recs?

New to running? Here's how to fall in love with the sport (or at least learn to tolerate it!)

I’m also a huge fan of my RunPhones (by Acoustic Sheep), which are essentially wireless earbuds that I listen to via a neoprene headband. Given that ear buds don’t stay in my ears, these guys have been my saving grace for listening to music for two hours on a long run. Here’s the rest of the gear I’ve found handy in my years of racing:

In terms of energy on long runs, I love me some Gu Energy Gel, the Chocolate Outrage or the Salted Caramelnot the fruit flavors. I’d eat this even if I weren’t running—it tastes like dessert! Runner friends swear by Shot Bloks but I’ve yet to try them. I like how easy Gu is to eat while running; no chewing required.

My Playlist

After a half dozen upgraded laptops and a whole lot of iTunes snafus, I said good-bye to my Apple library and bought an Amazon Music subscription instead. And I love it. I love that every song I’ve ever searched for is on there and that I can create playlists that I then download to my phone and listen to offline via the app while running. It also integrates seamlessly with my Jeep sound system. And at $79/year since I’m already a Prime member, it’s cheaper than Apple Music’s $120 annual fee, too.

I’m a huge proponent of carefully crafted playlists while running—a healthy mix of upbeat tunes that urge me right along and classics that still get me excited when they come on—and here’s what I listened to on my most recent 13.1:

  • “Here It Goes Again” — OK Go
  • “Starboy” — The Weeknd
  • “Radar Love” — Golden Earring
  • “Wild Things” — Alessia Cara
  • “Hotline Bling” — Drake
  • “I Want to Know What Love Is” — Foreigner
  • “You and I” — Lady Gaga
  • “Closer” — The Chainsmokers feat. Halsey
  • “Earned It” — The Weeknd
  • “Stolen Dance” — Milky Chance
  • “We Don’t Know” — The Strumbellas
  • “Don’t You Cry For Me” — Cobi
  • “Monkey Tree” — Mother Mother
  • “Scared” — Delta Rae
  • “Crazy in Love” — Beyoncé
  • “Born This Way” — Lady Gaga
  • “Party Monster” — The Weeknd
  • “Ride” — twenty one pilots
  • “Don’t Stop Me Now” — Queen
  • “Dangerous Woman” — Ariana Grande
  • “Bad Things” — Machine Gun Kelly feat. Camila Cabello
  • “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” — Adele
  • “Scars to Your Beautiful” — Alessia Cara
  • “Black Beatles” — Rae Sremmurd
  • “Mayday” — Cam
  • “Don’t Let Me Down” — The Chainsmokers feat. Daya
  • “Chandelier” — Sia
  • “Bottom of the River” — Delta Rae
  • “Payphone” — Walk Off the Earth (cover)
  • “Don’t Stop Believin'” — Journey
  • “Daddy Lesson’s — Beyoncé feat. Dixie Chicks
  • “Long Live” — Taylor Swift

My Running Clothes

Several of you guys have asked where I buy all my workout clothes, and it’s almost always these three brands: Gap, Athleta, Zella. I’ve never purchased a piece of Lulu Lemon, nor do I believe in paying more than $50 for pants I’m only going to wear running (and even then, I usually get them on sale). Below are some of my favorite pieces that I’ve purchased within the last year, each of which I’ve found great for running or yoga or other types of working out.

If you’re a runner, what tips have been helpful for you to get back in the swing of things? If you’re not a runner, what’s keeping you from it?

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New to running? Here's how to fall in love with the sport (or at least learn to tolerate it!)
New to running? Here's how to fall in love with the sport (or at least learn to tolerate it!)
New to running? Here's how to fall in love with the sport (or at least learn to tolerate it!)
  • April 5, 2017

    I also do NOT believe in spending a ton of money on clothes I’m just going to sweat in. Who are these people who drop hundreds of dollars on spandex? Sale rack sportswear is good enough for me!

    • April 5, 2017

      Right?? Gap almost ALWAYS goes on sale every month (ditto to Zella) so even when the pants are $50, I usually get them for $30. Athleta doesn’t have as many sales each year, so I just wait and order anything from there in the rare instance that they do. I also love Old Navy, but the fit on their stuff can be hit or miss, so I usually order a ton of it (so cheap!) and send back at least half.

  • April 5, 2017
    Katie P

    Loved this! You’ve (maybe) inspired me to strap up my Brooks again.

    As a sidenote, I purchased my first pair of black Lululemon Wunder Under leggings last year and they are the best everyday leggings that I own! Definitely worth the investment. But I haven’t worked out in them 😉 For that, I’m more of a TJ Maxx girl. Come to Barre 11 with me in The Boro sometime!

    • April 8, 2017

      Let’s run together soon! I’d love to do some long runs in the Boro (saves me from going into Nashville) =)

      I do have a Lulu gift card so I should look into the Wunder Unders. People swear by them! But I’d use them for travel/everyday wear and not necessarily for working out.

  • April 5, 2017

    I was in a shop the other day and ALMOST bought myself some new running tights. Like you I haven’t run in years, about 5 or 6 years, at all. I was ultra fit, I’d bang out a half marathon before breakfast and do sprint triathlons on the weekend but then I stopped, realised I was addicted to exercise and swore never to do it again. I’ve done nothing more strenuous than hike to Everest Base Camp since, but it’s back, the bug, I want to run again and financial investment in shoes and tights will get me going. Thanks for posting this today. I’m 50 by the way, and fat. So it’s going to be a struggle. If I can do it anyone can.

    • April 22, 2017

      Ugh, doesn’t growing up suck? I miss the days when 8 miles was considered my “short run” for the week!

  • April 5, 2017

    I have just started back running and you have inspired me more. At 50+ sometimes running can be difficult.


    • April 8, 2017

      At 30+ it can be difficult, too, so I can imagine, Pamela =) Best of luck as you get back into it!

  • April 5, 2017

    I say go for the apple watch. I have a fitbit that I love and wear because I’m a lot older than you and am keeping track of steps not miles. But it syncs with my phone so I can keep track of my distances, etc., too. However, I’d love to have the apple watch for all the other features. Just, like you, haven’t bitten the bullet yet. With your lifestyle I think the watch would benefit you in so many ways. Go for it!

    • April 8, 2017

      I have to go in to change my phone plan anyway, so I think I’m just going to do it, Karla!

  • April 5, 2017

    Ha, I’m happy to see some Dutchies on your playlist 🙂

    • April 8, 2017

      Oooh which ones? I’m bad at knowing where artists are from! =)

  • April 5, 2017
    Camella K.

    That playlist is epic. Thank you for sharing! I don’t think I’ll ever be a runner but I admire those that are! I’d seriously rather ride 100 miles on my bike than run 1 mile! However, I absolutely love an epic running movie. My two favorites are “The Barkley Marathons” and “Finding Traction.” (Both on netflix Instant right now.). Check them out if you get the chance. 🙂

    • April 8, 2017

      I like biking far more than running, as well! Though I don’t actually have a road bike, but it’s on my list 😉

      Thank you for the recs, too, Camella!

  • April 5, 2017

    I see so much of myself in this! (I used to wear Brooks Ghost, love Chocolate Outrage GU, and also have “Don’t Stop me Now” on my playlist). I ran my fifth half in October and HATED the training–everything about it, and I really missed all my spin, barre, and strength classes. So I don’t know when I’ll get back into running (I last ran on Election Day–a sunrise run to the National Mall, not saying the election outcome is related, not saying it isn’t, haha). I think I may register for a 10k at some point in May or June just to give me a reason to get back out there (but I also need new running shoes, ugh $$)

    • April 22, 2017

      We’re running twins! I’ve got two halves tentatively planned for fall and then a few on the docket with my BFF Lemon next year. We’ll see how many of those actually come to fruition 😉

  • April 9, 2017

    Props gf… I wish I liked running, I just get so bored. You should checkout Calvin Klein Performance for active wear. It’s only in 3 states (and random ones at that), but so cheap and the cutest.

    • April 22, 2017

      Oooh I will! Sometimes my favorite active wear is the stuff made by a non-sports company.

  • April 9, 2017

    Cool post. I’m just wrapping up Couch to 5K after a long hiatus. (Not that I was a spectacular runner at any point in time. I trained enough to run a couple of half marathons without being hurt. Success!) Getting back into it is a lot harder than I expected. As for gear: get the Apple Watch and try Fabletics for gear. I bit the bullet and got an Apple Watch to replace my 4? 6? year old Garmin and have to say…I really enjoy it. I have the new one (a Series 2, I think they call it.) Highly recommend, especially if you like to run without too many accessories and want ones that are reliable and not annoying in any way. As for gear, I’ve been pretty happy with Fabletics bottoms – high quality, not too eye-watering a price point. (The membership part isn’t nearly as annoying as I expected). They make a great high-rise 7/8 length legging that is a great everyday/travel legging. I’d pass on their tops – they’re good and fairly priced but are nothing special to me. Have to admit, Target’s athletic wear is pretty decent – I get most of my loose tank tops and t-shirts from there. (Wearing one now!)

    Happy running, been reading your blog for a dog’s age and always really enjoy it. xo

    • April 22, 2017

      Hiiii, Sarah! Just catching up here, and I did try Fabletics when it first launched, but I found that everything ran WAY small. I’m a Medium in pretty much every brand, ordered Large in Fabletics and it was still too tight, ugh—it’s definitely made for Kate’s brand of skinny girls. I’m going to invest in the Apple Watch, though…and also check into Target’s athletic wear. I used to LOVE Champion back in the day, and I buy all my summer clothes from Target so I’m sure I’ll find some good stuff there 😉

  • April 10, 2017

    Oh man. I am so impressed with your distances! In January I gave myself a running goal (which I didn’t meet) but it definitely helped me run longer distances than I ever have before. I accept that I am a slow runner who can’t clock many miles. But I know it’s good for me so I do try to get out there when I can!

    • April 22, 2017

      Ugh, I’m still a bit discouraged. Back in my San Francisco days, I never ran less than 8 miles a day! Nowadays, meh. There are just so many other ways I’d rather work out! Acro, SUP, RIPPED, basically anything BUT running 😉

  • April 10, 2017

    Inspirational and informative

  • April 10, 2017

    I’m definitely due for new running shoes, and getting a serious sports bra for my tatas was the BEST running bump I could have done. Who knew that running wasn’t supposed to hurt your chest!?


    • April 22, 2017

      HA! Which bra do you love? Also, I adore my Brooks shoes, and they’re cheaper than the Asics I used to wear for years.

  • April 11, 2017

    Congrats on getting back to it! Sometimes just starting is the hardest part. As for me, I’ll stick with pilates 😉

    • April 22, 2017

      Ha! And here I haven’t run a single day since the race, so not so sure on this getting-back-to-it part 😉

  • April 20, 2017

    I’m inspired with your determination. I’m just about to start train myself to run. I wanna challenge myself, and I actually love doing trail running, also I’m preparing myself for some trail-marathon.

    • April 22, 2017

      Trail running is so fun if you have moderate trails near you! We only have one good one, unfortunately, and it’s only a mile or two long. But it’s a nice break to my sidewalk running!

  • May 4, 2017

    I totally miss running too. Everyday in college, I would wake up early, hit the track, and push out 7-miles a day. Once I graduated, finding time to keep up with long-distant running was just so hard to do. I also found myself a little less motivated than when I was in school. Fortunately, I found other ways of incorporating cardio and fitness into my schedule by focusing more on HIIT training and other high intensity cardio workouts. I think your tip on finding a running buddy is a huge step in the right direction and for staying motivated. Thanks for a great post!

    • May 5, 2017

      So true! And I really just enjoy HIIT more. I get bored running vs. RIPPED classes keep me on my toes (literally and figuratively!).

  • October 10, 2018

    Good for you, getting back into running. Elizabeth (Lemon to you) loves it and has tried to convince me it’s great – unfortunately my feet won’t hold up with the pressure (bunion + Mortons Neuroma + tendency towards plantar faciitis makes pounding bad!), so I stick with fitness walking. At 53, keeping weight off is a serious challenge and I know running would be the fastest way to keep it off. Instead, I walk, strength train and cut my calories by 250 a day (per decade) – only way to keep it down.

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