Before I could even fathom training for a 10K, I started the Couch-to-5K program. I did this because I wanted that accomplished feeling at a time in my life where everything seemed to be out of my control. I wanted the feeling that comes from working really hard at something that’s difficult, then seeing the benefits from that work.
I was working really hard during this time (on finding myself a job), but I was having a difficult time getting results of any kind. I was frustrated and I needed a release. Running long distances — and by long distances, I mean anything over 5 minutes at this point — was hard for me. But, long distance running was always something I wished I could do and I knew there were a lot of health benefits associated with it. So, to me, running was the perfect thing for me to tackle in my quest for that illusive feeling of accomplishment.
It turns out that running absolutely made me feel accomplished. If I put in the work, I saw results. Slowly, but surely, running got easier and I could run farther and farther distances. After I finished Couch-to-5K, I didn’t want all my hard work to go to waste; joining a local 10K training program seemed like the next logical step.
Joining a program filled with more experienced runners was nerve-wracking at first. I had to muster up the courage to go to the first meeting. But, despite my fears, everyone was very welcoming. It was actually amazing to be around more experienced runners because they passed along their knowledge to me. It was also inspiring to see how hard they worked and how passionate they were.
From this, I’ve learned to never be ashamed of being the weaker, less experienced runner. Most runners with more experience will be more than willing to help out and pass along their hard-earned knowledge because they too were once less experienced. And someday, perhaps, I’ll be the more experienced one helping out a newbie. Really, this lesson could be applied to being a beginner at pretty much anything in life.
Training for my first 10K was hard work. It required me to clear my schedule three nights a week to make room for running. It also required me to change how I ate and drank throughout the day. It required me to be dedicated. But, as the weeks went by, I could see that all this hard work was producing results. I was becoming a better runner! The feeling after completing a long, difficult training run was like no other! It felt great! Crossing the finish line at my first actual 10K was just icing on the cake.
I ran my first 10K this past Sunday. So, now my 10K training is over and I’m no longer running with my training group. But, to stop running is just not an option for me at this point. I couldn’t live with myself if I let all my training and dedication lead to nothing, so I’m contemplating things I can do to make sure I don’t just stop. One of these things is to compile a list of what I learned on my journey to running a 10K. Some of these are lessons that should be remembered and some are habits that should be practiced.
Here's the list of things I've learned from running a 10K:
- Drink lots of water! ...1/2 your body weight in ounces is the rule of thumb. This equation works for me. Before I started doing this, I would go a whole day without drinking any water. I’m sure I was pretty dehydrated. Now, that I’ve been drinking it more regularly, I notice when I’m thirsty. Drinking this much water has also been good for my complexion.
- Don’t compare yourself to others! …it’s practically pointless. As the saying goes, “comparing your beginning to someone else’s middle” just doesn’t make sense. But, comparing your beginning to someone else’s beginning doesn’t make sense either. Some things are just harder for certain people. This could be caused by any number of reasons and, anyway, the comparison doesn’t matter.
- If it makes you feel good (& it’s good for you), do it! Just because someone else doesn’t understand your lifestyle choices (and openly voices that to you), it does not make your choices wrong. It just means that this other person simply doesn’t understand and that’s okay.
- If you work really hard, you will get results. This may not be applicable to all things in life, but it is definitely true of running.
- Share in other people’s successes. Just as you feel accomplished after a hard training session or a big race, so do other people. Celebrate that feeling with them!
- Join a community of people with the same goals; a community of people who live the lifestyle you’d like to have. Learn from the more experienced people who have already been where you are today. They can teach you a lot and motivate you to keep going and accomplish your goals. (An article entitled, “Unhealthy Excuses” by Leo Babauta of ZenHabits discusses this topic. It’s a good read if you’re interested.)
- Be confident in your abilities. If you’ve put in the work, but still doubt yourself, just stop! Let go of these worries. If you have, in fact, put in the work, your training has prepared you.
- Know your actual limits. The doubts in your head will make you want to stop. In fact, they’ll make you think you need to stop. Don’t listen to your brain in these instances; your body will be the one to tell you when you've reached your actual limit.
- Run at least twice a week (preferably 3 times a week). This will keep your endurance up and create nice breaks during the week to get away and clear your head.
- On days that you don’t run, start strength training and practicing yoga. This will help your endurance, speed, and flexibility. It will also help you power up all those ridiculous hills. …my favorite :/.
What do you think? What lessons have you learned from working hard at something that's been difficult for you?