5 Ways I Changed My Outlook on Running — And Learned to Love It Again



I mentioned a few weeks ago on the blog that I’ve been having a bit of difficulty figuring out when, in my new working-mom schedule, to fit a workout into my day.

To recap: Mornings aren’t super ideal, since that’s the largest chunk of time in a given day that I’m able to spend with my kid. Evenings are tough, because by the time I get home from work and put my kid to bed (and put him to bed AGAIN, when he inevitably wakes up screaming 20 minutes after going down) I’m exhausted and, well, starving. And midday is obviously out because I’m here spending my time with you, dear reader.

So that leaves me with … the middle of the night? Yeah. You see my predicament. 

If I’m going to be totally honest with you, the other fitness challenge I’ve faced lately is the always-in-the-back-of-my-mind knowledge that I’m just not as in shape as I used to be. It’s to be expected, of course — I had a kid 4.5 months ago, for the Pete’s sake — but wrapping my mind around that reality and understanding that it means I might have to adjust my own expectations has left me feeling, well, a bit lacking in the motivation department.

All of these thoughts, feelings and bitter realities came to a head a few weeks back when, suddenly, it occurred to me: These were all excuses. Bad excuses, to be frank. I needed a change of attitude — and fast.

Since running is logistically the easiest way for me to exercise, I decided to focus my energy there. (Side note: I did sign up for that mommy-and-me boot camp with GoalsFit that I posted about a few weeks back. So that takes care of my Saturdays, leaving me with six — or, to be more realistic, two — more days in the week to fill with fitness.)

Pre-Baby Emily was one of those sorts who trained for one race after another and took a certain amount of pride in runs that racked up serious mileage. There was a time when I wouldn’t even consider a run that was fewer than four miles to be particularly “worth it.” Post-Baby Emily has a hard time not feeling winded at the two-mile mark.

So early last month, I decided that if I wanted to have any hope of consistently running again, my whole attitude toward running needed serious rehab. And given the scheduling puzzle I’m facing, I knew I needed to get creative. In the weeks since, I can honestly say I’ve done a complete 180 on the subject. I’ve figured out how to make running less of a chore, mentally and physically, and less of a burden, logistically. Here’s how I did it.

1. I left my watch at home.
I can’t even begin to tell you how unbelievably freeing it is not to look at my watch every 30 seconds. Especially for a person who’s trying to get back into shape, 30 seconds can feel like an eternity if you’re staring at the clock. So one day I realized, hey, you don’t need this thing. And I was right. I don’t.

2. I deleted Nike+.
At some point this summer, I reactivated my long lapsed Nike+ account. I thought it would be motivating to track every last detail of my runs so I could see my progress. A few runs in, I realized I’d made a terrible mistake: Every 10 minutes, when that chipper computer lady would come on to tell me my speed and distance, I honestly wanted to punch her in the face. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate her effort. It’s that I couldn’t appreciate mine when the numbers weren’t the same (not even close) as they were a year ago, before little Noah came along. So at some point, I stopped using Nike+; last week I finally deleted it from my phone. I instantly felt freer, lighter and happier on my runs. And, hey, I’m saving some cellphone data to boot.

3. I quit worrying about how fast I was going, or how far.
This came part and parcel with deleting the Nike app. Once I cut those strings, I was free to run just to, well, run. With no data to account for and no computer lady to answer to, I could just put on my sneaks, turn on my tunes (an excellent playlist is non-negotiable) and simply go.

As far as speed goes, I’ve made one simple goal: just don’t stop. No matter how slow I go — even if it’s a snail’s pace — I’m still moving, and that’s what matters.

4. I made running a form of transportation.
This was my solution for the logistical puzzle of my schedule, fueled in no small part by our efforts around #RuntoWorkPHL. When I ran to work last month, I realized, like so many of you, I hope, that running to work is pretty easy, as long as I plan ahead. So just last week, I invested in a backpack and started what I hope will become a few-times-a-week run-to-work ritual. I’ll report back once I reach pro status, but so far, so good.

5. I realized that any run is better than no run.
This was crucial in changing how I think about running, and I think it applies to whatever kind of workout is your particular jam. I banished all those dumb ideas that if I don’t break the 30-minute mark, the run just isn’t worth it. (I just laughed out loud writing that, you guys.) Since I’m not training for anything specific at the moment, I don’t have to worry about hitting mileage totals or time goals. I can take pride in running, period — in the fact that I’ve opted to do something, even if only for a short time, rather than sitting inside and not doing something.

Case in point: We had a rough weekend with Noah, sleep-wise. (They really aren’t kidding about that whole four-month sleep regression thing.) So when I finally got him down around 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, I put on my sneakers and told my husband I would be back in 20 minutes. (Well, in the amount of time it takes to listen to six songs, since I’m running watch-free at the moment, you know.)

That’s right, you guys. I went on a 20-minute run. Sure, I hardly broke a sweat, and I probably barely surpassed the two-mile mark (not that I would know). But guess what? Twenty minutes never felt so good.

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