Staying healthy in college can be a huge challenge. If you’re anything like me, you played most of the sports you did in high school just to stay in shape. But when I got to college I no longer had the safety net of sports to keep me fit. I knew I had to find another way to exercise. That’s when I took up running. Now, I’ll be honest with you: I’ve hated running for most of my life, and I can’t say that I love it even now. But I’ve taken some steps over the past few years that have made it bearable, and I want to share those with my fellow NARPs (Non-Athletic Regular People) in hopes that maybe it’ll make running a little bit more enjoyable for you.
1. Find a plan and stick to it. Honestly, this has probably been one of my biggest challenges. The running plans I found online were either for people who have never run a day in their lives or people who already run just about every day. My roommate is a pretty consistent runner, and I recently asked her to help me create a running plan that I could stick with. It worked. Don’t be afraid to ask someone who knows what they’re doing to help you create a schedule. Once you’ve found the plan for you, stick to it. It’s going to be hard at first, especially if it’s been a long time since you’ve been on a consistent exercise schedule, but giving up before you finish the plan will be a lot harder.
2. Make a playlist. If you listen to music when you run, create a playlist that will pump you up. Fill it with songs that you love so you’ll look forward to listening to it. Personally, I love listening to my worship playlist on Spotify when I run (typical Christian girl, I know). But it really does focus me and helps me to relax. Find the songs that you enjoy and that will, in turn, make your run more enjoyable.
3. Find a buddy. If you prefer to run with other people, this step pretty much speaks for itself. Personally, I don’t like to run alongside other people. When I run I’m usually already working really hard to focus on actually breathing and moving my legs. Whether you like running with someone, find someone who is on a schedule similar to yours. You don’t necessarily have to run right next to them, but if you go on your runs at the same time you’ll always have an accountability partner. My roommate and I run on the same trail, and we carpool but run separately. It keeps me accountable but also allows me to run according to my own plan.
4. Strength train and rest. Two big mistakes that beginner runners make are not strength training and not giving themselves adequate rest time. Beginner runners should aim to run three to four days per week, strength train two days per week and rest one to two days per week. Be sure to listen to your body. Push yourself, but know when it’s time to take a day off. Strength training helps to prevent injuries and improves your overall health, making running easier.
5. Focus on your goals and take care of your body. Let’s face it, there will always be someone faster than you (unless you’re Usain Bolt, but I hear he’s never even run a mile, so keep that in mind). There will always be someone able to run farther than you. But that’s okay. Focus on your goals. The person that you ran past is not thinking about how slow you’re going or how hard you’re breathing. They’re probably thinking about how they really need to do laundry or what they’re going to make for dinner. Run for yourself. Make a list of reasons why you’re running and reread it often. Take care of your body. Stretch after every run and ice your aches. Take the first step out of your dorm building or apartment and hit the ground running. You’ll be glad you did.