Let me start by catching you up on a couple of things about me and my life right now: I’m signed up to run a marathon in May, I am absolutely not a natural athlete and still don’t enjoy exercise as much as I would like to, even though I do it quite a lot, and I am also the proud owner of a stomach condition that is currently causing chronic pain which is a total fucker for motivation.
It is therefore not unusual for me to put basically everything else in front of exercise.
It is not unusual for me to put on my sports kit first thing in the morning and take it off at the end of the day having done absolutely no exercise (beyond wrestling my sports bra on and off that is).
It is not unusual for me to make excuses to myself and to anyone that will listen as to why I won’t be running today: my stomach is bad (it usually is), it’s dark and unsafe to run as a woman on my own (absolutely true), there’s really no need to run today, I still have six months until the marathon (oh hells yes I hear that).
It’s been a week for excuses for me. It’s currently Friday and I’ve just completed my first and, probably last, run of the week. I’m not thrilled about that, but here we are.
On Monday I was in bed with a cold, on Tuesday I was out of bed but still fighting the cold, on Wednesday I was out all day at meetings, on Thursday I couldn’t be fucked and on Friday… well, hello.
I want to talk about Thursday. And about the fact that the only reason I went for today’s run at all was because my flatmate came home from the gym, sweating and smiling and, thanks to a combination of inspiring and guilting, she was able to get me out the house.
I don’t want to talk about the excuses and the weight they hold, and this is why:
Your excuse, is valid.
Being tired, being ill, being busy, that’s okay.
You are allowed to be these things and they are allowed to be your priorities.
I don’t think it’s appropriate to beat myself up for not running on Monday or Tuesday, or even Wednesday. I’m not one of these people that responds well to ‘excuses are for pussys’ bullshit. I don’t like it when personal trainers say ‘it’s only an hour, EVERYONE HAS TIME FOR AN HOUR‘. I don’t think it is healthy to allow guilt into your exercise regime.
For me, training, running, swimming, whatever, first and foremost, it must be positive. If it can’t be fun, I must at least enjoy it. Benefit from it, feel good after it, sleep better because of it, like myself more thanks to it.
That can’t happen if the relationship becomes all about making excuses and then feeling guilty for them and doing things because I feel like I have to and beating myself up if I don’t.
So this is not one of those posts. If you want one like that, go somewhere else, literally, anywhere else, it seems to be the foundations on which the entire fitness industry was built.
No, this is a little different. By comparison, it may well be decidedly unhelpful. But here we are.
This is how to go for a run when you really don’t want to go for a run. This is the bit before the excuse is made, the thing that might keep it at bay. This is supposed to be inspiration because god knows, most days, I need it.
1. If you’re not going to run, that’s okay but OWN IT.
Now, by that I mean – enough with the umming and the ahhing. If you probably won’t make it, don’t even toy with the idea of doing it. Psychologically it is not helpful. Sitting all day in your workout kit when you aren’t going to workout does not help morale.
If you do end up going out, you may well feel sluggish and chances are you won’t enjoy it very much anyway.
That’s okay!! But make the decision early and make peace with it. Don’t sit around all day and decide after nine hours that today’s not your day. Your mind won’t thank you for that one and it’ll set a fucker of a precedent.
2. Plot a route
I literally use the website www.plotaroute.com and it enables me to, surprise surprise, plot a route. I love it. It makes me happier than it probably should. Sometimes I plot routes when I’m not even planning a run. Yes, yes, I ought to get out more.
Psychologically this helps me, I like to work in numbers and know exactly what I have to do and this enables me to do that. It means I won’t get lost or too far away from home or at a dead end. Like a general going into battle, when you have your plan, you find yourself impatient to start.
3. Line up the listening
I used to think I couldn’t run if it weren’t for music. Then I realised, after my first few runs, that i could actually sometimes run a lot better without any music at all. The first time I did a five mile run I was listening to the My Dad Wrote A Porno podcast and I found myself chuckling along so hard that I barely noticed the fourth mile sneak by.
Using my time to run as an opportunity to catch up on my podcasts or listen to an audiobook made me excited to go back out. Just like I rush back to the beach on holiday to dive back into a story, I’m mustering almost as much enthusiasm to whack my headphones on and get out… almost.
4. Find a buddy
Another thing that I thought was total horseshit before I did it for the first time was running with another person.
Hungover from my school days, no doubt, I was absolutely not prepared to ever run with anyone else. I thought I’d die if I tried to talk, that they would be impatient with me or leave me behind because I was so slow. I thought I’d hate running at someone else’s pace and that it would be a load of wank.
I was an idiot. Once a week I meet up with my mum and we do a run together and it’s become one of my favourite things in the world. We catch up and gossip and laugh the time absolutely flies. The only fucker now is that I’ve stopped enjoying running on my own as much.
5. Get a dog.
OK. Mostly joking, but seriously. The best incentive there is has four legs and the ability to make her face totally irresistible and something you can’t say no to.
6. Work in time, not distance.
Depending on the way your mind works, this can really help. I can do an hour’s spinning class and not think too much about it. An hour is a unit of time that most of us associate with exercise and that works fairly well, it doesn’t seem too intimidating.
Going out to run five miles! Sounds hard and tough and a bit too difficult on the days when you can’t be bothered. Going out for an hour! Sounds, to me at least, a lot more achievable, more enjoyable, not that much of a big deal. Sort of…
7, Think of the endorphins
I know you’ve heard this a million times before and in the midst of a downer ‘I can’t be fucked’ moment it is the least helpful piece of advice I can offer you. However. Occasionally I take photos of myself either on a run or immediately after it and there is no denying how unbelievably happy I look in them. The photo attached was taken 8 miles into a 9 miler and look at me!
Remembering THAT feeling is sometimes, not always, but often, all the incentive I need to at least give it a go.
8. Travel to the start
Okay, so I won’t be popular amongst climate change activists with this suggestion but hear me out.
After starting god knows how many runs from your own front door, it starts to become a bit samey. If you are one of these people that is easily able to fall into a routine and a motion then that is probably great for you. If you are like me however, this is a nightmare. I always find the first mile the hardest part (after leaving the house of course) and knowing all possible routes like the back of my hand does not help.Driving up to Hyde Park for the first time changed everything. Although I still had a route plotted, the change of scenery was great.
It is also much easier to get into your car than it is to go straight for a run. You can jump straight into your car no stress, no dawdling, no procrastinating, none of the nervous preamble that for some reason comes with starting a run. Drive to the run. Don’t know why, but it helps.
*This also applies with running home from work/the train station/the pub (if you’re mad).
9. It’s no big deal.
I mean, it can be, if you want it to be. If you respond well to this sort of pressure then whack some motivational tunes on and star jump out the door.
But if you are, like me, terrible under pressure, then don’t allow this to be a big deal.
It’s fine, it’s nothing. You’re just ‘popping out’.
You don’t owe this to anyone, no one is watching you. Run, walk, jog, sit on a nice bench and take in the view, catch up with your book, get some fresh air, see a friend for a jog, smile, sweat, push yourself, try your best.
That’s all it is, really, right? It’s not a big deal. It’s worth trying. If it doesn’t work out, that’s okay.
But it doesn’t have to be a colossal deal. Whack your kit on, gather your shit, slip out the front door before your mind has the time to sabotage you and try to enjoy it.
To those of us that don’t do it all the time, that found it impossible at school and still struggle now, we assume that all exercise will be a test of our very existence. This does not need to be the case. It can be fun, and it can be enjoyable and we don’t need to start writing out imaginary ‘off games’ notes to give to our minds, like we used to do to our teachers.
Running, I’m learning, is fun.
When I manage to actually, y’know, go for one of course.