How do I start to love exercise, particularly running?
June 10, 2010 11:05 AM   Subscribe

How do I start to love exercise, particularly running?

I am a 33yo male who has been overweight all my life. Finally, for 2010, I decided to change that. I started eating healthy and exercising, and it has helped, a lot - my BMI has dropped from 47 to 36 so far.

I started in January by walking every day. By April, I started trying to run, a few yards. Now I my run/walk mix has gotten much better, and I can run solid for over a mile. To keep my motivation, I am training for a half-marathon in October.

There are good days and there are bad days. I did 7 miles Saturday in just under 90 minutes, and I was ecstatic. This morning I did 4 miles in a little over an hour, and I have felt it all day.

The problem is that I spend a lot of the time exercising (and the time after) thinking about how much I hate doing it. But I now realize that I have to exercise, and will have to, basically forever. So I need to get past the hate.

On road days, I wear the iPod. On the treadmill, I listen to the iPod and also watch TV, trying to distract myself.

How do I get myself to enjoy running?
posted by I am the Walrus to Health & Fitness (52 answers total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure there is a magic recipe, although I will suggest that perhaps you should try other forms of exercise that you might like better. I know people who hate to "go running," but are happy playing soccer for hours on end.

Personally, as a runner, I like it more the better shape I'm in. When I'm just putting in the training miles it can be a drag, but when I feel there is real power and speed to my running, I love it.
posted by OmieWise at 11:11 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have (due to the military and struggling with my weight) been trying to enjoy running for many years. I still don't. I think it's something you love or you don't, honestly. Try some other modes of exercising. I've become very partial to road biking. Try to find something that gets you exercise without you noticing, because you're having so much fun.
posted by jasondbarr at 11:13 AM on June 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Ugh, you can't! Running sucks. However, I will tell you that you will hit a point where you become addicted to it. I remember a couple of years ago when I hit that point. I couldn't go a day without running. It took a couple of months of running to hit that point.

Good on you!
posted by TheBones at 11:13 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Have you thought of branching out? I go to a gym and take classes -- boot camp, kickboxing, yoga, etc. I convince myself, "For the next hour, I'm going to do whatever that teacher tells me to do." It helps, a lot.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:22 AM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

Definitely, you should consider finding something you genuinely enjoy - if you're exercising to get / stay healthy there's totally no reason you should stick with something you "think about how much you hate doing it".

I recommend cycling to anyone at the drop of a hat - you probably have to cycle for longer than run to burn the same amount of energy, but if you love it then you'll be happy to cycle for longer. And you can work it in to your everyday life - commuting, shopping, visiting friends etc.

Obviously cycling is just my personal preference, but you should experiment and find an activity to look forward to. Makes a real difference.
posted by Dali Atomicus at 11:24 AM on June 10, 2010

Best answer: I'm training for a half in October, too! 7 miles in 90 minutes is super!

I use my running time to listen to music/podcasts that interest me/distract my focus from the "I hate this" thought-track. Also, I've heard that counting backwards from 100 eight times will get you through a mile. Sometimes I do states/capitals in my head, in alphabetical order.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:26 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Why run if you don't enjoy it? The people that are running (mostly) aren't forcing themselves to do it... Find another activity you like.

I run to get outside and get my sun for the day. After being locked up in an office all day, its enjoyable to be outside for an hour. I also like the geek factor. I have a GPS watch and heart rate monitor that I wear during runs. At the end, I get to plug it in to the computer and see cool graphs and maps on where I went.

Are you following a training plan, or just running til you get tired. I highly recommend following a plan. I followed Hal Higdon's novice 1/2 marathon plan when training for my first 1/2. It was nice having a set schedule.

And reaching your goal and finishing that race will provide ton's of motivation to keep at it. Maybe enter a few 5ks or 10ks to get a feel for the race atmosphere
posted by ShootTheMoon at 11:27 AM on June 10, 2010

Best answer: Can you find people who are your same speed to run with?

For the first 30 minutes or so of running, the only thing I can think about is how much I also hate running; but after that my mind kind of wanders. Maybe you're concentrating too much on the act of running and need to let your body just run so you can enjoy the scenery or recap your day.
posted by meowzilla at 11:30 AM on June 10, 2010

Best answer: I think it will happen once your body adjusts. We're made to exercise.
posted by Not Supplied at 11:37 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: At 7 miles in 90 minutes, you're already at the halfway point to evolving into a long-distance runner, and a half-marathon will be doable in the near future. You're a runner. Don't stress about it, or worry as to whether it's enjoyable or not. It simply is, and a few months from now it will become a necessary and undispensable part of your existence. You'll be an addict hardcore and will jones like a dope fiend for a run if circumstances prevent it from happening. You're job now is to hang in for the brief, pre-addiction phase. Breath deeply, enjoy the scenery, enjoy the natural high . . . And look into weight loss, into nutrition, and (with tentative baby steps) into the new movement of minimalist running and shoes that emulate running barefoot. The adventure begins.
posted by Gordion Knott at 11:40 AM on June 10, 2010 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I use my running time to listen to music/podcasts that interest me/distract my focus from the "I hate this" thought-track

Seconding this. I used to think the best music to listen to would be "pump-me-up" "Eye of the Tiger" type music. But for distance running, that's not effective at all, not for me anyway. Now I listen to music that I find lyrically interesting. I concentrate on the words and not the running, and I don't wear myself out too quickly.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:42 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I only allow myself to watch a certain show (Freaks and Geeks) when I'm on the treadmill. I get an almost giddy excitement when I think about being able to jump on the treadmill and watch the show. Once that's over, I'll do the same with another show. I guess I'm kind of training myself to like the treadmill workout because I'm associating it with something pleasant.
posted by Sassyfras at 11:44 AM on June 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

The people that are running (mostly) aren't forcing themselves to do it.

This isn't true at all. There's a part in Haruki Murakami's "What we talk about when we talk about running," where he asks an Olympic runner if he ever feels like he'd rather stay in bed in the morning, rather than get up and run.

The Olympian laughs at him and replies, "Of course!"

It's always going to be hard. It's always going to be easier to stay in bed. But maybe take some comfort in the fact that that's how it is for everyone.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:46 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers everyone. Not what I want to hear, but mostly what I expected.

If I hate it why do I run? Because I want to not hate it. Because it is a good exercise for me. I have found a lot of good people who are into it, and started to make some friends. And the 5K I did was really cool, so I am excited about doing more races. Plus it fits into my schedule - I can do it after the kids are in bed at night, or I can get up early and go. Plus I can track it - I wear a pedometer, so I can track my daily steps, and I like seeing that I did 10K steps in a day.

I don't have a bike, I would like to get one, but that will come later. Even then, I will have to find a place to ride - there are not a lot of bike friendly places around me. I would love to swim, but I do not have a good pool for laps available to me. If I can get through the running, it provides an excuse to find a good triathalon and get into the biking and swimming.

ShootTheMoon: Are you following a training plan, or just running til you get tired.
A little of both. I am looking at Higdon's plan, as well as this one, but both are for 12 weeks, which for me starts on July 12. Until that time, I am trying to get where I consistently do 3-4 miles a day, with a longer run on the weekend. I am indecisive on days off - I know they help performance (last Friday was light for me, and I think that helped Saturday's run), but they don't help weight loss.
posted by I am the Walrus at 11:48 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: To expand on the above:

You can learn to love something hard because of the rewards you get from it, or the satisfaction you feel afterward. But don't expect to wake up every morning super-excited about going for a run - because let's face it, it's really hard.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:49 AM on June 10, 2010

I enjoy running. I also really enjoying lifting weights, going to my spinning class, and biking for obscene amounts of time. None of these things I started off enjoying. By doing them over and over again and seeing results and getting endorphin flowing, I learned to enjoy them. My body began rewarding exercise with a workout high.

With a BMI of 36 you are still obese. Running will mean a lot of stress on your untrained joints. I would learn to love something low impact. Swimming, a spinning class, and HIIT (which is better at burning fat) on a stair machine are all fun and varied enough to be interesting while being low impact. My concern is that you run 3-4 times a week, put a lot of stress on your joints due to poor form and your weight, hurt yourself, and then stop training all together.

With all that said, I think it is great that you have decided to make a positive change in your life. When I see people working towards losing fat at the gym or on the road I honestly get giggly happy for them. Keep at it!
posted by munchingzombie at 11:50 AM on June 10, 2010

Best answer: Unfortunately, the only thing that works is time and perseverance. I love running now, but it took me a couple years to get to that point. Part of it, for me, is that I'm always in a better mood right after I work out, even if the workout itself feels like hell.

I also find it helps to arrange your workout schedule so that you have one harder workout a week, one easy/fun one, and the rest somewhere in the middle. You'll have one day to look forward to, and one to make all the others look better. Having a shorter, higher-intensity workout for your challenge day can make it less intimidating - it's awful, but only for twenty minutes!

By the way, 7 miles in 90 minutes is fantastic, especially if you've only been running a few months. That's my time, and I've been running for three years. Which brings up two other points: first, you don't have to push yourself super hard, as long as you are getting better over time. Second, being proud of your achievements can be great motivation.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:53 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Based on my own experience, which is that I absolutely hate running or any cardio activity, try mixing up your routine with some regular weightlifting. Now that you've dropped some of your excess poundage, you'll see your muscles grow relatively quickly. That should give you some good motivation to keep lifting AND you'll want to do cardio more to help burn calories and maintain your new muscular form.
posted by gabrielsamoza at 11:54 AM on June 10, 2010

Response by poster: Gordian Knot: Don't stress about it, or worry as to whether it's enjoyable or not. It simply is, and a few months from now it will become a necessary and undispensable part of your existence.
This is what I am hoping for.

drjimmy11: I used to think the best music to listen to would be "pump-me-up" "Eye of the Tiger" type music. But for distance running, that's not effective at all, not for me anyway. Now I listen to music that I find lyrically interesting. I concentrate on the words and not the running, and I don't wear myself out too quickly.
Do you just turn it way up? I listen to a workout mix while running, and use it to pace myself (1 song running, 1 song walking), but I only use the podcasts when walking and I can hear them. I will try them while running.

munchingzombie: My concern is that you run 3-4 times a week, put a lot of stress on your joints due to poor form and your weight, hurt yourself, and then stop training all together.
Thanks for the concern. I have been at it almost 6 months, almost every day. My doctor is tracking my progress, and he is an Ironman Triathlete, so I trust his judgement. His advice helped me a lot, and my once sore knees are now very strong and feel good running.
posted by I am the Walrus at 11:58 AM on June 10, 2010

You can't force yourself to love or enjoy anything.

Try different form of cardio exercise. Here is how I feel about several forms:

In-line skating: Beautiful. Meditative. Mental benefits on top of the physical benefits.
Bicycling: Generally fun.
Running: I'd rather be fat.

Everoyne is different, obviously - I have several friends who really, really love running.
posted by MillMan at 11:59 AM on June 10, 2010

If I hate it why do I run? Because I want to not hate it. Because it is a good exercise for me.

I go through phases of running regularly, then falling away from it. I've never loved it, but I've gotten to the point that I enjoy my runs (particularly the warm glow that comes toward the end of the run and the feeling of well-being after the run).

The best approach I've found is to not expect too much of myself. I have the attitude that, if the run goes well, fine ... and if it turns out to be misery, I can stop. I begin each run by giving myself permission to stop if I don't like it.
posted by jayder at 12:04 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

After a week of some pretty bad runs (hot and muggy, just no energy), my run today was much improved. Felt like I was running downhill the entire time. Wish they were all like that. The better shape you get in, the more "good runs" you'll have, I think.

It sounds like you are on the right track.
posted by backwards guitar at 12:08 PM on June 10, 2010

Congratulations on getting in shape. It's funny, but from the tone of first half of your question, it doesn't sound like you hate running at all.

I've found that it got increasingly enjoyable as my weight dropped. Since I'm not carrying the equivalent of 40 packages of butter anymore, it's WAY less struggle. Keep focused of how far you've progressed.

I find that choosing a pleasant route and running in the coolest part of the day makes a big difference, too. Good luck and keep it up!
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:14 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I always hated to run, even when I was on cross country and track teams in high school. I still haven't reached that addiction stage, but I recently came around somewhat. How? I listened to every series of The Ricky Gervais Show podcasts, but only during my runs. Like Sassyfrass's Freaks and Geeks, having that to look forward to made it a great treat instead of a chore. Maybe finding a piece of entertainment that you love will help.
posted by CheeseLouise at 12:23 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As someone who has run ten miles a week, almost without fail, for near 30 years, I always tell people I believe the secret is getting comfortable spending time in your own head. There are people who spend every minute of their downtime bombarding their brains with external stimuli. They forget how to just ruminate, think over life, play mental games with themselves, how to stay quiet. Concentrate on doing that while you run. Oh, you'll snap back to reality and thinking about discomfort at first ... a lot. But you'll gradually snap back less and less. And that will coincide with you getting in shape more and more. Push yourself to get lost in your own head as you run. Soon, you'll spend 30 minutes thinking about how to better do your job or love your mate and be surprised when you also spent 30 minutes running. Works for me.
posted by lpsguy at 12:26 PM on June 10, 2010 [21 favorites]

Best answer: Find podcasts you love and only listen to them when you run.

Find energizing music that you love and only listen to it only when you run.

Run with a friend (even if only once in a while).

Run in new neighborhoods. Vary your route and notice the different houses and such. Explore through running.

Have a destination in your run--a park or landmark.

Run in pretty places--try trails, especially, if they are scenic.

Do you have kids? Get your kid to bike with you while you run.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:39 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I ran and walked and elliptical machined for years, and it was fine, but I never got to love it. Or even like it, beyond the runner's high part that wore off after ten minutes. I started going to boxing classes about a year ago, and have found a kind of exercise that I really love. But even that took time--six months, at least, for me to not kind of dread it a little bit. I recommend you run for another six months or so. If you don't just intuitively love or need it by then, try something else.
posted by prior at 12:44 PM on June 10, 2010

Best answer: Eat well and drink enough water before you run. The day before, eat well. The day of, eat well. Drink a lot of water. If I'm hungry, my run is going to suck, heavy lead legs, you know the deal.

I basically went from [not paying any attention to how much water I am drinking] to [OH, right, if I am going to run tomorrow, I need to drink enough water today and tomorrow] to [wait a minute...maybe I want to be sufficiently hydrated such that I could run a few miles all the time. Like, being hydrated as a way of life]. Right. That makes more sense. If you eat and hydrate consistently, you'll still have some bad runs, but there will probably be fewer of them.

The thing that really did it for me, to start running consistently, was to get running partners from Craigslist. I've replied to some ads, I've posted my own. Knowing that your partner is waiting for you on the corner really helps with the motivation, and you have someone to chat with.

Congratulations on your running! Make sure you take enough rest days. Consistency, and you'll get there.
posted by teragram at 12:49 PM on June 10, 2010

Best answer: Congrats!! That's impressive progress - you should be really proud of yourself.

For me, when I find myself in a running rut, or I'm just not looking forward to a workout, these things will help get me out of it:

-New tunes. Dig through the Nike Dr. Powersong playlists, or old Ask Metafilter threads, and come up with a new playlist. Be excited about your run because you get a chance to listen to it!

-Once and awhile, do something besides what your training plan says. If I'm in a rut, sometimes I just need to skip intervals (or however many miles are on the schedule) and run out to the beach, or do the easy loop near my house. It feels nice and liberating and makes it more fun. Even if you're doing less miles, getting out and getting miles in at all is what really counts.

-Run with friends! This is my biggest motivator, and it's what got me out of my post-marathon rut. Talking = a great distraction from that little negative "i hate this, i'm exhausted" voice in your head.

-Leave the iPod at home. Also different and liberating.

-Brag (just a bit). Be excited and tell your SO or a good friend or someone about what you accomplished, or how many miles you plan to run that night. Other people being positive about it makes me be positive about it.

-Buy some new running toy. A new shirt, a Nike+ (or Garmin!), a different water bottle, something. New toys are fun and they make me excited about using them, and by extension, that next run.

Good luck with your half marathon!
posted by soleiluna at 12:53 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was a distance runner in high school. I overdid it then, and my body is no longer capable of tolerating running. So, I'm a walker. I do lots of challenging hills and walk fast, and I think it's an even better workout than running.

As far as making yourself love it, I really enjoy loading books on my iPod and listening to a story while I move. I also like to take my workouts to the trails. I can easily walk 8-10 miles when I'm passing by scenic views, waterfalls, wildflowers and newborn fawns.

And you know... it's OK to not like running. Lots of people never learn to love it, but still love to exercise and be active in other ways.
posted by MorningPerson at 12:59 PM on June 10, 2010

Best answer: The only thing I hate more than running is hearing from people who love running. I don't get that endorphin rush that people who love running get. I have never gotten it. I don't ever expect that I will get it. And I've stopped waiting for it.

I HAVE STOPPED TRYING TO LOVE RUNNING THE WAY OTHER PEOPLE DO. ...and that has made all the difference.

Like others above, I use the "positive association" method of tricking myself into enjoying (or at least not noticing) the experience. In the past, I used the "xkcd gamer" trick, focusing not on the activity at hand, but my progress overall. "If I just keep going a little longer it will be a personal best. +2 stamina! YAY!"

But lately, I've stopped doing that, and I put on music that makes me want to dance. Since I'm a terrible dancer, running serves as a proxy. I skip merrily along on the treadmill while Lady Gaga tells me that I'm a fabulous little monster, forgetting (at least momentarily) that I hate what I'm doing. I have a hard time not accidentally dancing a little bit, which I'm sure will someday result in my untimely demise, in a terrible freak treadmill accident.
posted by greekphilosophy at 1:10 PM on June 10, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'm sorry for commenting even though I don't have anything great to add. I just wanted to say, YOU ARE AWESOME. It's so cool for you to be doing this really hard work for yourself. It's so difficult to change your lifelong habits. Good work.

I also have to echo those who are saying diversify your exercise routine. I hate running, but I can bike (and bike hard) endlessly. I've never been crazy for the workouts simply to workout but I love getting exhausted playing volleyball or basketball or biking to work.
posted by hannahelastic at 1:12 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Man, I hear you. I like to run... and I also hate it. The thing is, when I first start running, it feels great. I love that "burning off my excess energy feel", and the initial rush of it. After about 5 minutes, part of me says "ok... that's enough of that. I'm bored, we can stop now". Of course, I don't stop. I try to run at least 30 minutes, sometimes up to an hour, but sometimes it feels soul-crushingly boring to do so, and I'm sure that affects my performance too.

A while back I read this article on Boing Boing about how doing two different boring things at once can be strangely enjoyable. It really hit home with me. As I've been paying attention, I've noticed that doing two things that themselves would be tedious and boring and the same time are sometimes somewhat fun when done together. Since discovering this, I've tried to run while doing something somewhat mentally challenging though perhaps a little tedious. For example, listening to language instruction ala Pimsleur CDs or while I run. Perhaps watching some kind of trivia or quiz program like Jeopardy might also be interesting. Any sort of studying you can do while walking might be rewarding. Of course, it sounds like you're going at a faster pace that would probably make manipulating an iPad or a deck of flash cards difficult. But any sort of audio learning you can do might help.
posted by Vorteks at 1:15 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

I started listening to audiobooks and have found it infinitely better than music for me. I find it so much more distracting from the "ugh running" feeling I would circle around with music. And I want to know what happens in the story and will only listen while running, so it sort of forces me even when I'm not so excited about the idea.

Now if I could just get rid of the shin splints for good, grumble, grumble.
posted by grapesaresour at 1:18 PM on June 10, 2010

To compliment the idea that the running gets more enjoyable as you get into better shape - could you supplement your running with other excercise that has a social base so your brain is focusing on the fun rather than the excercise? I'm thinking floor hockey or broomball, flag football, some kind of silly recreational sport at the Y or park or some-such.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:28 PM on June 10, 2010

I don't especially enjoy exercise (bike, walk, follow-along pilates DVD), but I also brush my teeth twice a day and I don't enjoy that either. Maybe think of your workout time as necessary basic maintenance for right now?

Also, FWIW I am most inspired to keep at my own exercise routine by others who might not feel inspired by sweat but who make themselves do it anyway.
posted by mcbeth at 1:47 PM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Hey I just got back from the gym after going back for the first time in nearly a month after having some crappy cold/sinus infection. I can sympathize with you, but you seem like you're doing great. I really see running as more like eating vegetables or something similar. Sometimes you do it when you don't want to because you know it's good for you and other times you do it because YUM VEGETABLES. The problem is that you don't know which it will be often before you start.

What worked for me was having two different sorts of exercise in my routine [maybe three] and playing them against each other [on preview, oh hey that boingboing thing resonates too]. I'm sort of like MillMan in that way

Swimming - love it, time-consuming, sometimes the pool is closed or full, come out of pool feeling great, requires gear & showering
Running - like listening to music, over quickly, usually accessible, come out of a run feeling nearly dead [which can be good if I'm anxious], minimal equipment
Biking - like it, weather dependent, need to do a LOT of it to feel exercised, feel bad at it
Ambient exercise - like hiking with friends or walking a lot [5-8 miles], enjoy it, don't have the opportunity often, usually social, hard to do at home

So I'll often ask myself which sort of exercise I want, like you'd ask a child "do you want to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt" not "what do you want to wear today" So having some choices in the matter make it feel like it's a little bit under my control. And I have music on the ipod that i love and dont otherwise listen to. And I have shower stuff that is awesome at the gym which is better than the stuff at home. It's all pretty ridiculous but I like being in shape a LOT and so I can deal with the fact that even though running is hard, I can make it bearable and the effects of running are terrific and last a lot longer than the running. Hope thats helpful.
posted by jessamyn at 1:47 PM on June 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

Can you go out with a training partner? Sometimes you can talk and run; regardless, you can keep each other company.
posted by grobstein at 3:11 PM on June 10, 2010

I don't get that endorphin rush that people who love running get. I have never gotten it. I don't ever expect that I will get it.

Oh thank God. I thought it was just me.

I hate running.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:23 PM on June 10, 2010

Best answer: I don't love running, but I do it because it's the most effective energy-burner for the least time spent. Also, it doesn't require masses of kit -- running shoes, you're good to go. As others have said, though, what primarily made me not-hate running was being in shape (and you're getting there!). When I was heavier (55lbs ago!) running sucked, big-time. Through a combination of weight training, diet, random gym cardio and (this was the important one) a high-cardio martial art, I lost that weight and exercise became AWESOME.

I still hated running though.

What I found made running suck less were audiobooks and radio plays (Hitch Hikers Guide in particular) on the iPod.. with decent canalphones so I could hear the damn things. That, for me, was key -- with normal earbuds/headphones, I'd be straining to hear every word over my breathing/footsteps/wind rushing past (on the bike)/etc. With the canalphones*, hearing everything is simple, you don't have to have the volume cranked (yay no hearing damage!) and they are, for me at least, a hell of a lot more comfortable.

Running still sucks, though ;)

* These cheap Sennheisers lasted me four years, and were great. I'm currently using the Apple in-ear 'fones+remote, and they're good too.
posted by coriolisdave at 3:33 PM on June 10, 2010

Best answer: I can't remember exactly when running stopped being a chore and turned into a joy but here's some of the things that I do that help me look forward to and do my runs (waaaay more slowly than you did your 7 miles!) --

1) I built a playlist of very immature music that makes me want to move and put it on shuffle on my Ipod for my runs. I really like wireless headphones;

2) I listened to and tracked a podcast on training for a 5k, 10k, and 1/2 marathon for awhile. Just cruise Itunes and you'll find it.

3) I started running with my dog. It gives him such joy to run and be outside that it is contagious, and I noticed new things because he saw them, plus he's my buddy.

4) I really try hard to run in beautiful places. I especially aim to run near bodies of water.

5) Lately I run without music and just listen to what is going on outside.

6) I often run with a GPS that tracks my speed and mileage and a watch that shows my heart rate.

7) I trained for and ran a marathon for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I dedicated each mile to someone I knew who ever had a cancer diagnosis, wrote their names, and carried the list in my little running waist pack. I still try to sign up for races that raise money to fight diseases, and shape my runs around training for those.

8) I started running in Nike Frees, using barefoot running techniques.

9) I read Runner's magazine . . . a big motivator . . . and generally read running blogs and articles.

10) I gave up the treadmill. Treadmills make for an easier run and have a soft surface, but they are boring as hell.
posted by bearwife at 4:10 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Nthing the idea of swimming. I'm horribly horribly out of shape, and while visiting a friend I had the opportunity to swim for about an hour a day three days in a row. All I did was kind of poke around the pool, tread water, float, sometimes do goofy handstands in the water, try to get to the bottom of the pool (and fail miserably), and swim from one end to the other. Not once did I really 'work' at it, I just took it easy and enjoyed myself.

I didn't even realize why I was feeling so frigging sore at first. It's a hell of a workout, even if you're not doing anything strenuous. It was doubly good for me, since I have problems with asthma and swimming is a good way to help me control my breathing.

Barring that, ANY exercise with friends will beat going by yourself. Setting a specific time range for when you'll go will help everyone involved stay motivated. If one of you isn't feeling up to it, the other(s) can encourage them to do it anyway.
posted by Heretical at 5:24 PM on June 10, 2010

Branching out is a good idea. Particularly, you might consider HIIT -- "high intensity interval training." Basically, the idea is to intersperse short bursts of all-out sprints with rest periods (though there are many, many different ways of doing it). It burns a crapload of calories very fast -- in 20 minute, 30 minute tops (for elite athletes -- this is an insanely intense method of training) sessions. Also, it's so intense that you really can't think "I hate this I hate this I hate this" during sprints, you can't really think anything.
posted by paultopia at 6:42 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I absolutely hate the first few miles of all runs. Hate hate hate them. So it makes perfect sense to me that you enjoy a 7 mile run more than a 4 mile run. It takes a few miles to hit your stride, get the breathing right, and shut down all the voices in your head. The only times I have ever gotten a true runner's high is when I've logged more than 10 miles. So, longer runs would be my suggestion.

Work up to them, of course, and make proper use of rest days.
posted by Hushpuppy at 7:07 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just another country heard took me a few months to like running, so you may want to stick with it for a while. Like you mentioned, races are fun, it's cheap, portable, etc.

Have you experienced a runner's high yet? I have done a lot of different cardio exercise, including those that taxed me more than running 9 minute miles, but I've only felt the runner's high with, well, running. That may do it for ya.
posted by Pax at 8:24 PM on June 10, 2010

Based on my own experience, one thing I'd say is take it easy; don't push yourself as hard as you think you ought to. End your runs feeling that you've worked but you still feel good.

I base this on a couple of things, including kettlebell trainer Pavel Tsatsouline's emphasis on always ending a workout with "something left in the tank" and on synaptic facilitation, or what he calls "greasing the groove" — "don't train to failure, train to success!"

Another thing I base that on is advice from John Bingham. In the book Running for Mortals he writes
…while your aerobic system can achieve one cycle of measurable improvement in 3 to 6 weeks, your muscular system achieves one cycle of measurable improvement in 6 to 12 weeks.… your aerobic system is changing every 3 to 4 weeks, and your muscles are changing every 6 to 12 weeks, but your joints and tendons won't — and can't — change except every 6 to 12 months.…

That is why people so often begin to experience joint pain after just a few months of running.… Their hearts and lungs are feeling better than ever and their muscles are starting to feel great, so they push themselves to go farther and faster before their joints and tendons are ready. [pp. 58-59]
Since I injured myself by increasing my mileage too fast on training runs, I'm now paying very close attention to that bit. No more than 10% increase a week in mileage.

Mindfulness training has also been very helpful for me. I'm a big fan of the work of Zen teacher Cheri Huber, but there are many different practices and techniques. (Oh, and something she says also applies here: "Do more than you think you can, but less than you think you should.")

I grew up being picked last for the kickball team in PE (when the team captains didn't say "...uh, we'll play one short"), and have never been much of an athlete, so it's a great surprise to me to find myself taking up running. And even more of a surprise to find that aside from when I've been injured, a lot of the time when I'm running I find myself humming James Brown: ♫ I feel good! ♫
posted by Lexica at 9:39 PM on June 10, 2010 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: I really appreciate the words of encouragement. I am frequently over ambitious with my exercise goals, and it has really helped to remember the progress I have made so far. Throwing myself fully into it helped me to make a lot of progress quickly, and the progress has helped me sustain it. I would have given up a long time ago if the progress was significantly slower.

As for mixing in other activities, in addition to running, I am doing strength exercises (Tony Horton's Power 90, plus some additional machine lifting) 3 times a week.

grapesaresour: I started listening to audiobooks and have found it infinitely better than music for me. I find it so much more distracting from the "ugh running" feeling I would circle around with music. And I want to know what happens in the story and will only listen while running, so it sort of forces me even when I'm not so excited about the idea.
I will give this a try. I am the same way about good books, so this might be effective for me.

coriolisdave: with decent canalphones so I could hear the damn things
This is great, I have been looking for better headphones than the stock earbuds, so I will check these out.

Pax: Have you experienced a runner's high yet?
I guess so. I have noticed when I do a really good run - good distance in good time - I start of getting tired and feeling ok, then after some point I get a second wind and really start to feel better.

Lexica: your aerobic system is changing every 3 to 4 weeks, and your muscles are changing every 6 to 12 weeks
I noticed this myself. When I first started, I could only go utnil I started huffing and puffing. Now, my body gets fatigued and I am still not breathing very hard.
posted by I am the Walrus at 6:32 AM on June 11, 2010

Best answer: I hated running until I started running more. As you get in better shape, you will find yourself saying "This feels good" during your run as opposed to "This feels horrible". I was able to run more by getting myself a Nike+ which lets me see stats on my run. And when I don't feel like running, I remind myself that I have never regretted a run when I am finished.
posted by jasondigitized at 9:42 AM on June 11, 2010

I'm not coordinated enough to run. I started this year like you, walking further and further. There's a gym at work, so I finally paid up and tried the machines.

After failing at the treadmill, I settled on an ArcTrainer. What I like are the readouts on how many calories burned and the heartrate.

I'll set a calorie goal of say 200 or 300 calories, and adjust the level and time according to how much time I have available (I'm usually doing this during lunch or after work).

I like the calorie counts because when I go to eat something, I can look at a doughnut and think "that's 2 miles of walking or 30 minutes at level 6 on the machine". Then I get some strawberries. Or I might still get a doughnut and put the extra time in.

What you could do is calculate the calories you burn going X speed for Y minutes, and setting a goal - this many miles in this amount of time. That might get your mind working in a different direction.

Let us know how the marathon goes!
posted by lysdexic at 2:21 PM on June 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Have you ever come across the book Born to Run? I have run intermittently for several years (first in sneakers, then in Vibrams, then some barefoot), but specifically right after reading this book I got this whole new great perspective on running and how to FEEL about it. Instead of slamming through it the way I'd used to, I suddenly found myself looking up and around with this almost-smile on my face, feeling the ground under my feet and the wind on my face and zooming forward and just LOVING it, like I was 6 years old or something. It was a sudden and bizarre metamorphosis, and it wasn't even temporary (at least so far) -- it just changed my perspective. Really brilliant.
posted by schema at 2:07 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


You cite What I Talk About When I Talk About Running against the claim that runners largely don't need to force themselves to run, yet at another point in the book Murakami writes:

"But no matter how strong a will a person has, no matter how much he may hate to lose, if it's an activity he doesn't really care for, he won't keep it up for long. Even if he did, it wouldn't be good for him.

That's why I've never recommended running to others. I've tried my best never to say something like, Running is great. Everybody should try it. If some people have an interest in long-distance running, just leave them be, and they'll start running on their own. If they're not interested in it, no amount of persuasion will make any difference."
(p. 44)

I basically agree that people who don't have a significant interest in running in itself should probably find some other way to stay fit. Running is painful and laborious even for those who love it, and I think that someone who only views running as a means to weight loss (as opposed to someone who enjoys the actual act or sport of running) will require tremendous discipline to keep it up--most people can't sustain this, nor should they have to. Yes, the Olympian Murakami mentions sometimes has to force himself to run, but this "force" is clearly different in kind from the sort of thing that the OP and other would-be runners struggle with; at the end of the day, if the Olympian didn't have a deep love of running, he surely would have chosen another career!

So, I agree with ShootTheMoon: try to find an activity you can really enjoy and be enthusiastic about. The benefit to weight loss likely won't be as dramatic, but it will work out better in the long run (no pun intended!).
posted by Maxa at 12:22 PM on August 25, 2010

Response by poster: Well, several months later, I run 6 days a week, and try to rest my legs on Fridays. I ran 3.5 miles in 37 minutes the other day, and have done long runs of 14 miles to prepare for the half-marathon. My BMI has continued to drop to a 32.

I don't know that I love running, but I don't hate it anymore. Like TheBones said, I have hit a point where it is something I do, like brushing my teeth, and I feel weird when I don't do. Like meowzilla, it takes me a half-mile or so to warm up and get into it, but after that it is fine.

I was never able to pick up running with my iPod. What has worked for me was the suggestion to get into my own head. I talked to other runners who said they hated races where people wore iPods, because they can't hear traffic telling them to move, so I decided that would be the better way to run. It is very meditative to run, watch nature (there are owls in my area!) and think about the day.

I have also joined 2 running groups, one Tuesdays and one Thursdays, and the people have been great in offering support and advice.

My main motivation has come from a conscious effort to make the connection to the rewards of running, like drjimmy11 suggested, and that has worked well for my diet also. When I see a fast food commercial, I tell myself that the image they show is not reality, and that the food is greasy and nasty, and try to make that negative association in my head. Similarly, I try not to focus on the effort from running, but when I am out playing with my kids, or at a theme park all day, or just walking up the stairs at work, and I am not winded, I remind myself that it is because I run.

Thank you all for the advice.
posted by I am the Walrus at 2:12 PM on September 1, 2010 [5 favorites]

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