My Journey: From Couch to Half Marathon
I have always been intrigued by the idea of crossing off a bucket list item, but let’s be honest: I didn’t think I’d ever be physically capable of running 13.1 miles.
My journey started with a simple New Year’s resolution to get in better shape. This article is titled “Couch to Half Marathon” for a reason. If I ever happened to have free time, you would almost definitely find me binge-watching The Office yet again, with a container of cookie dough in my lap.
In early January, before most resolutions became only a distant memory, I decided to run what I assumed would be an easy mile. I clearly did not realize the severity of how out-of-shape I was, but let’s just say the run (which was more of a pathetic jog) ended with me lying on the floor of The Rec’s track, heaving like a dog in the summertime. Not pretty.
All that goes to say, if someone like me can run a half marathon, you can too. So what if you think your fitness level is terrible? Mine clearly was. Maybe you “don’t have any time” to train? I’d love to show you my almost filled-to-the-brim planner. You hate running? Guess what, at first, I did too.
But how? How does someone go from all of the above to actually doing the dang thing? And actually enjoying the journey and the event? Well, I outlined a few tips and tricks, especially to help those of us who struggle a little more.
To get started, you need to want to get started. An easy way to catch a boost of inspiration is to find an exciting race destination. I knew I was not about to push my limits only to run around a bunch of local streets for over two hours. That’s why I ran my half marathon in Walt Disney World. Half marathons are held all over the place, so reward your future self by making a vacation of it. Additionally, you’ll get to plan your trip as you train, giving you purpose and something to look forward to.
If you want to accomplish a goal, you need to have a plan. This is not the time to sporadically run random distances on days you feel like it. You can find plans made for your current running stamina, ask an expert to help you form a training schedule, or get an app that’ll formulate one for you. I went the app route and appreciated how it started slow (because I was definitely at a beginner’s level), but it also took my goals into consideration and pushed me to achieve them. I also like using an app because of its flexibility; you can easily re-arrange runs if something comes up.
Besides simply having a plan, incorporate it into your schedule. My planner and I are almost inseparable, so at the beginning of each week, I would plan runs into open time slots. If you’re not the type to write it down, you could have a set time to run on certain days. You know how you prioritize getting your schoolwork done and meetings in, even if it’s at the last minute? Use those same tactics to prioritize your runs.
Social Media Strong (Literally)
Posting that you work out on social media can be a little extra…but if it helps keep you accountable, DO IT. I took it up a level in obnoxiousness and even created my own hashtag (#CassGetsFit). When I saw people, they would ask me about my training or how #CassGetsFit was going, and it kept me motivated to be able to report back. I was not about to embarrass myself by quitting my goal or consistently slacking. Towards the end of training, I didn’t need to post about it to keep going, but early on, it helped me stick with it.
Did Someone Say Shopping?
Wearing a new outfit or running shoes is an easy morale booster. Treat yo’self. With all the hard work you’re putting in, you deserve it. Plus, you’ll probably need actual running shoes and other workout gear anyway. Find out what you’re able to move in the easiest and invest in those items.
If your race has a theme, shop for a fun costume to get you more excited. If not, you can still get a special race day outfit, specifically for the big day.
It’s no secret that music is basically a workout necessity. However, when running, find out what music motivates you and when, and make/listen to playlists accordingly. Typically, when running, your intensity goes in phases. For me, it’s helpful to have an up-beat song to get me started, more mellow songs for average pacing, songs that are especially catchy when I enter a slump, and hype music for sprinting or a final push.
For distance days, you could try listening to an audiobook or podcast. These could help keep you interested and less bored…but if they start doing the opposite, switch back to your music (and do it quickly).
If you really want an extra push, limit your favorite songs to runs only. When Mamma Mia 2 came out, I only let myself listen to the soundtrack during runs. And let me tell you, I miraculously stopped skipping workouts. You could even try a similar approach, limiting your favorite binge-watching shows to treadmill runs.
Overall, my biggest piece of advice: Don’t get discouraged. The mental hurdles are way more challenging than the physical. Struggling to start and stick with it? You’re not alone. The first two weeks are by far the hardest. You’ve probably heard it takes 21 days to make a habit, and once that routine starts setting in (which could happen even before 21 days), the journey becomes more natural and often even enjoyable. I love running now, which is shocking to anyone who knows me, so there’s hope for everyone — even you.
Do you have an interesting fitness journey to share? Tell us about it in the comments, or follow us on social media @AuburnCampusRec.
Be well, Auburn.
Photography: Grace H.