When it comes to running, chances are you belong to one of two teams: you hate it, or you love it. Maybe you think there’s no way you could ever be that person who runs and actually enjoys it. That’s what I used to think.
It’s not that I used to despise running (I’ve always been active and even had a brief stint on my school’s cross country team in eighth grade), but for years I believed I wasn’t good at it. I thought running required professional training and superhuman endurance.
When I was 19, my dad organized a community event and invited anyone who wanted to join to participate in a 2K swim, 5K run, and 17K bike ride on the same day. I told him I would participate in the swim and maybe the bike ride portion.
On the morning of the event, men, women, and children of all fitness levels showed up. It was a beautiful summer day in northern Ontario. Someone convinced me to join in the run. I remember saying to myself, “Even if you have to slow down or stop, just keep putting one foot in front of the other.”
I concentrated on the music playing in my headphones, the nature around me, and the community I was surrounded by. Before I knew what happened, I managed to run the whole thing without stopping. It was like a lightbulb went off in my head: I can run!
For years that’s how it went. I didn’t love running, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other. When I was overwhelmed in college, running made me feel more relaxed and focused. Joining a running club introduced me to new people. When I started working full-time, running gave my eyes a break and pushed me to get outside and stay physically fit after hours spent at the computer. Completing my first half-marathon gave me the confidence to create even bigger goals for myself in all areas of my life.
For example, I have a goal to run a marathon one day. If I can train for that, I can certainly challenge myself to practice better daily habits, listen and learn attentively, and push through difficult projects at work, all qualities that help me become a better leader.
It wasn’t always fun or easy (I still won’t run outside in freezing weather), but showing up for myself in this way eventually became a habit. I went from disliking running to tolerating it, to loving it.
These days, similar to several years ago, I use running as a tool to keep both physically fit and mentally strong. It’s also free and allows me to watch nature and explore different neighborhoods. In a world that is changing so rapidly, running is a healthy escape.
I know everyone is different (and you should be active in a way that makes sense for you), but I strongly believe you don’t have to love running in order to get started.
Start with a pair of running shoes and a buddy, and see where it takes you. While you’re at it, check out our favorite organizations making a difference:
Girls on the Run – A non-profit, non-competitive program based in the U.S. that works to empower girls by focusing on the development of physical and emotional habits through interactive lessons and running games.
261 Fearless – A global non-profit organization that empowers women to run through educational programs and running clubs.
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