On Becoming a Runner: The first twenty minutes are the hardest

After my medically-induced running hiatus this winter into spring, I am starting to run again, and it is SO painful. My body is woefully out of shape. It reminds me of starting running, and I wanted to share some pearls of wisdom:

(1) You DO have a runner’s body

Some body types are naturally faster than others, or can handle long distances with less cross training and slow mileage creep-ups. But guess what? None of that matters. You get to run for you, not for other people and certainly not for those who won a genetic lottery. Go your pace, and you will be a hell of a lot faster and go a hell of a lot farther than those that never even start. Do you have a body? Yes? And do you run? Then you have a runner’s body!

Of course, there are indeed a very small percentage of people who cannot run, and only a trained orthopedic doctor, physical therapist, or sports medicine doctor can advise you on this. Note that I do not say “any doctor.” If you suspect that you might have a back or knee injury that keeps you from full mobility, you should see a specialist before ruling anything out. I cannot tell you the number of people I meet who were told that running was “dangerous” by their PCP for reasons not based on science or logic or anything worth following.

(2) Running for 20 minutes for the first time is AS HARD AS IT GETS.

Really. Training to run 20 minutes will be more painful than training to run for 2 hours. That first 2 miles you put in, you will think, “PEOPLE DO THIS? WHY DO PEOPLE DO THIS?” Keep going. Remember that this is your body getting used to something new. You will not regret it.

I remember the first time I tried to run for 20 minutes straight and I thought I had entered a hell dimension. It took me months, and I was so proud. This week I worked up from 5 minutes to 10 minutes of running in four days. Next week we’ll do 20, and from there I know I will be quickly doing 3, 4, 5 miles and beyond.

(3) You’re not running against the other runners, you are running against the voice in your head that tells you to stop

This voice will be strong sometimes. This voice does not know what it is talking about. Mental toughness is as important as physical toughness when it comes to running. This is not to say that every run is going to be painful, but there will be points in your runs where you are like, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING, DEBBIE?” And remember that feeding this voice will only lead you to a dark, giving-up kind of place. Overcoming that voice will bring you a sense of pride that will awe you.

So, what?

So, start. Everyone (nearly) can be a runner. YOU can be a runner. You do not need to be the fastest, best, most amazing runner, but you can train for a 5k or a 13.1 or anything you wish. You are actually the only restrictive force in this equation.

Here are some great beginner guides:

Happy Running,


5 thoughts on “On Becoming a Runner: The first twenty minutes are the hardest

  1. My problem is that voice in my head. I can’t seem to shut it off. What are some of the things you do to turn it off?


    1. Great question! For me, I treat it like when my mind wanders during yoga or meditation. I acknowledge my negative thought as just that: a thought. I know that the reality is that this is something I can do. Runners world has a nice article on overcoming negative thinking: http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/beat-mental-roadblocks-on-the-run

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love love love! And thanks for the shoutout to PT.
    It really does amaze me how often I encounter blanket beliefs that certain types of activity are dangerous, even for people in overall good health. For most* people, a properly graded introduction to exercise of any type, with good form, is wonderful for health promotion and improving an overall sense of well-being. That being said, there are always individual considerations (health conditions, injuries, etc.) that may affect the right path for each person. As Cassie said, activity recommendations should always be made based on the confluence of individual factors, and healthcare professionals are here to help – just ask us – we want you to be well!
    Cheers, and happy running! Go feel like a rockstar. 🙂


  3. I think we all struggle with the voice in our head from time to time. Great words of advice. http://www.runningtohappiness.wordpress.com


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