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Why I Run Even Though I Dread It

tracksmith running

There are always so many reasons not to…

Take this morning. I had to drive my daughter to school earlier than usual. I was behind on two work assignments that were due yesterday. I ran a few times this week already. I’d have to fish a sports bra out of the hamper. I feel a tickle in my throat. It’s cold. It’s windy. It’s Thursday.

Mostly though there’s this: I don’t really want to.

I’ve been a regular runner since I was in high school (that’s 30-plus years if anyone’s counting), which, the more I think about it, is kind of incredible, because more often than not, I dread those first few creaky strides on the trail…like pit-in-the-stomach dread. Before every run, I seem to dream up a whole new list of excuses not to do it. And yet somehow, like this morning, I manage to lace up my Sauconys, press record on Strava, and log my three or four or five miles anyway. How is this possible? How do I stay motivated to do something I dread?

The famous novelist Haruki Murakami wrote an entire book exploring the “Why I run?” question and I always come back to this quote: “Running every day is a kind of lifeline for me, so I’m not going to lay off or quit just because I’m busy. If I used being busy as an excuse not to run, I’d never run again. I have only a few reasons to keep on running, and a truckload of them to quit. All I can do is keep those few reasons nicely polished.”

All I can do is keep those few reasons nicely polished. Lately, the reason I’ve been polishing and polishing and polishing is this one: There’s no other workout that has such a direct effect on my mood as a run — not yoga, not barre, not pilates, not strength-training or tennis or power-walking. I’ve tried them all. When I was younger, I might’ve told you I kept up my running so I could enjoy a second slice of pie with no guilt. But these days, the only perks I’m interested in are psychological. “You’re only one workout away from a good mood,” the white board says in dry-erase marker at my gym where I’ll run on a treadmill if it’s raining outside, and as Pinterest-y as it sounds, it’s true. (As is the converse: When I don’t exercise, beware the monster. Just ask my husband.) If the starting line is all panic and nausea, the finish line is all cheek tingles and exhilaration. The blood is pumping, the endorphins are coursing. Sometimes, I swear I can hear a pre-boxing-match ding-ding-ding in my brain signaling GO TIME. Add a post-run cup of coffee to the equation and I’m unstoppable.

So, yeah, when I say I dread running, what I really mean is: There’s nothing that makes me happier.

P.S. My marathon-running friend Rachel gave me a useful motivational trick. When you’re not in the mood to run, tell yourself Just do seven minutes. If you’re still not feeling it after that, you can quit. With me, what ends up happening is that once I hit seven minutes, I don’t want to stop listening to a podcast or I’m in a groove — and I just keep going. Works every time.

(Photo from the wonderful Tracksmith.)

  1. @Jenny Rosenstrach- How many days a week do you run. I think this article just inspired me to start!

  2. I just started running again after a 25-year break (I’m 47). It’s going well, no injuries (I have some professional training support in these early days) and I’m loving it.

  3. Danielle says...

    I just ran for the first time in 3 years. I ran 5x a week for 15 years and had to stop because of some health problems I had when I was pregnant with my first baby. Well my second baby is now 10 months and I surprised my husband and myself today by saying I was going for a run. I told myself I would walk most of the time but I ran for 35 mins. Thanks for this article it was the nudge I needed to get back out there.

  4. anna maria says...

    “I’d have to fish a sports bra out of the hamper”…STORY OF MY LIFE.

    Thanks for sharing this great piece. I am no longer a regular runner, but I’ve replaced it with yoga and find similar benefits. Sometimes I just have to tell myself “It’s ok to just do savasana”, but then of course I end up doing more (all while wearing a gross, sweaty sports bra fished out of the hamper…)

    • Karinny says...

      Now I just go into the shower wearing it and wash it right there :)

  5. Kristin says...

    Sometimes I have to tell myself, “Don’t think, just go.” Works every time.

  6. Emily says...

    I started running after the birth of my second daughter. It saved my sanity. To be able to get outside and spend time doing something that was just for me felt freeing. When I started, she was 8 months old and I felt sluggish and like my bladder would fall out, but I stuck with it and have even run a half marathon. This is a great and relatable read!

  7. Samantha says...

    Such great timing! I literally went for my first run this morning, on my 45th birthday! I’m a lifelong swimmer but decided maybe I should try something new before it was too late (kidding, sort of) and today was a good day to try. I was surprised to find that I enjoyed it (ok, I only ran/walked 20 minutes but still! I did it!). Love reading the great comments here too. I’m new to this blog but the community seems very positive.

    • Jana says...

      Good for you!

  8. J Laughren says...

    I had my worst run ever last night. Thank you,thank you for this! I was seriously doubting my ability and strength to run my marathon in January. You’ve just given me hope! And a swift kick in the butt!

  9. this has absolutely motivated me to start running again! i feel so much stronger, mentally and physically, when i’m running regularly.

  10. Alice says...

    I’ve always been an on-off runner, but have run consistently for the last two months and OH MY GOD it’s the best thing ever for my mental health. I quite often really don’t enjoy the first ten minutes- but I tell myself “even Paula Radcliffe probably hates the first ten minutes”, and by the time those are done, I’m in a groove and just crack on with it!!!!

  11. That’s a good trick – the 7 minute rule.
    I work out 6 days a week because if I don’t I know I’ll feel it that day. Not in being sore, but in itching to move. It will plague me.
    I think all of us have bodies meant to move and to not do so each day is to neglect an integral part of our being.

  12. Thanks for sharing! That was me this morning because it’s so stinkin’ cold. BUT I did it anyway for several reasons. For one, my dog will pace the house all night if he doesn’t get to go for a run and for two I know that I never regret it, I ALWAYS feel better after being active.
    Something that works really well for me to keep at it, is mixing it up. I don’t do the same run every single day. I go to different areas, I’ll do hill sprints, I’ll do “drills” on the local football field, I’ll go up a mountain. It keeps me from just going through the motions.

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      I do this too Hannah. Maybe not the hill sprints (!) but I mix up the routes as much as possible. It definitely helps!

  13. Claire says...

    I love running but I find weather constantly sidetracking me. How does everyone listen to phone and run in rain in wet weather?
    Also, not sure if this is allowed, but anyone have a moderately priced treadmill to recommend? There are so many hard to know what to choose.

    • Stephanie Williams says...

      I put my phone in a ziplock bag, it’s not ideal, but that then tucked away in a pocket it has been OK, and it rains alot in England! Look forward to seeing if there are any better remedies out there though…..

    • Liz says...

      I just don’t bring my phone if it’s raining! It actually can be really peaceful and extra stress-relieving to not be listening to anything during your run (I used to NEED music or some other distraction, but I’ve learned to appreciate quiet runs too after losing my headphones a handful of times).

      I have a water resistant jacket and I feel fine even in cold rainy weather (assuming I’m also wearing gloves and something covering my ears.) Always bring a credit card or cash though for peace of mind.

    • jaime says...

      There are also armband options that are waterproof. I’m not sure if they have Running Room in the States (I’m from Canada), but I bought mine for around $60 (CAD) and it’s protected my phone (with headphones plugged in!) when it was absolutely teeming out.

  14. Nicole says...

    Same, same, same! I have been running since HS XC, which I HATED so much, but I am forever grateful for the experience that began a lifelong love/dread affair with running. For so many years, I just forced myself to run, but only a few miles at a time and quite slowly. I enticed myself with music from my discman, then MP3 player, and eventually iPod (see, it’s been a long time). I only ran alone, and I mostly hated it though I always felt better afterward.

    In my 30’s, I started to enjoy running more, and since becoming a mom, I have truly fallen in love. My first run post-partum was like a rebirth- like, oh yeah, this is who I am, even though my body is about 80% different. And now that I am in the midst of my second pregnancy, running makes me feel at home in my ever changing body. And though I am 20+ years older than my HS self, I am running faster and further than ever (well, at least before I got pregnant haha).

    My tips: make a playlist you love or save your favorite podcasts for your run, join a running group (the highlight of my week is my group run), and remember that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing- you can not run for a while and then start again- it’s ok! Running is not going anywhere:)

  15. Anonymous says...

    A previous roommate of mine was obsessed with running. Not that she liked it, but said the same thing – she needed to do it for her mental health. She just wouldn’t be as happy if she didn’t run, so forced herself to do it every day.
    Cut to a few years later, after taking a forced break due to an unrelated injury, she says it was an addiction. She feels so much calmer now that she has broken out of her obsession. She is able to go with the flow, keep or break her plans, still is healthy and exercising, but is just at peace whether she runs or not. Obviously, there are way worse things to be addicted to than running, but anything that is compulsive, obsessive or controls your mood that much, I don’t know. I think balance and flexibility are things to work towards.
    Also – is anyone just really worried about joints and the impact on your body? I have been fitted for the best shoes multiple times, and my body just hurts in a different/bad way when I run – not a good muscle sore like when you have a really great workout.

    • Laura Krieger says...

      I also struggled with addictive behavior with working out. I used to have to work out everyday, or otherwise *everything* would be awful and I would feel like I was spinning out of control. It got to the point where on the weekends I would book pilates, then spin, then yoga to accumulate points in whatever little scorecard I was keeping in my head.

      For me, its been an exercise in learning to acknowledge that somedays my schedule won’t permit it, or “I don’t really want to” and that that’s ok. I’m not in as good of shape these days, but mentally I’m in a healthier spot.

  16. Alyssa says...

    For me, rock climbing was my running, though I always loved being there. However, it requires someone to be with you to belay you and when my best friend and belayer got pregnant, my climbing stopped. I’m far to introverted to just randomly ask another climber at the gym to help me, so I haven’t been back. And it stinks! It was the one way my brain could completely shut off. Yoga helps, but it’s still not the same.

    • Zoe says...

      A lot of rock climbing gyms have self belaying mechanisms now – might be worth checking to see if you can find a gym that has some near you!

  17. Kate says...

    Thank you for this! I just started training for a half marathon in February as a fundraiser for the foundation my friend started for a friend who passed in July and it is SO hard. I’m not a runner, but I can’t think of a better reason to get out there. The mood thing is serious, and I’d kind of like to think it’s helping me too personally with that.
    https://www.gwenevieremann.org/ If you’re interested in checking out the schedule of national marathons.

  18. S.A says...

    So many great comments… but I have yet to see/hear of anyone whose body physically cant handle exercise. Apparently, my body thinks its being attacked when the blood starts rushing through my veins… think hives, light-headedness, nausea, extreme itching/redness on my arms and legs. I can counteract it somewhat with an antihistamine beforehand, but nothing seems to work that effectively.
    Yoga, and some weight lifting seem to be the only forms of exercise I’ve found that I can do consistently.
    Anyone else experience this? Or have any insights for me?

    • Lee says...

      Exercise induced urticaria. I take any 24 hr non-drowsy OTC antihistamine everyday.

    • Erzsi says...

      I don’t have any insights beyond the antihistamine trick, unfortunately, but wanted to comment to say that you aren’t alone! I get terribly itchy hives and a rash all over when I do cardio (which I do every day) and temperature changes seem to make them worse. It’s ok to listen to your body and do what feels right for you–yoga and weight lifting are both great activities. Keep trying different workouts and embrace what works for you. You can also try cataloging your diet and see if there are any foods that seem to make the flare-ups worse.

    • China says...

      This sounds just like Cholinergic urticaria! My husband had it for a number of years and was proscribed low doses of loratadine (generic Claritin). After about 18 months his basically went away, but I don’t know how common that is. I remember it being really awful though!

    • S.A says...

      Thank you all for your comments and support- it’s good to know that there are others out there too!
      I’m told that I just need to push through the discomfort/dizziness in order to keep fit, but haven’t been able to make it happen. Even speed walking is hard some days…

    • Bronwyn says...

      I didn’t realize other people got itchy with running! It’s the WORST feeling ever. Thanks for bringing this up, guess I will try the antihistamines everyone recommended! I like running, but the idea of getting itchy stresses me out so much, I’ve scratched myself so hard I’ve bled before!

    • Sadie says...

      I used to get itchy legs when running. I follow a low-histamine diet now– amazing how many little problems it has cleared up– migraines, hay fever, digestive trouble, etc. Wish more people knew about histamine overload; it makes such a difference to have it under control!

    • Yep – happens to me too. The itchy legs are SO painful! I can’t even go for walks. I hate taking antihistamines every day, so I, too, do primarily yoga and weight training for exercise.

    • Lucy says...

      I also have exercise induced urticaria and it takes a variety of things to manage it, and it doesn’t always work every day. So it’s also an exercise (ha) with also being fine with whatever my body is telling me. Some days I can push through it and it’s ok, some days it escalates into pain… I feel ya. I have a pretty severe case and sometimes cannot walk because of it — a tricky thing when you are a college professor going from building to building.

      One thing I’d also note is whether you just generally are worse at processing histamines. I have always had issues exercising, but I didn’t have allergies until I moved to the Southeast where the pollen load is unreal. I’ve found on days with heavy environmental allergen loads my body says a good “NOPE” to cardio — essentially it’s already too overstretched with what I’m breathing in to even deal with the running induced itchiness.

      The antihistamine is pretty important. I do generic Zyrtec from Costco — so cheap and actually makes the whole membership worth it just for that one bottle. I also have a prescription antihistamine that takes about 2 weeks to build up in your system, but it’s been helpful for me with the environmental allergies — I have Singulair (generic name: montelukast). I have always been a strict “nothing in my system” person, but honestly, a daily antihistamine helps my quality of life so much, and especially if I know I’m going to do some cardio. I’m still super considered about what else I put in my body, but this has been useful.

      Same with managing big temperature changes (cold temps and the drop to 50-60F are particularly bad for me). I also find that if my skin is dry/not moisturized, I have worse reactions (probably to skin rubbing against clothes, etc.). Watch tags and how your clothes fit — too tight is no bueno. I also found my optimal level of being covered up for working out outside — exposed skin has a hard time for me.

      I also think that it is totally ok to find alternate things to cardio workouts. I’ve found that interval training has been great at increasing my level of strength/fitness while minimizing the itchiness I’d get from running, Zumba, etc. Also, any movement is better than no movement!

      There was one period of my life where I was able to run regularly. It took a lot of self control and also a lot of working up to it, as well as a unique mental state (my max was 5 miles, I prepared and ran a 8k with my roommate as a way to take my mind off a bad breakup). I found the response reduced over time with consistent working out, but it wasn’t a linear improvement (e.g. every day wasn’t better!). Some days I’d go out to run and after 1/4 a mile would have to say “nope!” and head back home. Even after all that prep I never enjoyed running, so after giving it the “old college try” I figured it just wasn’t my thing :) AND THAT’S FINE!!!

      Good luck!

  19. Allison says...

    bookmarking this so i can read it each time i simply don’t want to.

    my Boston marathon training starts on Monday (!!!) and the amount of dread i feel about the 500+ miles that are between me and the finish line on race day feels quite heavy. however – i’m running on a charity team to raise $ for Dana Farber cancer institute, which is what keeps it all in perspective for me. i’m running for the people who would do anything to get up and out of their hospital bed to move and run and breathe fresh air. i consider running almost like a type of gratitude prayer. each step or mile is a physical way of saying “thank you. thank you for this healthy body and this health mind. i promise i will take care of it.”

    in case anyone is feeling a random act of kindness, here is my fundraising page :) — http://danafarber.jimmyfund.org/site/TR?px=1075070&fr_id=1110&pg=personal&s_hasSecureSession=true

  20. Kerrie says...

    I try to run a few times a week and days after work I always dread it. I use that trick though and say to myself “just go run a mile and if you hate it you can stop.” Usually I go past the mile because its just getting over that little hump of “starting”. But there has been plenty of times I will just do that one mile and then walk on an incline or something for twenty minutes. Better than nothing!!

  21. Morgan says...

    I’m currently pregnant with my first and have been a runner my whole adult life, I thought for sure I would be able to stick with it and just run slower or maybe just not as far, but I have been having pelvic pain after runs and have had to dial it waaaay back and it is really throwing my for a loop. As the author says beware the monster! Any suggestions for alternatives? I have mostly been walking…

    • Rose says...

      Yoga and swimming!

    • Susie says...

      I stopped running during my pregnancies and for a year after each while I breastfeed. I was so worried about gaining weight and not being able to get back to my current fitness level. Neither of these were a problem. My advice would be to enjoy your pregnancies, walk if you want, but don’t stress that you can’t run. You body is going through an amazing time. Enjoy it! Congratulations!

  22. Sarah says...

    Running has always been my exercise of choice – I’ve never been an extreme running nut, but just a pretty regular runner for the last 10 years or so.

    I have been working in a developing country for the last 5 months where it isn’t safe for me to go out running and trying to adapt to this has been one of the greatest challenges. Like so many other commenters have said, running is as much about mental health as it is about physical, so not having this as a coping mechanism in my new situation has felt like a double blow.

    I have been trying to do at-home workouts with online videos or apps, which is alright, but just not the same. Does anyone have any suggestions of what feels like a good running substitute? Something to do indoors with little to no equipment?

    • Amanda says...

      This is a hard one! There’s cycling (which requires equipment). The only substitute I can think of is cleaning, cooking, or baking in addition to doing the online videos and apps. Which I get is totally off the wall. But, all of those things give me the same sense of accomplishment as running and require similar mental focus. And, I feel like I’m going somewhere and doing something with each of those activities.

    • Sarah says...

      You know, Amanda, I love your response! Looking at things holistically is super important wgen trying to get your needs met and I don’t know it didn’t click that way for exercise. I also love cooking, so I’m going to start being a bit more intentional about it. Thank you :)

    • Bronwyn says...

      Lots of burpees! TABATA workouts. Jump rope!

    • Sarah says...

      Bronwyn, thank you! I recently picked up a jump rope but have just been looking at it, not sure how to dive in. You have inspired me to get into it – today’s the day! :)

    • Taylor says...

      Running is my zen place and little else does it for me. The two next best are cooking like mentioned above. Not a regular just dinner, but a new recipe, technique, flavors. I once spent a weekend trying to master Macarons! Also, power yoga. I find a quick paced, deep stretch yoga class gives me similar claryto running. Good luck!

    • Sarah says...

      Taylor – I so appreciate your advice! Sometimes it’s hard to start something new when it just seems like there’s an endless amount of choice. But finding someone who “gets” the same thing out of running – well that advice seems like a good place to start! Thank you :)

  23. Dame says...

    It is an addiction.
    Just like every other addiction it has positive and negative implications.

  24. Lara says...

    Starting running for the first ever this summer with the gentle nudging of my best friend. It has positively changed my life and I can’t imagine I will ever stop. In an utter shitstorm of a year, it’s been the silver lining. To anyone reading this article and these comments wondering whether to start or start up again, do it.

  25. Carrie says...

    Running to you is swimming to me. Why on earth would I want to squeeze into a bathing suit, get into cold water on a winter night, and traipse through a wet locker room with screaming children? Once I’m in there though, it’s my moving meditation. I do it for my mental health. My mantra to force myself to go is “think about how good you’ll feel afterwards, think about how good you’ll feel afterwards”, and then I have to go into robot mode and mechanically get ready all the while loudly complaining in my head.

  26. Emma says...

    The author couldn’t have said it better; exactly my sentiment about running. I recently was injured and could not run, even when I wanted to very badly. A routine has been broken and I have been out of sorts to the point of needing therapy. I tried other cross-training cardio, but nothing can replace running. As I get older, it is harder to run as much as I used to. And the reasons for running changed from wanting to eat whatever I want to just wanting to feel good and alive. Love running before sunrise, running in the dark (yes in Central Park and Prospect Park!) in the snow, in the rain, feeling strong and bad ass. You took the words right out of my mind about the husband knowing when we need a run to improve our mood. Running is in my blood. I will never stop running.

  27. Gwen says...

    Ever so grateful to read this post. I’m not a runner but recently restarted a 30min workout session – 6 days a week. Every day I make excuses not to workout and everyday (like tonight), I wanted to go to bed (hard day at work etc) BUT I laced up my shoes and pressed
    play (workout vid). I think about work and I lift harder, swing my arms faster as if I was hitting the people that contributed to my stressful day at work. After each workout, I know I took care of myself…even though it was just 30 mins.
    Mama to three beautiful boys
    12, 9, 20 months.

  28. Jules says...

    Love this. My endorphin high workout is boxing, and after two years away I finally went back to a class tonight. I was never good and am *so* rusty – but leaning into a workout I’m bad at feels oddly therapeutic; forces me to let go off anxious perfectionism and just zen out, hitting a heavy bag. Highly recommend!

    • Kimberley says...

      Yes Jules! I took up boxing with a friend about 2 months ago and I’ve never loved something so much. It’s also in a language that I don’t speak fluently so the whole thing is this great challenge, and I don’t think of a single other worry/task while I’m there.

  29. Christine says...

    I spent half of today wearing running clothes but putting off going out between rain showers. After lunch, I sat down with my laptop and pulled up CoJ and saw this post. I only read the first few sentences before realizing instead of reading about running, I should actually go run. Thank you for the motivation to get out the door today!

  30. Nikki B says...

    Last winter when I found out my boyfriend was deploying to Afghanistan (he left this fall) I told myself, as he gears up and trains to leave, you’re training for a marathon (I had previously run 3 half marathons). I trained: I ran on the beach and ran with him and ran in the dark and ran in the rain and ran the day he left and the day after and the day after. And then I ran the marathon. Man did I ugly cry at the end. My parents were there, his parents were there. I did it. I will get through the deployment the same way I got through the run, with the people I love by my side, but mostly by just putting one foot in front of the other.

    • Jackie Korey says...

      Nikki I love this and hope the best for you and your boyfriend! My little sister just found out her fiance will be deployed (he leaves in January) and I want to encourage her to set a goal for herself like this to help her get through the next year!

  31. claire says...

    Thanks for this. I’m a palliative medicine doctor, just reading this while eating dinner after a night time run around Central Park. I also had a million reasons to not run tonight: I have notes to finish, it’s late, I’m tired, I wake up early tomorrow. But I went, and running is so damn hard it forced my brain to finally shut up. Before I left the hospital I said goodbye to my patient who will likely die before morning. And as I rounded the reservoir to see the city lights I realized all (all!) I was thinking about was my own steady rhythm of breath and feet. And I felt so deeply grateful to be in this body that moves and feels.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what a beautiful comment, claire. thank you so much for sharing this.

    • Me says...

      That was so deeply moving. Needed that slice of reality tonight. Thank you Claire

    • Emma says...

      Yes, I love your comment Claire. The reason we run is to feel alive, and be thankful of that. Thank you.

    • Lauren says...

      Well that comment just got better and better . . . thank you for writing that.

    • agnes says...

      Thank you for what you do Claire!

  32. S says...

    This might be too embarrassing, but do any of you have incontinance problems when running?? This is why I tell myself I can’t- I think I’d like it, but peeing myself during my workout makes me stop every time!

    • Lyn says...

      I certainly do. So you are not alone.
      My pelvic floor was completely shot by pregnancy and childbirth. I was super stubborn and ran well into my second trimester, hiding it from my pilates instructor until she saw me running on the street. Some people can get away with it… but it does risk weakening an already stressed pelvic floor. Birth was mildly traumatic for my pelvic floor… so 2 years later… I can only run on the treadmill (lower impact than the road)… and not for long. I am trying to work up to greater distances again. Everytime I see a runner on the road… I get jealous. That will never be me again.

      Some people are runners. Some people aren’t. It’s OK if you can’t run. Just find another thing that is you. I have a swimmer friend who thinks running is insane. But apparently swimming laps is OK? LOL.

    • Nora says...

      You might want to look into seeing someone who can help with pelvic floor exercises. Steph Bruce, an amazing professional distance runner, writes about some of her issues with incontinence (and other post partum stuff): https://www.stephbruce.com/blog/2018/8/19/dr-in-my-own-experience

    • S, I saw a wonderful physical therapist after my youngest daughter was born (I have 5 kids) and it was such a transformation – I am finally able to ease back into running and other workouts. I hate that it took me five kids to figure out that it didnt have to be my new normal! But better late than never. Ask your mom friends for a pelvic floor pt referral.

    • Allison says...

      It depends on the severity, but something like Thinx underwear can be a game changer!

    • Jill says...

      S – I am a female pelvic surgeon and specialize in treating women with incontinence and other pelvic floor disorders. I see several women a day who have incontinence with exercise. My mantra is this is “common but not normal”. There are all types of treatments from the physical therapy mentioned already to over the counter vaginal inserts to surgery. I would encourage you to look at http://www.voicesforpfd.org for a provider who can help. This is such a common but hidden issue. Thank you for bringing it up. I am happy to help find someone in your area, if you would like (we are a relatively small sub-specialty)

    • Hani says...

      Mutu system allllllllll the way, all the way.
      (I don’t run anymore, but this program was miraculous for my post partum incontinence and diastasis recti. Really, worth every single penny and 10 times more.)

    • Anon says...

      Not incontinence but my knees have still not recovered from pregnancy nearly a year and a half later… I’m still breastfeeding so holding out hope that everything will improve when I stop nursing. I can hardly take two steps of a run without pain and I miss it so very much.

    • Blandine says...

      I want to echo Jenny’s point, yes it doesn’t have to be the new normal. Physical therapy does wonders for your pelvic floor. I would suggest you look into it, your quality of life, self confidence and even your sex life will thank you for it!

    • M says...

      Hi S, from a fellow embarrassed first-initial-only commenter ;-) I had a baby 18 months ago and I know I need to do some work to get my pelvic floor back in shape. I’m pretty sure I have “diastisis recti” (google it) and a colleague recommended a system called MUTU by a Brit called Wendy Powell. I haven’t signed up for her program, still considering it, but there are LOTS of articles on her blog about exactly this topic. This quote stood out:

      “If you need to wear a pad to do any type of exercise, your body is telling you it is not ready to do that exercise right now. Leaking is a red flag, it’s your body letting you know that something is not okay, that it can’t cope with what you’re asking it to do. You need to back up and build the foundations first. So that you can. And if you keep asking it to do that thing regardless, before it’s ready, you will cause greater issues in the long term.”

      Personally I’m committed to building that inner strength before I go back to any kind of high impact exercise. I’ve also heard good things about working with a specialist physio to work on pelvic floor issues. Hope you find the thing that works for you.

    • Kimberley says...

      Love this community! A reader concerned with incontinence is responded to by another reader who happens to be a female pelvic surgeon – the most gorgeous thing on the internet today!

  33. Rosa says...

    Looove this post. My pinteresty quote is “I regret that workout, said no one ever”.

  34. Hey, I really needed to read this,- That’s right,- get those running shoes on,- no matter what comes your way,- year in, year out,- running is something you can count on. It definitely makes me in a better mood and I can see the difference everytime.
    Thanks for the boost!
    -a fellow runner (who also ran in high school over 30 yrs ago☺)

  35. rachel says...

    What a great post!!!

  36. Alex says...

    Truth!!!!

  37. Jeannie says...

    Wow. I really needed. this post especially the 7 minute trick. Thank you!!!

  38. Jen says...

    To all the people who want to run but can’t stick to it or whatever – maybe you ain’t a runner. I’m not a runner. But I exercise almost every day. The trick is to find something you like to do. The way I tricked myself into this, was to remove all my excuses. I made it stupid easy (in my house) and fun (Cathe Friedrich OnDemand). Weight training, boxing, kickboxing, all manner of cardio, yoga, barre – it’s endless. And fun. And yes, major psych benefits.

  39. Mary from NJ says...

    I’m 62 with not so great feet anymore so now I’m a walker instead of runner. But I can totally relate to having to push yourself to do it. I find getting home from work, go right upstairs, put your walking clothes on and walk out the door is the best strategy. Do not put a load of clothes in the laundry, do not empty the dishwasher, do not even think about prepping dinner. Even when it’s cold and dark, there’s still a calmness that comes over me when I’m outside just looking at the sky and switching from work to home mode. I think women need to give themselves permission to carve out a little time for themselves. I ALWAYS feel better after walking.

  40. Meredith says...

    Reading this made me feel really sad! I’ve run for 10 years consistently, and it has been such a lifeline for me — mood balancer, energizer, my “me time,” all the rest. But earlier this year, I had a super stressful and disruptive few months that completely upended any sense of a normal schedule. I ended up doing some barre, yoga, and walking, but it’s not the same! And now that things are calmer, I keep getting minor injuries when I try to ease back in to running. So this piece made me a little weepy, as I’ve been realizing recently just how much I miss running and how frustrating it is to not be able to do the thing I love. I so wish it were just a matter of motivation, just a matter of getting through those 7 minutes and keeping going. Listening to our bodies, and giving them space to heal and restore when they need it, can be really hard. It seems to me that balancing gentleness and compassion with drive and discipline is important–for running, and for so much of life!

    • Emma says...

      I am in the same boat as you – injured and can’t run and it breaks my heart. Tried other things but they’re not the same. I feel your frustration!

  41. Emily says...

    I just went for a run after reading this. Every time I run I think, why the heck don’t I do this every day. And then repeat 2 months later. I think for me, framing it as beneficial for mental health is more productive than thinking about physical fitness, because you can’t become physically fit in one run, but you can improve your mood for the whole day. Hope I can hang onto this and get into a pattern…

  42. Laura says...

    Running has been my savior to bad moods and the winter sads, and I think what has really helped me stick to it is to 1. have a goal (5k, half marathon) to work toward, and 2. an accountabili-buddy to keep you honest. Unfortunately, my accountabili-buddy just moved to Japan (if you’re in Brooklyn and want a running buddy, *hand raise*)

    After I completed my first half marathon goal in October that I worked for all summer, I decided to go all out—I’m training for my first ultra-marathon in May (50 miles, what!), and I couldn’t be more excited for it. I can’t wait to see what my body is capable of!

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      MIC DROP LAURA!

    • Bronwyn in Brooklyn says...

      We should start a Cup of Jo “runners” weekly run and coffee!

  43. Kim says...

    I really want to start running. I loved pushing myself to go as fast as I could as a kid. I did pick up jogging, but have since had two kids and well….

    Is jogging = running or not? Someone please illuminate this life mystery for me.

    • Emily says...

      Jogging is totally running! And if you want to cover longer distances, pacing yourself is key.

    • Sarah says...

      I think jogging is running, but in terms of semantics running is more serious than jogging. My dad will always refer to somebody as a “jogger” and I’m like NO! They are RUNNING! They’re a RUNNER! You are, too!

    • Amanda says...

      I had the same question. I read a meme somewhere “I RUN. Like a heard of turtles stampeding through peanut butter, but I RUN” – this is so me :)

    • Liz says...

      I’ve always considered jogging to be if you’re leisurely running without regard to how long it takes you to get from point a to b. Running, on the otherhand, requires one to take into account time/speed. I think it’s just a matter of intent — maybe I’m wrong though, who knows?

  44. Now in my 40’s, i have also been running for most of my adult life. I completely identify with everything you have written Jenny. I try to remind myself – A run will ALWAYS make you feel better. My Garmin watch and Strava have been a game changer in motivating me. I like to keep track of my weekly milage (as long as its a round number of course- I have seen myself doing laps of my cul-de-sac just to round up from 2.96 to 3 miles!)

  45. Julie says...

    I love everyone’s exercise motivational strategies here! My doctor told me that “The best form of exercise is the one you’ll do consistently. Period.” That helped me a lot. I have found that deep water exercise (with foam dumbbells) is my soulmate: easy on joints, no uncomfortable sweating, but lots of calorie burn and muscle strengthening!

    • Loren says...

      CONTRA DANCING.

  46. Maureen says...

    I have always wanted to be a runner but I just can’t motivate myself. I am 40 this year and know I need to start a regular exercise routine but I always make an excuse. Two kids, full time job, grad school, dinner, laundry, blah blah. My mom tells me she set her alarm early every morning for 8 years and just hit the snooze and never got up. But then one day, for no particular reason, she got up and ran and didn’t stop. I hope that will be me soon too. Props to all of you who are out there!

    • Tracey says...

      You might not be a runner and that’s ok. Is there something else you better connect with? Dancing, gardening, boxing?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      maureen, i just started a weekly tennis class this fall and it’s really fun. it doesn’t feel even like exercise because your mind is so focused on hitting the ball, and i play with some neighborhood women so it’s social, too. maybe something like that would sound fun?

    • AN says...

      Jo, I have been wanting to take a tennis class for 100 years and based on your comment, I finally went and signed up, starts Jan. 10, SO EXCITED!!!

  47. Anne says...

    I actually just started getting in to running. I did a walk-to-run thing at my workplace, mainly for the benefit of a friend of mine, but ended up actually kind of loving it. I am super slow though. I just think of it like Caroline said, like bouncy walking. But it just got properly cold and snowy here and now I’m scared to go out and slip on ice…. it’s bumming me out because I actually miss it! (If you could tell 20 year old me that I would miss running she would just laaaaaaaaaugh.) I have to figure out something though because I signed up for my first half marathon next May! Any advice for dark/cold/snowy running would be greatly appreciated.

    • michaela says...

      You may want to look into YakTrax or something similar! I use traction devices that fit over my hiking boots for icy conditions, but I think there are some available that are designed specifically for running in. And of course, when it gets dark so early, a headlamp is super helpful and reflective clothing is essential. When I used to run, I had a headlamp that I could adjust downward towards my feet to illuminate the sidewalk, and a reflective vest with blinking lights so I knew that motorists could see me.

    • Christi says...

      Anne, not sure where you live but in Anchorage, AK (where I am), IceBug shoes are really popular for running and walking on ice. They have metal studs in the soles that work better than YakTrax or other removable cleats. One local running store will add studs to any pair of running shoes for $10. Might be work checking in your area to see if that’s an option. As far as running in the dark – headlights, reflective vests, neon clothing – anything to make sure I can see and others can see me!

    • Em says...

      If you have ice and slushy conditions, YakTrax or another type of clip on spikes would be great.
      I don’t use them, but I change my gait when it’s snowing (and a bit when it’s raining, bc rain can make the roads slippery). It’s hard to explain, but I make my foot fall directly above the road, so it makes a larger print. I try to have my foot strike down so that most of my mid-foot hits the road (versus, say, running fast and having only the top half/forefront of my foot hit the pavement). It’s like making a larger footprint when you walk through water…the more of my foot on the pavement, the more stable I feel. In thick ice, I stomp through it quickly until I get back to more stable road.
      The best thing for winter running is layering up. I pile on the layers so that I’m warm – I don’t run below 22 degrees; but before that happens, another hooded sweatshirt goes on, a hat, a baclava, and gloves. Try not to stop in the winter…the wind freezes your sweat and makes you extra cold. Instead, just slow down to a slow jog if you need to…

  48. Tom Fisher says...

    Love your style of writing
    Agree to it all

  49. Ray says...

    I want to start running so bad!!but never know how?!
    which shoes to get..what gear to buy..where to run..’
    I always end up so overwhelmed reading fitness magazines and websites and give up.
    Any tips for eager but clueless enthusiast?

    • Liz says...

      my two cents: go to a running store to pick out sneakers! They will fit you in the right pair. The two running stores near my house also have treadmills with cameras hooked up to them, so you can try them on and they can watch your gait in slow motion to see which pair of shoes are ideal for your body. everyone is different when it comes to running shoes, trying them on is essential!

    • jacquie says...

      my tip is just go outside and start running! see if you can run for one minute (or 5 min, or whatever) straight, then walk. next time, try two minutes, etc. you don’t really need any fancy shoes or clothes (though honestly that does make working out in general more fun). as for location, parks with walking/jogging trails are nice (during the morning/day when they are well-lit and busy) but just running around your neighborhood works! some high schools allow non-students to use their tracks, which makes it easy to track how far you’ve run, if you’re looking to go for a specific distance.

      as for shoes, if you have the budget for it, I’d recommend going to a dedicated running store for a true fitting. usually you can try out the shoes for a week or so and see how they work and return them if they’re uncomfortable. local running stores will also have the best information about running in your city/town!

    • Anne says...

      I second the advice about buying sneakers from a running store. It’s a little pricier but worth it to prevent injury.

      Then…you just run! You don’t need any other gear. You can run around the block in your neighborhood or wherever the wind takes you. Honestly, don’t worry too much about what you “should” do. It’s not more complicated than putting on your sneakers and hitting the sidewalk.

      If you want more structure, I think Couch to 5k is a good plan for a true beginner. It eases you in by mixing walking and running so you don’t push yourself too hard when you’re just starting out.

    • Mona says...

      Don’t run in the wrong shoes. I did, on asphalt, and ended up with a cyst in my knee and a doctor telling me never to jog again.

    • Sarah says...

      Yes to the good shoes from a running store! Everything else is only a detail. I ran a couple of marathons before I considered myself serious enough to invest in “real” gear like high quality sports bras and leggings.

      One thing that a lot of new runners like to do is intervals. Run 1 min, walk 1 min. Then your next try running 2, walking 1, and bump up the interval that you run each time!! There are a lot of great running apps that can help with this!

      For me, one thing that turned me into a wannabe to an avid runner is learning how to breathe! Play around with what feel comfortable with your stride, but for me I breathe in for 2 strides, and out for 2. Some people do 3:2, some 1:1. Really focus on this (and the harder you focus, it distracts from the hurt). Eventually you won’t have to think about it anymore and running will free great. The day will come, I promise!

    • Sarah says...

      My biggest obstacle to starting running was feeling like I had to be miserable, so I’d keep running, but then because it was miserable, I wouldn’t do it again. A friend recommended the C25K app, which is supposed to help train you from a couch potato to running a 5K in 12 weeks. It’s builds really gradually and is so doable. Life changing! I have run a half marathon since and right now I’m far along in a pregnancy and am missing it SO MUCH. Having a form of exercise to love in adulthood is everything!

      Also, agreed about shoes. I finally got these that everyone seems to have any they are like clouds. So dreamy.
      https://www.amazon.com/Womens-Black-Mtllc-Silver-Running/dp/B0098SKGAE/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1543537098&sr=8-2&keywords=nike+free+run+5.0+women

    • Kate says...

      Just last week I downloaded the couch to 5k app, I was mid walk and just decided to do it. I have two small kids and ended up running with one in the pram (not a running pram) and the other on his bike….and I just started.

      It was so good!

      I picked a non hilly direction from my house and off we went. I have been four times this week and I’m just loving it….I keep thinking why didn’t I do this years ago!

      I have basic nikes, and some running leggings and I wore an old T-shirt. I probably should get some decent running shoes.

      Don’t think, just go!

    • GoBlueMom says...

      Hi Ray! As an on-again-off-again runner, I’d say… download the Nike Running Club app. You can listen to guided runs (and music) and they even have guided runs for ‘your first run.’ It feels like having a personal coach and cheerleader in your ear and makes running, dare I say it, fun. It also has taught me a few tips… most important of which is RUN SLOW to start. Always.

    • Sara says...

      So excited for you Kate! Keep it up!

  50. Amanda says...

    I’m one of those seemingly rare people who don’t mind running on a treadmill. We were gifted with a used one a few years ago, and it’s really helped me better handle my anxiety and depression (both are amplified in the winter months). I have an iPad and Bluetooth headphones, and set it on an incline to mimic running outside. I don’t care about distance or speed or calories; I just care about the endorphin rush to regulate my mood. I also have TV shows that I only allow myself to watch on the treadmill, so that gives me good motivation to get going. But for those of you who dread running in the cold and dark of winter, I highly recommend bringing it inside.

    • Rachel says...

      Yes, this is me too! I actually prefer to run on my treadmill than outdoors. Watch my shows, bathroom nearby etc. People think I’m nuts but I love it

  51. C. says...

    I so wish I could run, but I just can’t – it just hurts too much. I am older now, and although I hate to admit to limitations, my body has changed a lot. But oh well, movement is movement, and there are other ways to embrace life and physical well being besides running.
    Likewise, the heart of this essay, the underlying philosophy, seems to me to be a good strategy to apply to other aspects of life. Many things can seem overwhelmingly difficult until you actually begin, then often the path will come together step by step… whether running steps, walking steps, dance steps, or leaps of faith.

  52. Michaela says...

    Wow, this is really going to stick with me. Hiking is one of my passions and basically the only physical activity I’ve ever truly jibed with. Over the past few years since I’ve taken it up, I’ve been able to increase my mileage and elevation gain to the point where there are now very few hikes in my area that I no longer consider myself capable of trying—and yet, that first mile of every hike, no matter how flat or how few miles lie beyond it, I am filled with a needling anxiety that I’m not going to make it, that I don’t want to be there. The seven minutes tip is so spot on. I know if I can just calm my mind through that first mile, I’ll soon be having a great time and enjoying the challenge.

  53. Ro says...

    Does anyone have tips for running in the winter? Running in cold weather physically pains me. I never know what to wear to stay the right temperature. And once I get out of breath, the frosty air burns my lungs something terrible. I often run right back inside and stand in a hot shower. Should I just push through, or is there a way to make it less awful?

    • Anne says...

      I posted this below – the trick is to dress for 20 deg (F) warmer. So on a 40 degree day, dress as if you were going for a walk in 60 degree weather. Regarding breathing, you could wear a gaiter over your mouth to warm the air before it hits your lungs. I think you adjust to the cold over the course of the winter, so if you can push through the first few chilly weeks, it might get easier.

    • Kathy says...

      Layers are your friend for cold weather running. For temperatures under 30 F, I would recommend a close-fitting warm shirt (like the Underarmour heattech shirts – I’ve had 2 for 10 years and they are holding up). I would then layer a fleece and maybe a windproof jacket over that. Warm tights or running pants (or both) plus smartwool running socks (get the ones that cover your ankles). Usually my head gets warm, so I’ll just wear an earband. Any mittens are good. If you are worried about breathing in the cold air, then you can use a neck gaiter or a buff and kind of breathe through that.

    • Karla says...

      When I run in colder locations, I love the headbands that cover the ears but leave the head open. I also love long sleeves with thumb holes…sort of like semi-gloves. Then if you get hot, you can push up the sleeves! If it’s REALLY cold where you are, go for two top layers, where you can tie the top layer around your waist. You’ve got this!

    • Sarah says...

      Find a gym with excellent people-watching opportunities, then hop on a treadmill and pump out some sprint intervals.

      It’s weirdly become a favorite winter pastime of mine. Ha!

    • v says...

      The cold can be almost unbearable to begin with, but once you get going, your body warms up dramatically. Wearing full length leggings, gloves and (sometimes) a beanie with my normal running top seems to be just right for me. I, too, felt the cold air burning my lungs at first, but have come to prefer running in colder temps over those 100 degree summer days. Your lungs will adjust to the cold air after a few runs!

  54. Abbe says...

    I love this ! I’ve never considered myself an exercise person until I started working out regularly about a year ago, mostly because things were getting kind of creaky and I realized I can no longer ride the gravy train of youth. ;) I started doing Fitness Blender workouts, which I can’t recommend enough. They’re absolutely FREE and you can filter by strength training, yoga, HIIT, etc. And since I was doing them in the comfort of my own home, I didn’t feel the anxiety about other people judging me as I would if I were at a gym. Plus — no excuses! I’ve had to cut down my workouts from 5x a week to 3 now that I’m in grad school, but I can still do them and they do work at making me feel great — plus, I ran my first 5k on Thanksgiving and even though I was expecting to hate it and be miserable throughout, I actually kept up a pretty good pace! I don’t think I’ll become a regular runner, but it felt good to know those workouts are actually doing something. :)

    One other note — as someone who’s struggled with an eating disorder, I do work really hard to focus on the *mental* benefits of working out, and not think about it terms of calories burned/”bad” foods I can eat. Sending hugs out to anyone who has similar struggles — or who feels like exercising just isn’t in the cards for them right now mentally. I 100% get that and that is a-okay! Exercise is whatever makes you feel sound and healthy, whether that’s walking on a nice day or doing some pre-bedtime stretches or just vegging on your couch to give your mind and body a break.

  55. Em says...

    Why is it that we so often avoid doing the things that make us really feel great? I’ve found myself lately sitting on the lounge in the funk, pressing play on the next episode of something rubbish when I know I can just worm my way on to the floor and stretch and do a poor attempt at yoga and actually feel good? Why am I 32 and still doing this?

    • Anna Vitale says...

      I wonder the SAME THING ALL THE TIME!

  56. Jackie says...

    My otherwise truly lovely and supportive husband said to me recently that my daily morning runs are a “burden” on him and our two young daughters. That really hurt. I work super full time. I am the breadwinner. I am MOMMY so I never get a pass and always do as much as possible for and with my girls (emotional labor + real labor + + + +). So I told my husband that I’m really sorry he feels that way, I know it is hard for me to break the good vibe the four of us are having and sneak away for 10-25 minutes, but I really must. Really, really, really MUST RUN!! And so I do. *self-care*

    • Laureen says...

      Good for you, Jackie!!!

    • Bonnie says...

      Kudos, Jackie! And do so guilt-free!

    • hali mason says...

      Good for you! My mom ran all during my childhood and I never thought about it until now how it might have made my dad feel before we were in school. But I am so grateful she took care of herself and still does! She gives so much to the world, running is something she cherished for herself! (Now she’s in her 60s and walks for all the same reasons… so keep running until you have to walk!)

    • Liz says...

      I support you!!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Yes! Keep doing what you’re doing, Jackie!!

    • michaela says...

      I firmly believe that children are all the better for it when their caretakers take the time to take care of themselves, not only because you can’t pour from an empty pitcher, but also because it sets a great example of how to do self-care and how important it is! That is to say, keep it up, you’re doing great for yourself *and* your family.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “you can’t pour from an empty pitcher” = love that. totally agree w/michaela’s note! love to you jackie :)

    • EC says...

      Go Jackie! You can’t be a good mother, partner, or breadwinner if *you* aren’t cared for, so self-care always has to be a priority. Children are affected when their parents seem stressed out/anxious/unhappy. You’re doing the wise thing, and hopefully your husband will incorporate this wisdom into his otherwise supportive role.

    • Karla says...

      The alternative is much worse — too bad he doesn’t see this! Keep it up!

    • Emma says...

      Jackie although my husband hasn’t actually said the same to me, I have that guilty feeling almost every time I come back a little late in the morning and miss part of the morning breakfast with the kids. I used to get up super early to run and come back before sunrise, before they are awake, but these days, it’s sooo dark and I’ve been going to bed later, I just can’t get myself out the door early enough, and therefore come home from a run that eats into family time. Worse was when I used to train and long runs lasted most of weekend mornings. This has been an ongoing guilt for me. He says he is supportive of my running, but I just can’t not feel guilty for taking time for myself at the expense of family time.

    • Jackie says...

      Thank you so much for all these responses. Despite the strength in my post, of course I feel awful about it. I’m going to save these messages so I can feel the love, and know what I’m doing is right, in the future :)

  57. Jen says...

    I find the first 3 miles the hardest but when I hit mile 4 the rush of endorphins definitely makes me feel like I can run forever. Runner’s high is a real thing and I think that’s why I keep running.

  58. JGS says...

    this is so so true. I always tell people “i’m not a runner” because it’s never come easily to me, and i used to hate having to run even a mile in school growing up. 5 slow and steady marathons later I still tell people “i’m not a runner” – but it’s just because I only use it for the psychological benefits. Nothing else makes me feel as good at the end….thank you for this, I completely identify with this article.

  59. Colleen says...

    My brother-in-law is a mountain guide and he brings people WAY up into the mountains and rock faces of NH in all weather (his busiest season is winter!). When his clients are struggling through a physically grueling ascent (that he knows is both incredibly difficult AND something they really want to do), he says in his calm voice, “Just settle in to the hard work. Settle in to the hard work.” I now use this mantra for starting my workouts but also anytime I am getting negative about something I do want to see through to completion. It makes me feel empowered in the moment and helps me stick with it through the end.

    • Marcella says...

      Yes! my high school cross country coach would always talk about this for race strategy, to get out fast but then settle in. Sounds so easy because races were so painful lol.

    • liz says...

      Love that! similarly, I always try to remind myself that almost everything worth doing is hard. not everything of course (sleeping is worth doing and I have no problem with that) but something being hard alone is never a reason to not do it — because almost everything worth doing it hard!

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      I really love that mantra and I know it will stay with me. It reminds me of one of the more famous quotes from Murakami’s book: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” (My husband and I were just joking that it would be funny to tattoo the first part of the quote on the left wrist and the second on the right wrist.”) Thanks Colleen!

    • michaela says...

      I love this mantra.

    • I am thieving this mantra. I recently started telling myself, “This is just pain–you can handle pain,” but I like the slightly more positive spin that your brother-in-law’s mantra takes. And as usual, running becomes a metaphor for life: “Settle in to the hard work” is all of our job at some point.

    • Laura says...

      That’s a beautiful mantra, Colleen!

  60. Jen says...

    Way to beautifully and eloquently meet your writing deadline, Jenny!

    Yesterday as I was getting off the bus to go home, a mom and her pre-school aged kiddo were holding hands on the sidewalk a few steps ahead of me. The kiddo looked up at his mom and said How about if we run? And they did! I love that the mom didn’t shut it down. They just ran off down the sidewalk. It made me really happy to watch them.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s so cute, jen.

  61. I wholeheartedly feel exactly this every single time. One time I saw a sign that said “If you left when you started thinking about going, you’d be done by now” which is absolutely always true and also usefully motivational!

  62. SN says...

    Running is my secret weapon. It has made me stronger and more resilient. Of all my life’s accomplishments — earning the title ‘runner’ is one of my most proud.

    I started running in college during my first real break-up…. It was the only thing I could do to make me feel better and it gave me the feeling of power & control when the rest of my world felt like it was crumbling around me.

    When I moved to NYC, I was low on extra money (e.g. no gym membership) and in a stressful first job. My night runs were my mental savior and helped me fight off the feelings of being overwhelmed, or lonely. And it gave me a way to explore my new home with purpose.

    Fast forward a few years, I’ve settled in my career a bit, I’ve gotten married and life has been more stable. But I continued to want to challenge myself and just ran my first marathon this Fall. It was the MOST AMAZING FEELING EVER. It was hard fought and well-earned. And I considered it a love letter to my running self who has been there for me through the tough times, the perfect runs in the park, the days when I don’t feel up to it, and the days when I feel like the world is mine. I know running isn’t for everyone, but I sure feel like lucky its for me.

    • Ashley says...

      “A love letter to my running self” — this is such a beautiful idea and turn of phrase! I feel the same way about my Peloton milestones. I am aiming to complete 2000 miles by the end of the year, and thanks to a lot of hard work on my part, my goal is within reach and will be achieved! I am so proud, and am now thinking of this accomplishment as a love letter to my Peloton-obsessed self :-) Thank you, SN!

    • SN says...

      Ashley — you’ve got this! I’ll be virtually high-fiving you when you pedal past mile 2000 :-)

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      This is amazing. Running really is such an intimate relationship! And it’s ALWAYS there for me. CONGRATS on that marathon. That must have been amazing.

  63. After years of hearing so many people say they love running, and are addicted to running, and have never felt better than after a run, I finally dedicated myself to learning to love it to. Guess what? I haaaaaaate it. Loathe. Despise. I think it’s wonderful that people like it, and I will admit that fat literally melted off my body while I was doing it (if that’s your motivation), but it made me miserable. It was actually adversely affecting my mental health, and it did not feel good to my creaky former ballerina body. So I stopped, and swore I would never run again. Will I be among the first to die in the zombie apocalypse? Probably! But who wants to live around a bunch of zombies anyway?

    That’s not to say I don’t work out at all! I live for weight lifting. It does all the magical, feel-goody things running does for other people. I feel strong, fit, mentally clear, and just all around amazing when I lift heavy weights regularly. On top of that I’ve started walking with a chatty friend and the time flies by. My point is, find a workout that works for you and your body!

    • elinor says...

      I feel this! After so many years of running by default, I finally just stopped. I swim laps now – that’s what works best for me.

    • Pigeon says...

      Yes to this!! Running makes me feel sick and generally awful, but dancing brings me to life. You just have to find the thing your body likes.

    • K says...

      Go weightlifting! I’ve also become a lifter after having run for years. I never looked forward to a run, and my lifts are now the highlight of my days! I feel so strong when I lift. My favorite song to lift to right now is called “Wonder Woman” by Lion Babe (SPOTIFY IT), and nothing else makes me feel more badass!!

  64. Yes to everything. I’ve been running since middle school so that’s…let’s see that’s about 25 years. I’ve done nothing else with that much consistency.

    Now I’m in the third trimester of pregnancy- during which I’ve never run with any of my babies. I miss running SO MUCH. As much as wine and pâté and unpasteurized cheese.

  65. Love this! Cup of Jo convinced me to run and I started this summer after a lifetime hating running in any form (I blogged about it). Now I absolutely depend on my twice a week runs for my mental health. Body is looking good and feeling good, too!

  66. I always comment on running posts because I feel this sort of internal fist bump. I resonate so much, Jenny. I can be ultra hard on myself about running and have this inner critic that tells me I can’t walk and I need to pick up my pace. But it’s moments like today, when I have a terrible cold with aches and chest congestion, that I feel a deep gratitude for running. I miss it, I wish I felt like doing it, and I’m excited to feel better so I can do it again. Running is my sanity and my insanity. It gives me goals when I feel aspiration-less. Even if it’s just “one more minute, Steph, c’mon.” It’s how I say “f*ck you” to endless anxiety, fear, lack of control, and turning 30 a few days ago. I go on a run and work it out.

    fave quote from this: “When I say I dread running, what I really mean is: There’s nothing that makes me happier.” yes yes, yes.

    p.s. alternate post title: “run, jen-nay, ruuuuuun!” ;)

    • Karla says...

      Good for you! I had to mention that since you are 30, I found my early 30s to be the BEST time for running. Running is equally mental as it is physical. When you are in your 30s (at least for me, I’m 39 now…) you are equipped to overcome the mental challenge, but you still have your youth to meet the physical demand. Keep it up, and now’s the time to push yourself!

  67. juneau says...

    Ann Trason (Ultra-marathoner extraordinaire) says most people hate running because they don’t stick with a run long enough to break through to the endorphin highs. Certainly true for me – I’ve been trying to motivate to try again and this article is very much a sign, lol. thanks!

  68. Caitlin says...

    For me, running is what makes me feel like myself. While I might enjoy other workouts (yoga, weight lifting, swimming), I feel like being a runner makes me a better, happier version of myself. Over the past few years as I’ve gone through infertility, pregnancy, postpartum, and now trying to make sense of life with a little baby, running has been something I can rely on to feel like ME. It is such a lifeline! Also, running friends are the best friends.

  69. Ann-Marie says...

    But have you tried an hour of Zumba?? :)

    When I tried Zumba I realized I could actually enjoy the process of exercising, instead of forcing myself through it. With all the endorphins and good feelings at the end, too! Granted, most of the smiling and laughing during the hour is from laughing at myself, but I would argue that experiencing that is good for you, too.

    Great article nonetheless, and helps me understand why people put themselves through running regularly, which I’ve never been able to do.

  70. Kaitlin says...

    Yes, though I’m not sure why COJ is pushing running so much lately. I’m here for it.

    The Nike Run app has audio guided runs, one of which is called The I Don’t Want to Run Run. It’s 26 minutes, coaching you through a run you don’t want to do, and it’s made returning to running post-partum much easier!

    Raegan Chastain has this great quote about how spending your Sunday running a marathon and spending it on a Netflix marathon are equally virtuous. Both are ways we choose to spend our time. In a hyper competitive environment, that feels really important to remember.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oh haha we aren’t pushing it, just into it! Running seems especially good in the darker months when you need a pick me up. Love your thoughts here.

  71. LEE ANN says...

    After a hiatus in my 20s, I’ve been running steadily for about 15 years. I used to run towards the goal of a faster time at my next race. Now, as I care for my terminally ill mom while juggling new and bigger responsibilities at work, I tell myself I don’t have to run far or fast, I just have to get out and do it. I am enjoying it more, even though in the end, my runs are not usually shorter or slower.

    • Brianna says...

      Sorry to hear about your mother–contained in that sentence seems to be a period in life that must feel unbearable. Love and prayers for you and your mama.

  72. Lindsay A says...

    I like to say nothing makes me feel more alive and simultaneously closest to death at the same time. I get myself to run because I like to remind myself that I’m capable of feeling that way. Its an emotional and physical discipline.

  73. Andrea says...

    I used to run obsessively, but after two spine surgeries in the past year I’ve discovered the joy of water aerobics and indoor walking workouts on youtube. Getting rid of my running gear was a huge milestone for me in my eating disorder recovery. Running is not for everyone and that’s ok! It’s also ok if you really love running! I guess I’m trying to say is trust your body, not what you think you “should” be doing. And that indoor walking workouts are awesome – you can do them in jeans while watching The Office.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “indoor walking workouts are awesome – you can do them in jeans while watching The Office.” = yes!

    • Laura says...

      Hi Andrea, Could you please include a link to a good indoor walking workout on Youtube? thank you!

    • Andrea says...

      I like the ones by Lucy Wyndham-Read, just search for her youtube page and she has a whole playlist of videos called “walking at home.” They’re easy enough to follow with the sound muted so you can watch tv or listen to music (or just not hear the weight loss and nutrition tips she sprinkles in). She also has seated injury recovery workouts which I’ve found helpful.

    • Laura says...

      Andrea thank you so much!

  74. hali says...

    YES!!!
    There have been a couple of posts here that share a similar sentiment regarding exercise; jogging, classpass, boxing (maybe?) etc etc. For many years I skimmed them because I didn’t 100% believe in the “exercise for well being” message. I never felt it. Now I finally, FINALLY get it. It took wedding engagement level of determination to put me in a real habit of working out, but the wedding has past and I cannot imagine my life without cardio.

    Running buckles my knees, which might be why I could never stick to it… 7 minutes into a run and I feel like the Tin Man. But I found spin classes, which makes me cringe a little to admit because spinning sounds so Legally Blonde… but my knees can handle it. That exact pre-workout dread happens before many classes- it almost surges through my body, it’s a powerful feeling. But nothing compared to the after class elation! When I’m done with those 45 minutes of sweating I can HANDLE things: intense work weeks, gnarly PMS, crippling anxiety, pesky bouts of insomnia, even periods of grief. It’s changed my life. I look no different than I did before this routine stuck in, but I feel like a different person.

    To anyone out there who doesn’t really buy into blog posts like these, I offer this: movement is medicine! Just move as much as you can, in whatever capacity you can!

    • Tish says...

      Me too! I was so adamantly anti-spin for several years (too hard and therefore scary, etc etc) but my friend convinced me to try it out and two classes in I was hooked. A year in, it’s totally changed my life. My GAD is 100x more manageable, I worked up the courage to leave a bad work situation, I’ve become more confident. I never really understood how powerful it is to move in the way that feels right for you, but now that I do I’m never going back. It’s powerful!

  75. Phoebe says...

    I want to run because it instantly resolves my lower back pain, but more than any other exercise running actually makes my mind race with the worst kinds of self-judgement and I am mentally exhausted afterwards. I’ve never felt that exhilaration that others talk about. The only way I can get my mind to shut off is by keeping my heart rate up and I’m just not a fast enough runner to get there. So I’ve adapted to a long, intense cardio workout on the elliptical with the screen on one of those nature videos, followed by body weight training. Maybe someday I’ll get to that point where I can train for a tri, but for now I’m going for strength and endurance, with some Colorado 14ers in my sight for next summer.

    • Amber says...

      I prefer a really engaging podcast instead of music, that way my mind doesn’t have time to focus on how much I suck at running! For some reason music makes me try to time my steps and keep up tempo and it totally throws me off, whereas a good podcast just distracts me.

  76. Maire says...

    Running makes me hurt all over, but I think the main point here is the importance of committing to getting your body in motion at some point during the day. For me, I like to do a 2 mile walk at my lunch hour, another after work if I have the time, and cap it off with a yoga or core class. Sometimes I get all three opportunities during the day, sometimes only one, but I have made the commitment to myself to get moving at some point during my day. This way, I fall asleep almost as soon as my head hits the pillow once I get home at night!

  77. Lisa says...

    Such a relevant post! I usually dread my runs when the alarm goes off at 5:15 a.m., more so in the fall and winter months when the temps dip down into the 20s and 30s (my cut off is about 18 degrees). It feels like it takes as much time to put on all the clothing than the actual 3 mile run takes, but after the first 1/2 mile, my limbs are usually numb enough not to care about the cold and my core is warming up from the 4 layers I’ve pile on and I’m always so happy that I did it when it’s done. Running also keeps my crankiness at bay and I feel less guilty about eating those chocolate covered almonds!

  78. Rebecca says...

    I was a lifelong runner, and then I had twins, and didn’t run for 4 years, and then I decided one February that I’d run a marathon the next fall. I started running again, did a couple of half-marathons, felt good, trained for and ran the marathon — and that was two years ago and I’ve maybe run 10 times since then. The marathon ruined it for me. It was awful — I spent the last 8 miles hurting so much and feeling like I was losing my mind. And my hips have just never been right since. Obviously I should probably get this checked out — but anyone have a similar experience and eventually get back to running?

    • Hi Rebecca, I love marathons (am even writing a book about how people experience this universal goal in so many different ways around the world!) but am not one of those people, like you it seems, that can bounce back quickly from this distance. This was even more obvious after I became a
      “marathon mama” this year and did my first 26point2 after having my baby. Running just felt really off for about three months after the marathon, but then, I found, if you stick with it it things eventually shift back and you find your new normal. Being consistent with a foam roller helped a lot after running, as did a literal alignment of my hips (this was from a sports-focused chiropractor). Wishing you all the best and hope you find what works for you!

    • Erica B says...

      Hi Rebecca, when I did a marathon in 2013 it almost ruined running for me too. For months I could barely do it, and would take long breaks from running. For probably about 2 years after the marathon I couldn’t get myself to run more than 2 or 3 miles at a time. But then I signed up for a triathlon and had to train for the 6 mile running portion, and it was rough, but it felt so good afterwards! Wayyy better than the marathon. These days, 3-5 miles is usually my happy place and I’m good with that, but now I know if I want to, I can gradually build up to a bit more. (But still will never do a marathon again :) ) I agree that you should get your hips checked out though! Deep tissue sports massages helped me in my recovery. Good luck!

    • Christine says...

      I finished my first marathon almost a year ago and am only now feeling excited about running again. Get yourself checked out and then set a goal. I’m running a half in March that I’m looking forward to.

  79. TC says...

    For all of those who are commenting that they dread running or can’t run, try walking! Walking outside without music and just getting engrossed in your thoughts, or conversely mediating and trying to focus on what is around you. Equally therapeutic to me.

    • n f says...

      I’m a runner – but I give this advice to so many people. No one said you have run fast to clear your mind. try walking, a run/walk combo, or a light jog even – just getting outside, getting the blood pumping a bit can invaluable

  80. Fiona says...

    This is awesome, and I’m loving all the comments too! I feel the exact same way. I have run really consistently for years now, but I still tell everyone “I hate running,” which, I really do!

    I run with a friend/co-worker a few mornings a week. Sometimes we talk a lot, sometimes we just run silently, but I would say that running with a friend is exponentially better than running alone (and trust me, I’m a complete introvert, I like doing most things by myself…) and somehow even more therapeutic. It also holds you accountable for those times when the dread threatens to take over…

  81. jen says...

    Well, I ran for 20 years. One of my knees started screaming when I was 41. Now they are both painful. Running is great, but it is not great for your knees.

    • Sarah says...

      This is why I can’t get on board with running. I’m skinny and running has still been hurting my knees since I was 25. It just doesn’t seem worth the joint damage. But swimming and biking– those give me the same “high” without the joint impact.

  82. Nicole says...

    This post is so timely for me because I’m recovering from a (sadly, running-related) knee injury that required two surgeries. I miss it so much, most of all the anxiety-relieving effect, and hope to return to it someday. I too loved Murakami’s book on running and his description of the “void.” This summer I started swimming pre-2nd surgery and I’m glad to report the void is still achievable in other activities. Thanks for a lovely essay.

  83. Melissa says...

    Honestly, the best thing I heard all year was the ortho telling me I won’t ever be able to run again after diagnosing lifelong hip pain. I’ve always hated running but felt like I was supposed to do it.

    • Lisa T says...

      I love this! I hate running too but have done 3 half marathons and numerous smaller distances over the years. Sort of stopped when I got bad PF in both feet :( I now only run the annual turkey trot and on my treadmill sometimes but I prefer walking / weight lifting. I feel guilty that I don’t run or like running as everyone in my family and my husband’s family loves it but I have to learn to let go;)

  84. Emmie says...

    I really needed this. I am in an exercise slump and honestly, I feel UNSTOPPABLE when I workout first thing in the morning. Those are my best days. My perspective has been pleasantly shifted, runners aren’t runners because they love running all the time, they are runners because they run all the time!

  85. Awads says...

    Oh, same!! i really dread my morning run (i’m out the door by 4:45 a.m.), but i’m never NOT happy i did it. My mantra is: don’t think; do. So i set out my clothes the night before and i just don’t think about it. but i DO give myself two days off. I’m 50, been running regularly for 30 years, and i still do it for that extra helping of cake (and the endorphins, sure). It’s either vanity or insanity that makes me run!

    • Sonja says...

      “Vanity or insanity,” hahahaha!

  86. Amanda says...

    Reading this made my heart beat a little faster. It also reminded me of this tweet from @rebeccamix:

    “me before exercising: I’m going to hate this

    me, exercising: I hate this I hate this I hate this

    me after exercising: athena herself has blessed me. no man can defeat me. fire runs through my blood and my bones are crafted from steel. tremble, mortals, for I shall LIVE FOREVER”

    ^^I felt that.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahahahaha i love this.

  87. Vera says...

    Ha. I myself actually *never* feel better after I run (so eventually I did quit) but I do always feel better after I go for a swim — what I need now is to find a way to make it relatively low-friction to do that. Not quite as easy to do the “just for seven minutes” trick when I have to drive to the pool first!

    • B says...

      This describes my relationship with running perfectly — and I can see that a lot of commenters are in the same boat! I have found it trickier to run consistently since my daughter was born, and now that I am pregnant again, I have been using the elliptical — not quite the same endorphin boost. I second what another commenter said about swimming. I swam daily for a year in college, and I do not know if I have ever felt so healthy and serene. There were days when it felt like an incredible hassle, but I still hope that I am able to return to it one day. All of the muscles that normally tensed from stress felt relaxed after swimming. My joints thanked me. The repetitive breathing felt meditative. The only drawback — my hair felt a bit brittle from the chlorine.

  88. Laura says...

    That’s funny about the 7 minute thing because I’ve noticed that no matter how tired or crappy I feel before a work out (biking or running) I know that after about 6 and a half minutes I feel good (also around when I start sweating). I always tell myself, just keep going, if you still feel crappy by 7 minutes in then you can stop and it always works (unless I’m getting sick or something).

  89. Hilary says...

    Totally agree that exercise and moving your body is amazing for your mental and physical health, as well as that we’ll always find excuses to be busy. However, please don’t feel like you must run. I see a lot of people, especially those entrenched in diet culture, that feel like they have to be “a runner.” It seems like every millenial I know is training for a half marathon. However, find a movement that you enjoy and look forward to!

  90. Oh wow, can I relate to running as a lifeline! When I was running 5x a week, I used to think, “Just get your shoes on and out the door.” The rest would take care of itself. I never realized how much running did for me, though, until I stopped when I had a pretty tough (read: throwing up every day) first trimester of my first (only) pregnancy. Once I wasn’t sick anymore, my body felt so different that running just didn’t feel right. Then I didn’t know how to make it work with a new baby. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression last year (at 2 years post partum!) and while exercise can’t quite help me like antidepressants right now, I realized that I’ve always been a bit depressive, but running kept me out of the pit. (Baby hormones shoved me in). Anyway, now I’ve picked up a new habit: Peloton!!! Same endorphins and “runner’s high” but I get to do it on my porch while my daughter is sleeping.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much for your insightful comment, joy! and i’m so curious about peloton. alex and i have been eyeing it for a while!

    • Danielle says...

      I love Spinning so much. I feel uncoordinated and un-athletic in most classes. Cycling is the one thing that I’ve done a lot of. I was so nervous about my first spin class but it was the one time I was like- “Oh hey I know how to do this!” Most gyms- even a basic YMCA has some spin bikes in their cardio room. To be super budget friendly I’ve used the Cyclecast app. It’s all audio but there are tons of rides and music and different instructors. If I had room for a bike I would totally be on board with the hack Joy mentioned. Spinning is the one thing that made me really get what running was like for some people.

    • Laura says...

      Joy, I love Peloton too! I never thought I’d get to experience it due to its cost, but my local YMCA has two of them! I love Ally Love’s rides and incorporate those rides into a week or running, yoga, and weight training.

  91. Chloe says...

    I’m an ex-runner, now full-time working mom with a baby, a 5 yr old, and a full-time working husband who owns his own company (ie the work never stops) and travels a few nights a week. Please help me – how do I fit in running? I keep telling myself I’ll start again next month, in the summer, when things slow down at work, etc. Suggestions appreciated!!

    • Renata says...

      If you can manage it, an early morning running habit is the best, but also hardest thing to do! I’m an afternoon or evening runner, so I find mornings to be very difficult, but if you can make it a habit it’s the easiest way to fit in amongst kids, husbands and other plans.

    • Awads says...

      I can only get my run in when everyone is sleeping. I am up at 4:30 to do this (which means i turn into a pumpkin if i’m not asleep by 9:30 p.m!) If you really want to get back to running, you have to claim your time when you can (and realize that it will totally suck until you get your fitness back). Good luck!

    • Emily D says...

      It’s not exactly the same as running, but I have had great success in the last 6 months with a small elliptical machine – pedals only; less than $100 – which keep it in my bedroom. I can “run” on it anytime, day or night, and squeeze in a quick session with zero time spent in transit to a gym. I frequently use it during hours when I’m stuck in the house, like while my baby naps. Highly recommend!

    • NSU says...

      Early in the morning, my friend! (FT working mom of two here) – I run before they (the kids and my husband) wake up, and I cannot recommend it more. The only part of the day that’s 100% MINE.

      (PS- to any Brooklyn moms: there’s a Bococa Moms running group if you’d ever like to join us! ;) )

    • Stacey says...

      I work full time and have three kids under 5. In order to run, I do it at 5:30 a.m. while kids and husband are still asleep. I joined a local mom’s running group and at least four of us run regularly at this time. It helps for accountability and is good for safety as we are running in the dark. I am generally a morning person anyway and it helps to have the work-out done first thing so you are not worrying about cramming in it later in the day. It may not always work for you on days your husband is out of town, though.

    • Nancy says...

      Is there any chance you could work out during lunch? I do a hard quick run on the treadmill (20 minutes, speed intervals or elevation intervals) during the week at lunchtime and then on the weekends when my husband can watch the kids I go for a longer run outside.

    • Girl, see my above comment ^^ !!!

      I used to be a runner, too, but now that I work full-time and have a toddler, I could not figure out how to make it work. I love my Peloton (DIY version) because I don’t have to leave the house, it’s super quiet, but still an amazing cardio workout. It’s the only thing that’s gotten me to consistently work out (still only a few times a week) since having my daughter. Good luck!

    • Abesha1 says...

      Maybe a short run while dad and kids eat dinner, or read bedtime books?

    • Caitlin says...

      I am desperately trying to figure out this same question. My 9 month old is in the middle of a phase where he is teething/trying to walk/refusing a bottle/who knows what, and the only way any of us are getting any sleep is by keeping him in bed with us from about 2am on. Unfortunately that means that my alarm wakes him up and my early morning runs have gone out the window! I feel like I am losing my mind.

      Just yesterday my husband and I brainstormed and decided that I am going to try running a few nights a week at 9 or 10pm. We’ll see how it goes! Any other suggestions welcome!

    • Sasha L says...

      I used to run on my hour lunch break, at a public library. I would run to the locker room, change, run out the door and onto a trail, run like a maniac for 45 minutes, run into the shower, get dressed, run back to my desk. Sweating. Still sweating, so much sweating. And then eat at my desk back on the clock. Five days a week, it kept me sane. It was the only time I could do it and I made it work.

    • KOP says...

      I’m in the same boat right now, and just trying to wedge in even a very short run wherever I can. My employer has a gym on site, but I’ve hesitated to pull the trigger, feeling like it’s a lot of process for a little payoff – anybody out there have advice on making a lunch hour workout doable?

    • Sara says...

      I’m in the same boat – my husband and I both work full-time, and we have two little kids. We fit in running by building it into our commute a few days a week. I bring my running clothes to work and run the 5 km home every Wednesday night. It works beautifully for us, since we only have one car anyway. Running home takes the same amount of time as taking the bus! Even when I’m really tired at the end of a work day, I always feel better once I start running home.

    • Lilly says...

      My mom literally used to run laps around the biggest room in our basement – which was not big. She said it kept her sane! She’d blast Blondie and do these tiny laps over and over, and a few jumping jacks. And I thought she looked totally nuts when I was a teenager, but I get it now.

  92. Lisa says...

    I use a similar mantra – “ endure 15 minutes and and I’d still sucks you can go”. I use 15 minutes because I’m slow at warming up and need some time to get my body moving (because of previous injuries). After 15 minutes I’m 99 times out of a 100 already sweaty and then I might as well do a proper workout. But sometimes I feel like quitting or crying or both, and then I do my 15 minutes and pat myself on the shoulder for trying. Then I go home, and give it another try another day.

    • Sarah says...

      Lisa! Me too!

      Often the “try it for 7/10/15 minutes” method doesn’t work for me, because that’s exactly what I’ll do! I don’t understand how this works so well for others here, as I usually have no problem stopping after 10 minutes! On days when I have to try that hard to force it, I usually end up curled up in a ball crying on my yoga mat :(

      I’ve learned to feel out days like that and just avoid forcing myself to do things I don’t want to. Either that, or just commit to a full workout from the beginning.

  93. Mary says...

    There is nothing that a run cannot solve. I have lived by that mantra for the past ten years of solidly running about five days a week. Work stress? Family drama? General Indecisiveness? Anxiety? Feelings of self loathing? Hungover? Just get up and go for a run. Its actually that easy. No equipment necessary, and anyone can do it. Don’t time yourself. Don’t set a mileage goal. Just say “I’m gonna go for a run” and see what happens.

    You will ALWAYS feel better afterwards. And its one of the rare times that you can praise yourself without any creeping feelings of judgement (i.e., wow I did such a good job at work, but did I really? Maybe people are just being nice? Maybe they would have said that to anyone?) Never mind any of that. You did it. You ran. Running is intrinsically good, no matter what, and you accomplished it. Go you!

    I also read the Murakami book, “What I talk about when I talk about running” and I felt genuinely understood by him as a runner. Especially when he writes, “I just run. I run in void. Or maybe I should put it the other way: I run in order to acquire a void.” Never in any other moment in our daily lives can we actually disconnect from everything, and enter a state of genuine “void” where we don’t have to “think” if we don’t want to. I am amazed how meditative a long, slow, judgement free run can be. Recently I was training for a marathon and I would do these 16 miles runs with no music. 3.5 hours later I would come home and my husband would say “nice job! what did you think about that whole time?” and I would happily reply, “nothing!”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      wow, this makes me want to go for a run immediately! love this.

    • Karen says...

      I also run with no music! I used to think music would help with the challenge of running (like maybe music would distract me when I was running up a really hard hill or something) and would make it go by quicker but nope. Running without music is the BEST. You go into that void and just appreciate the natural beauty around you.

    • Emma says...

      This is so much the opposite of my experience with running! I envy you so much, Mary :) I can’t turn my brain off when I run! I am also training for a marathon, and on Thanksgiving day it was so cold and windy that my phone died .25 miles into my long run. Each mile crept by so slowly without my music and my thoughts started swirling around like crazy. I got so anxious that by the time it was over I just walked in the door, sat on the floor, and burst into tears! Ultimately I don’t love running. but I do it because it makes me feel proud and unstoppable. A coach at a gym where I take classes always says “get comfortable with discomfort” and I think that’s the key. It’s empowering to know you can survive difficult things. I feel like if I can get through 26.2 on marathon day, I can do anything!

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      Yes indeed, go you! This is such truth and could be its own blog post. That Murakami book lives on the sacred “Read and Re-Read Shelf” in my library. I pick it up again and again for the same reason you do, to feel genuinely understood. (Not to mention all the parallels he draws between running and writing.) Also, even though I mentioned podcast-listening in this post, I should clarify that a lot of the time I’m not listening to anything, not even music. And though sometimes I achieve Murakami’s “void,” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve solved some problem or come up with some new idea…all before I’ve hit mile 2.

  94. jane says...

    I have been procrastinating picking up running again. Thanks for the motivation to just go for it. Great essay!

  95. Go Jenny! This is just the motivation post I NEED to get back on a regular exercise regimen. I love Murakami’s “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”, too! Like you, I become a monster when I don’t get a dose of that endorphin. Ok, time to lace up my trainers this evening when I get out of work! Thank you!

  96. C says...

    It was 24 degrees and still pitch black out when I woke up at 6 this morning to run. The first half mile was frigid and miserable, the next three were invigorating and soothing all at once. My morning runs are the only time in the day where the only person who needs me is me. It’s the only time when I’m only accountable to myself. And so I hit the road in the cold and the dark because I deserve my own attention and effort and support.

    • Chloe says...

      this is what i needed to read! thanks for the motivation!

    • Beth says...

      Go C! As a runner in a Chicago, I’ve got great summer trails and weather. I’m usually pretty regular at running (at least 3x/week) but once winter hits I get so spooked by snow, ice, cold and darkness and basically bail until spring. Any good tips you’ve got for winter running?

    • C says...

      Beth here are my cold/snowy weather tips that don’t require a ton of extra effort or cost (I find having to do a lot of additional planning/purchasing makes me disinclined to try stuff) :

      Dress for how cold you think it feels out and then take off one layer before you leave the house. Wearing a hat and gloves is useful because when you get too hot you can remove those first and it makes a huge difference and they are light and easy to carry/tuck into a pocket or waistband. Get cold again? Put them back on.

      If it’s really snowy/icy, search for an area around your neighborhood that has a well enough cleared path—I live near a college campus and they do a good job of plowing but really any stretch of sidewalk that is decently cleared will do and just run back and forth along that. You look a little nuts but so what. It can feel tedious but I tell myself I’ll do 10 laps back and forth on my little safe strip and then once I do that I do another 10 and so. You can get yourself to do just about anything 5-10 times so that’s what I go with and before I know I’ve done like 50 little laps and I can call it a morning and be proud that at least I got out in the cold and did something.

      If it’s actively snowing/icing in any significant way, I don’t run.

      Also, a general good tip but especially if you’re running alone and in the dark, stick your ID in a pocket. I always just feel better knowing that if something happens (if I fall, etc), I’m identifiable.

    • Beth says...

      Thanks C!! Going to hit the (hopefully dry) pavement tomorrow morning armed with these tips

  97. Meghan says...

    Similar to the “just run seven minutes” nudge, I always find that putting on running clothes, i.e. wrestling with my sports bra, smelling whether the tights I wore yesterday are serviceable, double-knotting my sneakers, is enough to commit me to the full run. I can’t imagine going through all that trouble just to talk myself out of running. So rain or snow or sleet or shine I force myself to put on running clothes and then the commitment is sealed, I’m out the door.

  98. I love this. Dread can be important information on whether we should continue or stop doing certain activities…but I’ve ALWAYS felt this pre-dread with exercise even when I love it, so I’ve found it’s less reliable for telling me I shouldn’t do it.

    I haven’t run in a few years, but I do HIIT and strength train regularly. In terms of “polishing” those reasons to keep going, my biggest one this year is to cope with depression and anxiety. Do I ever actually WANT to put on my leggings and my sneakers and do a warm up? Almost never. But do I ever regret having done it? Almost never. If I don’t do it, though, like you said, the consequences are obvious. It’s tougher on my mental state, and it’s tougher on my relationship with myself and most definitely with my partner. Sometimes I’ll tell myself, just do the warmup, and if you want to stop exercising after that, you can stop…I’ve never stopped.

  99. Molly says...

    I’m right there with you, Jenny. I am a better person when I run–I am kinder to myself, to my family, and to my colleagues. Thanks for the motivating words–I’m now looking forward to my rainy run this afternoon, rather than thinking of excuses not to go.

  100. Katy S. says...

    Love it! Could have written this about myself if I could write even remotely close to as well as she does :)

  101. Sarah says...

    I finished my 4th marathon this month (3rd NY!) and I relate so much with this…

    I find it doubly true with speed work and even hills. Just start. You’ll never regret it.

  102. Liz says...

    I run ~5 days a week (give or take one day depending on schedule/weather) and what helps me get out there (despite 5 months a year of legit cold weather and another 5 months of legit very hot weather) is knowing that never regret doing it when I’m done. It’s also never as bad as you think it might be out there (unless the temps are over 100…), and I truly believe there’s no such thing as “bad” weather, only bad clothes or soft people :P (please no one take offense, it’s just my mantra for getting my butt out there, you can survive (and enjoy!) a lot more than the average person believes they can)

    • katie says...

      All so true! Loved this.

    • Samantha says...

      “there’s no such thing as “bad” weather, only bad clothes or soft people ”

      YES! i bought myself so much cold weather gear this year so my boyfriend and i can continue our weekend hikes through the winter :)

  103. Amy says...

    I can really relate to this and I’m totally going to steal the seven minutes trick. Would love to hear some of Jenny’s tips for running in the cold/dark of winter. I have a hard time figuring out what to wear to stay comfortable. I get too hot or am too cold pretty often.

    • Anne says...

      My rule of thumb is to dress for 20 degrees (F) warmer than it is. For example, if it’s 30 deg out, I think, what would I wear to go for a walk outside in 50 deg weather? Maybe long pants, long sleeves, light jacket, and gloves. So that’s what I run in.

      Also, getting a puffy vest was a real game changer for me in terms of running in the winter. They’re cozy and warm, but you get some ventilation to keep the sweat down.

    • Fiona says...

      I have the same advice as Anne! I forget where I heard that rule of thumb about dressing as if it’s about 20 degrees warmer, but it really is right. I would also say that it’s better to be safe than sorry and always bring gloves with you because freezing cold fingers is the WORST.

      And also, YES to the vest. I wear mine pretty much every day in the winter – and bonus if you can find one with extra large pockets to store your gloves, headband, etc. if you get too hot for them.

    • MA says...

      Re: what to wear, my rule of thumb is: if you step outside and you feel comfortable, then you have too many layers on (i.e., you will be too hot!). I learn this lesson over and over. But if you step outside and feel a little chilly, like you need to get moving, then you are dressed for success.

    • Claire says...

      I have taken several groups of cranky teenagers for multi-day hiking trips and they always grumble about taking layers off in the morning when it’s still cold out! Something a guide said once has stuck with me: be bold, start cold. I sometimes have to say this to myself multiple times in the morning before I get out of bed to go run, BUT it seems to help! :)

  104. Sasha L says...

    100% yes. If you can just get past the horribleness of the beginning, it’s amazing. I love your writing so much Jenny.

    I miss running, I can’t anymore due to chronic pain issues. I still tell myself all the time though, once I get this back/knee/foot/neck/head/hip thing sorted, I’m running again!! But no, that’s never really happening. So I do yoga with lots of pushups and core work every single day whether i want to or not (and I never do) and hike whenever I can (which I wish was everyday, but work).

    Everyday habits are the easiest kind to keep.

    • Kate says...

      This is me too! After knee surgery at 25 my running days were over. But cycling and swimming are good and I’m loving at home workouts with just a mat and dumbells. Without exercise my anxiety would kill me!

  105. Mae says...

    Yes to this. I come from a family of runners, some of us more committed than others. My sister just completed a half-marathon two days after Thanksgiving. She and my mom are now training for a sprint triathlon this June. I’ve come up with so many reasons not to join them. However, I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression for the past three years, and am now making a lot of big, overdue changes in my life to prioritize my mental and physical health. This essay reminded me that even though I dread the beginning of every run too, I’m always flying high by the end, no matter the distance, route, or weather. Now, where are my running shoes?

  106. Mel Redd says...

    Yes! When I lace up for a run I always picture the title to my (fake, never going to write) book: “Running for My Life: an Ode to the Psychological Benefits of the Three Mile Run”. I also have a rule that I can’t complain about how volatile my mood is or how crappy I feel unless I’ve actually been taking care of myself and exercising. And I have a similar motivational trick: When I don’t feel like running, I tell myself, “Just go for a walk in your running tights and shoes.” Maybe I’ll walk for a block or two but the “walk” always ends up being a multi-mile run (unless it ends up being a walk and then in that case- Great! I went for a walk!). Same-same but different.

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      Please write that book Mel!

  107. Lena says...

    This post is pure truth! As a fellow runner who starts with dread but ends with sheer joy and a sense of invincibility, I thank you.

    The moral of the story can be applied to so many things in life – the benefits of starting something you seemingly don’t want to do and pushing forward until you’ve hit your stride is a valuable life lesson.

  108. Dana says...

    This felt timely as I just launched into a new attempt at a running routine. At one time I had a solid routine, but I’ve never been able to find a consistent stride since!

    Interested in hearing any and all quotes, mantras, epiphanies, etc. that keep runners running!

  109. Sara says...

    Running does not make me happy, and while I feel better after doing it, I never think post-workout “wow I can’t wait to run again tomorrow.” Yet I have been running on and off a few times a week (mostly on) since 6th grade. I think it’s because I am lazy and it’s the most simple workout.