Every day I learn more about myself and my body, and that growth is part of the adventure of life. I don’t have regrets, but I could have saved my younger self a lot of angst. So, let me save you some trouble with 5 tips I wish my younger running self had known.
1. Your friends can be competitive with you and lift you up at the same time. Remember when friends were practically placed in front of you? Everyone was in the same stage of life and looking for social connections. That changes as we creep into adulthood. Creating a community of friends is a challenge for so many young adults, as it takes much more work and intentionality. What I love about running and the outdoors community is it is a perfect spot to find friends, but it took me a while to figure out what kind of friends work within this landscape. There was the one who beat herself up anytime I had a stronger day than her. There was the one who always asked for my time and breathed a sigh of relief if her time was better. And there was the one that mocked me when I was struggling out on a run. But then I found the women who celebrated my successes with me no matter their results, shared their disappointments in a healthy way, encouraged me when I was struggling without any judgment, and pushed me harder on the trail in a shared effort. These great relationships came from a combination of holding a high standard, finding the right women, but also working hard on myself to make sure I was becoming the kind of woman I would want to have as a trail partner!
2. Buy good equipment, it’s worth it. But maybe skip dinner out instead. What is the difference between being cheap and financially savvy? It’s a bit of a fine line, but I definitely found myself on the side of cheap way too often when it came to my gear. Discount shoes? Shorts on closeout? Cheaper sports bra because I barely have boobs so who needs a good bra, right? Yes to all of those. It wasn’t until later in life when I got talked into buying some nicer gear that I embraced the concept of investing in my gear. How do you do this without going broke? Purchase good quality gear for the key pieces, but you don’t need a fleet. Maybe you can score them at a discount at the right time of the year, but if not once you know you love that item, then you can keep an eye out for replacing it as needed during sales cycles. If you have to spend an extra $75 for shoes that support your arch or $30 more for a sports bra that doesn’t chafe, trade that for a couple nights of potluck dinner with friends rather than going out! It will pay you back in enjoyment and comfort.
3. We’re not all on the same path/timeline, and that’s ok. This is a metaphor for more than just running. It’s so easy to get caught up watching the path and timeline of others. Do you have friends running longer runs, experiencing more epic locations, finding dreamy running partners, or tracking faster times? It’s hard not to compare your journey to others. Take the time to set goals that make sense to you and get a feel for what direction you want to head. Be open and curious as trails show up that weren’t on the map, and consider re-routing when it makes sense. Then enjoy the run, do it at a pace that is sustainable for you, soak up the views, and know that you are running your run just as you should.
4. Nobody is paying as much attention to you as you are. My hat looks funny, I tripped on the trail, that finish line photo of me is horrible, the list goes on of all the things we get caught up in worrying about our image. But guess what? Only your shadow is following you that closely, and even your shadow doesn’t care what others think. If only I would have spent less time thinking about what others think, and more time turning my focus outward and emulating the older women who were celebrating all that their bodies were doing for them. Just be you, and the world will keep spinning, your friends will call you to get out on the trail with them, and your shadow will continue to follow you wherever you go, even when you trip!
5. Although training is great, go ahead and run that half-marathon without having trained! This is not a prescription to skip training and to abuse your body. Having said that, I wish I had taken advantage of the resilience and elasticity of my body in my 20’s. Got a friend who wants you to run a half-marathon and you haven’t trained? Get some sleep and back off on the cocktails the night before and then go run that race. You’ll be a bit sore and really tired, but you’re not going to be able to do that later in life. Having said that, it is never too soon to get into the habit of taking care of that resilient body of yours, as it won’t always be so forgiving. Eat well, hydrate, get good sleep, stretch, ramp up your training slowly, push hard when it feels great, and go easy when you need to rest. Learn about your body and what it needs now, and then be ready to adjust as the years pass and she asks for different treatment.
Now get out on that trail of life, run your run, and enjoy the views along the way!