fitness · running

Where to start? Start small and go from there…

Image description: small green seedling plant with four leaves and more sprouting, in a little pile of soil, against a white background.
Image description: small green seedling plant with four leaves and more sprouting, in a little pile of soil, against a white background.

Starting anything new can feel totally overwhelming. Anecdotally, besides all the reasons we give for why we don’t have time, “where do I start?” is probably one of the biggest deterrents.

It’s also the question that is easy to answer with one of my absolute favourite suggestions we make, in many different ways, on the blog: start small. When I began running, somewhat reluctantly, when I was days away from my 48th birthday, I ran around the block. Then I ran around the block twice. Then I ventured away from the block and added in a few walk breaks between run intervals. Then the run intervals became longer than the walk breaks. Then I started stringing more walk-run intervals together. And so on and so on.  I celebrated the day I ran 20 minutes in a row with a blog post announcing that significant breakthrough in my running “career.”

Now, with 5K, 10K, half marathons, 30K, and even a full marathon behind me, I’ve come a long way, all because I started small and increased in small increments.

Tonight I was chatting with a friend who is about to embark on a new fitness plan. I said the first time I tried running I hated it. Why? Because back then, in my early twenties, I went out of the gate way too fast. I didn’t ease into it at all. No. I thought I should immediately be able to run 5 miles. It hurt. My body wasn’t used to it. After a few months (I think it was months), my hips started to hurt. And that was the end of that. I didn’t run again for almost 25 years.

But this time, it feels so much better. If you let your body adapt to each increase before pushing a little bit further or harder (emphasis on “a little bit”), amazing things start to happen.

You may not know how to start small. If we’re talking about running, try finding a local running clinic with “learn to run” sessions. That way you can meet other people, learn proper technique from the get-go, ease into it, and learn about shoes and clothing and nutrition in the pre-run talks. I got a lot out of all the clinics I did. I did a clinic to train up to each new distance (other than the marathon, but I had trained for the Around the Bay 30K). In the process I learned a ton about all sorts of things, from run safety to hydration and nutrition, to how to manage in cold weather and in hot weather. I also developed some lasting friendships through the run clubs and clinics I’ve done.

Another way of starting small is to use an app. Even though I did eventually do a “learn to run” clinic, I actually started with the “ease into 5K” app, which has a “start small” training plan built right into it. I really liked it and it served me well in the very early days when I thought I was the slowest runner in the world and couldn’t possibly ever run with other people because they would feel annoyed with me.

All activities have equivalent strategies for starting small and easing into it. That’s why they have “give it a tri” or “try a tri” triathlon events. And beginners yoga classes. And different lanes in the pool for training.

Great things come from small beginnings (did someone say that already? It sounds like a famous line…).

Do you have a “small start” fitness story?