Growing up, I was very clearly the least athletic person in my athletically-focused family. Sure I took part in the obligatory childhood ballet class and soccer practices, but a lack of competitive spirit (does it really matter *that much* who wins?) and generally not prioritizing sports very highly compared to the many other things I could be doing instead (school, hanging with friends, getting extra sleep!) tended to have me feeling a bit left out. Not too hard to feel that way when your mom has completed multiple marathons, your dad played soccer and has to stay active for his job, and your little sister is the best runner at her high school, receiving athletic scholarships as a sophomore.
I toyed with the idea of running cross country in high school but at that point, I felt like I would be too far behind to avoid embarrassing myself, not to mention I was pretty intimidated by the time commitment it would take. So I shrugged off my potential interest and doubled down on the other activities I took part in. I got a bit more active freshman year of college, joining in on basketball games with my dormmates and stopping by the rec every now and then. But working out still wasn’t anything I prioritized.
It wasn’t until a few months into covid that I really made a change. I spent spring term of 2020 living at home, and like most other college students, being cooped up after getting a taste of the college experience was far from ideal. I started going stir-crazy and wasn’t sure what to do with all my newfound time thanks to my fully online schedule. After a bit of googling, I discovered Chloe Ting and the first step of my workout journey began! After a few months dedicated to Chloe’s free workout programs, and becoming aware of the accompanying mental and physical benefits, I decided to try something new and go for a run outdoors. By this point, it was September of 2020, and I’d moved back to Eugene to try to salvage some kind of college experience out of my virtual junior year. No better place to start running than Tracktown USA, right?
Armed with my freshly downloaded Strava app and wired headphones, I naively chose to run directly up a hill near my apartment resulting in my first official run being a mile and a half long with a 9:45 minute pace. Looking back, I can’t help but laugh seeing how far I’ve come but at the time I was proud of my efforts. I’d never ran more than a mile before that so in my mind it was huge progress.
Following that first run, I decided to fully commit. For the first couple months, I ran every other day, then switched over to every three days or so as I started upping my mileage. About four months in I ran my first 5k with no breaks. I definitely had weeks (and sometimes even months) where I felt my progress plateauing, but overall I’ve continued to make gains, usually first in mileage followed by increases in speed. I took a week-long break during the 100+ degree weather over summer and had to wait for the snow to melt to get back to running last December, but overall I’ve been pleased with how well I’ve been able to incorporate running into my relatively busy schedule.
Now, sixteen months after I started, I’m pretty happy with the amount I’m running, usually 2-3 times a week depending on how busy I am, anywhere from 4 to 6 miles per run. I made it to 6 miles for the first time last week and was thrilled since that’s a benchmark I’ve been working toward for a bit. My next goal is to work on my speed, dropping my average pace from about 8:45 minute miles to 8:30s. Seeing my improvement over time definitely feels good, but the thing I like most about running is the benefits it has for my mood and overall mental health. There are lots of days when I wake up and completing a morning run is the last thing I feel like doing. But thinking about how good I’ll feel afterward helps keep me accountable.
I completely understand that after a long day of work and class, working out usually isn’t something you feel like doing. But putting that effort in and making it happen is so worth it! Once you get into the habit of working out, it’ll go from something you “have” to do to something you “get” to do. For me, it has become a chance to clear my mind and spend time outdoors, all while staying healthy. Especially during the pandemic, running has been a great way to keep active that I’ve grown to love. And if I did it, so can you. No matter where you’re currently at in your fitness journey, it’s never too late to get started!