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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCF chapter.

I used to be the type of person who rarely exercised. I mean, the last time I did any sort of exercise at all was the famous Chloe Ting challenge back in the summer of 2020 (the songs still haunt me to this day). However, despite not struggling with my weight, I found myself extremely unhappy prior to winter break. I felt sluggish all the time, mentally exhausted (STEM majors, rise up) and most of all, I knew I wasn’t reaching my greatest potential. After some hard thinking and a doctor’s appointment (to which, by my surprise, I was *technically* within arm’s reach of being a tad overweight), I realized I had to do something for myself. I decided that getting back into running would help me in so many ways – mentally, physically and emotionally – and I was right!

sign with positive messageand eyeglass
Binti Malu / Pexels

I started my running journey in the middle of December 2020 by lacing up a good pair of running shoes and hitting the treadmill. Yes, running outside around my neighborhood is an option, but I wanted to see all the metrics of my workout – estimated calories burned, time elapsed, and distance ran – as a form of motivation. I have to admit, I was beat after the first 15 minutes of jogging, and I had to stop multiple times, but looking back, that was exactly the right pace I had to go in order to be where I am today.

Today, I can fully run for 30 minutes straight, non-stop, and reach three miles (at about a 9:40 pace). However, I allowed myself to start small. To all of you reading this, the best thing you can do for yourself is compare yourself to where you were yesterday rather than compare yourself to others. Yes, there were times where I looked in the mirror and felt bummed out when my workout didn’t immediately give me abs, but you need to trust the process. Rather than worrying about physical changes, I decided to focus on the mental and emotional benefits of my exercise and realized that the rest – abs and weight loss – would come later.

Within the first week of my running routine, six days per week, I immediately felt less moody and saw a reduction in my overall stress. My calves ached and my thighs were sore, but I was surprised at how 15 minutes of running per day could create so much positive change. Now, after almost two months of consistently running and eating at a caloric deficit (I also shifted to a vegan diet from pescatarian), I have not only lost over 15 pounds, but I am in a much, much better place emotionally and mentally. Sure, I get stressed out from time to time, but my morning runs allow me to start the day with a clear and calm mind, ready to tackle any obstacle my way.

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Now, I’m no expert runner or dietician, but I do have a few tips for those of you who want to start your running journey.

First, think about your why. Why do you want to start running? Reducing stress, creating a more structured schedule, finding a new hobby and losing weight are all valid reasons to start running daily. Once you find your why, you will be more motivated to start your runs.

Second, test out different times to see which part of the day works best for you. Personally, I run first thing in the morning because not only is it the only time I have for exercise, but it’s also the time when I have the most energy to burn. I used to run in the evening, but once classes started, I was so mentally tired from Zoom University that I could barely drag myself to run.

Third, be consistent! When you don’t maintain consistency, it’s easier for you to abandon your goal completely, hence why so many New Year’s resolutions fail. Whatever your reason/why is, think about that when you debate whether or not you feel like running.

And last but not least, invest in a good pair of running shoes – especially ones with a thicker rubber sole. I made the mistake of wearing shoes with a thin rubber sole and let me tell you, the pain was BAD. So, do your feet and joints a favor and find yourself a good pair of running shoes!

Overall, I’m glad I could share a glimpse of my running journey and some advice to those of you who are interested in starting to run. Keep in mind that obviously what worked for me may not work for you, as we are all different.

Saarah Sherifi is a writer for HerCampus UCF and is the founder of the online news company, Stronger in Unison.