Everyone sees them on the weekends, those crazy 100s or 1000s of runners who close off your streets and make you wait impatiently in your car holding up traffic. I know your first thought, “get out of my way, I have somewhere to go,” then your second thought, “how come these people are so fit and I am not?”

Sometimes those runners are wearing crazy costumes and tutus, sometimes they are the sleek front runners who look like they are barely touching the pavement without an ounce of fat on them gliding along effortlessly, and sometimes they are struggling heavy breathers who are just making themselves keep going. This last group is my people; this is where I came from, where we all come from, and I want to share the joy of finishing something and joining a group of people that finish a 5k.

I would say that at least 30% of my personal training clients want to get out and run without pain and to enjoy it, or at least be able to do it. Many times, being overweight, scared of falling, pain, worry, self-doubt all of it stops our forward motion. So, let’s start at the beginning. Me and how I started.

I was the fat girl. I couldn’t run and barely walked during PE class in grade school but I wanted to play basketball in high school, or my mom wanted me to, so I went to the summer camp in June of 1980. The coach was very nice, when I was the slowest runner during the sprints, he said, “Vanessa you might want to get fit.” He didn’t say you will never make it on the basketball team, he gave me an option to improve, great coaching. Well this was the Frank Shorter beginning of the marathon world, late 1970s early 80s so I went to the local Foot Locker in the Mall and bought these brown and tan Nike running shoes that cost me $19.99, a Runner’s World Magazine, a pedometer, and some shorts. Then I went to the library and got every book on running I could, like 10 books and sat on my bed, eating candy and reading about running. I was very enthusiastic and these runners always seemed to be so excited to get up and run at 5am, like it was a badge of courage to run early in the morning, so I did the same.

I woke up, got dressed, my dad was sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes while he read western paperbacks, and I went out into the cold, dark morning and TRIED to run. I felt like Rocky as I went out the front door. I ran out of my house and made it to the corner before my feet were screaming and I was coughing. I had gone less than a ¼ of a mile and I was bent at the waist, huffing and puffing, leaning on my knees. I turned around and walked back home, and then said NO. I was not giving up again. I was going to walk/run at least around the block. So, I didn’t go in the house, I ran slower, looking at the lines in the sidewalk and said to myself, one more line, just run past one more cement line, then walk for 3 cement lines, then run again, just one or two more lines in the sidewalk. I focused on this intently. And I got around the block in time to see my mother leaving for work around 6am, I was smiling. I had made it around the block!! I made a notebook and wrote that down. Running logs were big in all the books I had read so I took that advice to heart.

And I continued. Every day I added one more line to cross or one more block and I so enjoyed just pushing my body a little farther every day and finishing those goals daily. By September when high school was starting, I was running this circle around my small town. This circle was 11 miles. I was running this 6 days a week, had dropped well over 60lbs and felt like I was a runner!!! Running became my mission. People in my small town got used to seeing me run and people would wave to me from their houses or businesses as I ran.

So, with a new client, I do the same. First you must have GREAT shoes. And this might not happen with the first pair you buy, fair warning. Go to a real running store with a treadmill that can computer monitor your foot strike. Be honest, look for the sales person with that long and lanky look and ask him or her when their last race was, if they say “Oh I ran the San Francisco ½ marathon last month and made a personal best,” this is your person who will help you the most and show enthusiasm for you and believe me enthusiasm is so important. Be honest with them, try on many shoes that they recommend but buy the ones that make you feel the most balanced and comfortable, and like the way they look also. Good running shoes cost between $100-$200 and if you hate the color, that won’t help you run either. Have great new socks that have been washed at least once. Trust me on the sock thing.

Have on comfortable clothes, loose sweats from cotton are the best to absorb sweat, not to look good but to feel comfortable. In the beginning when you are just becoming aware of your body, don’t run with music, I want you to feel your body and hear your breathing.

I start a client running very slowly, about 14-20 minute miles depending on the client, and looking down the street, I ask them, “how far do you think you can run?” If they say to the jeep, I say, “Great let’s go to the stop sign which is just 10 more steps.”

I always make them go a little father then they think they can, listening to their breathing and not letting them get into distress. I don’t try to correct their posture and breathing in the beginning during these short jogs, I do that during our in between walks. We talk then about tucking our pelvis under, breathing, landing on the balls of our feet, arm position, etc. only during the walk, and only ONE thing during those beginning runs. Because we all have Smart Phones now, I encourage them to download the Nike app or use the apple watch to chart their distance and time. I am very big into time out— I don’t tell the clients usually—but I want them out walking/jogging for 15-20 minutes the first time and not to be concerned with how far or fast they have gone. I make it an achievement, “wow you just finished your first ½ mile, you are going to be at a mile within a month.” Excitement about achievement and a goal that seems obtainable is very important.

Happiest things a client has ever said afterward a running workout:

• “I always thought I was too beat up and could never run, wow I just ran a mile.”
• “When do you think I can run a 5k, like 6 months?”
• Gentleman called his wife, “Honey, I just ran a mile in 16 minutes.”
• “I don’t even hurt!”
• “Can we do that again tomorrow?”
• We start running as 2-3 year olds and we have the ability to continue.

We start running as 2-3 year olds and we have the ability to continue.