My friend Breanne has been my running inspiration for years. When I first started running to lose weight after my second son, she cheered my first 5K like I’d just finished the Boston Marathon. When I decided to try for my first marathon, she became my coach. She helped me create a training program, provided critical advice (Body Glide: get some!), and listened to my running stories with amazing patience though she’d been there dozens of times before. (I really can talk about a long run for upwards of an hour.)

So naturally she was the first person I thought of who could give us the best advice about how to start exercising and how to keep going day after day, year after year, until it adds more to your life than just fitting into your skinny jeans or finishing your first 5K.

My brother and me after our first marathon. Breanne coached my brother too,
since everything she told me I passed on to him. Eventually he started sending
me emails that started “Could you ask Breanne ____.”
Here’s Breanne’s take on how to get moving.

Six years ago my husband ran his first marathon. I was really impressed, and later vowed that if he ran the same marathon next year, I’d run the 10 mile race that went with it. A few days later I forced myself to run and had a miserable time. It was about 80 degrees out, I had no water, and I was going way too fast. “I hate running!” I thought. “I hate it! It’s just not my thing.”

I went on to run that 10 mile race and 13 marathons after that.
I discovered a few thing about myself and exercising along the way. When we want to start exercising I think many of us make the same mistakes and end up quitting. For example, we do an activity we think we should do, whether or not we enjoy it. If it hurts we take it as a sign that we can’t do it or that the activity should hurt. We chose some heroic time of day to exercise that we hate.
If you’d like to start exercising and want long-term success, consider these things before getting started:
  1. What time of day suits you best? I consider myself a morning person but that is not my best time for exercise. Neither is after work — I’m too tired and hungry. While I occasionally do work out at those times my sweet spot is midday (over my lunch hour at work or midmorning or afternoon).
  2. Do you prefer social activities or solo? What got me through my 10 mile training was realizing that I hated running alone. I joined a group training for the race and made friends and got advice and support.
  3. What does your gut tell you that you enjoy the most? Does biking always feel great? Does yoga really fulfill something in your life? While it’s fun try new things, you can’t make yourself consistently do something you don’t like. Don’t second guess whether it’s the “right” activity — if your body is better for it, than it’s worth doing.
A few other things that help make sure you’ll keep at it:
  1. The first few times (or weeks) you do your new activity, do it half as slow or easy as you think you should. We all do this — we go out too hard at first. We’re insecure, we think it’s going to be hard so we make it so, and we cover up the fact that we don’t know what we’re doing by trying twice as hard. Most of the people who think they can’t run really can — they just need to slow way down and then build up over time.
  2. Choose a goal, one that you admit to at least a few other people. A race, a distance, a yoga pose, a number of laps. When you reach that goal, celebrate! and then make a new one.
  3. Figure out what motivates you. Does signing up for a class with set meeting times and a group to be responsible to appeal to you? Or would you rather draw up your own schedule and do it and not tell anyone? If you can have your exercise do double duty in your life (walking your dog, pushing the kids to the playground, biking to work) it’ll be even easier to make it a habit.
  4. Invest in some decent clothes to exercise in. Any kind of technical/wicking/dryfit clothes will do — they are all fine. They should feel comfortable while you’re exercising and keep you relatively cool. You should also like how you look in them. Target’s C9 brand is fairly inexpensive and decent of quality.
  5. Choose an activity that has an instructor (a class, group leader, or coach) or identify a mentor from your personal life. Having someone you can ask questions of helps keep you from feeling frustrated. And don’t be afraid to ask questions — who doesn’t love to help someone else?
A few secrets to motivate you:
  1. Once it’s a regular part of your life, exercising really does give you energy and make you feel great.
  2. The mental benefits of exercise are as amazing as the physical benefits. Nothing calms me down after a tough day like exercise. It also gives you a ton of confidence.Ā 

Breanne is an amazing marathon mama and the best coach a girl could have. Read more about her life and her passions at her blog, Borealis.

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