I didn’t take up running until I was in my late 20s, and my first run was literally just an outlet to release emotion. I’d gone through a breakup and was suffering. One day, overwhelmed by frustration, I tore out the door and ran around the block—no shoes, no preparation. But as I found myself out of breath three minutes later (and with sore feet!) I realized two things:
1. Despite my naturally lean build, I was horribly out of shape.
2. I wasn’t wallowing in agony. Sweating (and panting) felt good.
The next day, I ran around the block twice. Two weeks later, I ran a mile for the first time in years.
Now, six years later, I run several times a week. When I’m feeling unsettled or anxious, there is simply nothing that can make me feel better than breaking a sweat and clearing my mind with a long run down the beach or around the neighborhood.
My wife, Hunter, was a Division 1 scholarship tennis player in college, so she’s plenty familiar with working hard and pushing herself physically. But in her working life as a photographer and small business owner, she often spends long hours, day after day, editing and toning images on the computer. When she gets behind—especially during wedding season—it’s extremely stressful for her.
Naturally, I encouraged her to run to relieve that tension and shake off the anxiety of work. At first, however, she wasn’t motivated to go—who is, if they’re out of practice? So I offered to go with her.
At the time, I was training for a 200-mile relay race, where I’d be responsible for running 25 miles over four legs. I’d gotten myself to under 8 minutes a mile, a difficult accomplishment for me at that point. But Hunter’s pace upon returning to running was closer to 10 or 11 minutes a mile.
Although I was frustrated at first, I quickly learned that I could keep up my own training regimen while still inspiring Hunter to get out the door and exercise. Here’s what I did:
1. Diversify and Stagger Your Own Runs.
Alternating training days between endurance runs and sprints is a smart move, and training with a beginner partner helps this happen naturally. When you’re running alone, push yourself as hard as you can and try to break personal pace records. When you’re running with your spouse who is just starting out, go at their pace and encourage them when they get tired.
2. Keep Track of Your Miles.
There’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment that comes with breaking a personal record or achieving a new goal. By using the RunKeeper app, you gain real-time knowledge of your speed and progress.
We all know that the first mile is the hardest of any run. By knowing their exact distance, a new runner can be encouraged to press on when they’ve “only” gone one mile, and likewise, they can be rewarded and experience the excitement of realizing they’ve just completed a 5K without even trying.
3. Find Creative Ways to Push Yourself.
Just because you’re running slower with your spouse doesn’t mean you can’t still be challenged. Amp up your shared running days by carrying weights or a jump rope, or practicing lifting your legs higher. If you’ve never tried the “toe-strike” barefoot running style, jogging with a slower partner can be a great chance to experiment with making that transition.
4. New Gear Can Make a Difference.
When I transitioned to barefoot running, I literally ran barefoot on the beach. So when I ordered my first pair of actual barefoot running shoes, opening the box when it arrived at my door felt like Christmas. I literally could not wait to put them on my feet and head out the door on a run.
If you’re trying to inspire a spouse who hasn’t exercised in a long time, surprising them with new running gear can be just the spark they need to get motivated. Those stinky old shoes in the closet from college just aren’t that appealing!
I bought Hunter a new pair of bright blue shoes, and she picked out a new wicking shirt and sports bra. On the one hand, you have to use the equipment to justify the purchase. And on the other, when you have new, properly fitting athletic apparel, it feels good to put it on and use it.
If (like me) you can’t imagine your life without running, make a point to share it with the people you love. Doing that may require that you shift your own regimen, but it’s well worth the effort. Start by making a playlist that you can both listen to at the same time as you run. Or ditch the earphones and make your run a time to catch up and talk about your day or your plans for the future.
Whatever you do, don’t leave your spouse at home while you run! Share what you love and experience the excitement of reaching new milestones and running goals with them.