Confessions of a New Runner: What I've learned so far in our Advent challenge!

If you've read my bio you know that I am essentially new to the world of running. Until recently, most of my exercise consisted of chasing my toddler around parks and libraries. As a new runner, I have a lot to learn and if you are looking for true running wisdom, you should turn to Johnna  (although I do have some advice about fitting it into a mom's busy schedule). 

Nevertheless, I have learned some important things over the past six weeks with Catholic Women Run and I'm eager to prove that I'm no longer completely clueless. I fact, I think I've moved firmly into the realm of just mostly clueless.

1. Slow down. SLOW DOWN. Seriously, just slowwwww dowwwwwn. This one may seem obvious and experienced runners will laugh when they read it. When I began running in early December I actually ran WAY. Too. Fast. Week one was fine, but in week two I was already struggling. Soon after, I visited home for Christmas and went on some runs with my sister. I found that when I followed her slower pace, the run went much more smoothly. After some investigation, I now know this is a simple little thing called pacing yourself. Many people have told me that I should actually be able to hold a conversation while running. Um, what? Doesn't running automatically mean you should be out of breath and unable to speak? No, apparently not!

2. Community really is important. Confession: I'm behind on the 5k running plan but it's not for lack of trying. My Christmas travel schedule was challenging enough to work around, but then I got sick. Twice. I will spare you the details, but let's just say that for several days exercise was not a physical possibility for me. I was disappointed to fall behind so early in the running program and really struggled during my first couple of runs after I got better. In the past, I would have started saying things like "I guess I'm just not a runner" and "I am just not one of those people who can learn to enjoy running." But this time I was able to jump on Instagram and Facebook to get inspired by the amazing community of women who are completing this challenge with me (if you aren't doing so already, I recommend following our @CatholicWomenRun account as well as the #CatholicWomenRun hashtag!). I also read Johnna's really helpful post about training when your plan fails.

3. Think outside the box when you make your playlist. For a long time I was under the impression that only the most intensely upbeat, booty-shaking music could get me through a run. If that's what works for you, keep at it! But I decided to experiment a little since I was trying to give a more peaceful, reflective mood to my runs. In the beginning, I created an advent playlist of religious music, partly inspired by this one. Since Christmas, I've experimented more and have even tried running to classical music. Some of you may be shaking your head, thinking that classical music is too slow for exercise. On the contrary, some of it is actually too fast! But I've had some success. This week I listened to Concierto de Aranjuez  while running and absolutely loved it.

4. Running really can be inspiring. Try not to roll your eyes at this one! Before beginning our Advent 2017 challenge, I had high hopes for how prayer and meditation could potentially transform my running experience. I have not been disappointed. Using my runs as a time of prayer and reflection has made them so much more inspiring and energizing - even when it requires a real physical push to make it through. If you weren't able to sign up for our Advent 2017 challenge, I really encourage you to join us during Lent 2018.

I'm excited to complete this challenge and learn even more over the next month of running. Are you a newbie runner like me or an experienced runner like Johnna? What have the past few weeks been like for you? We'd love for you to share what you've learned in the comments!