The 5 Things I Never Expected To Learn When I Started Running

For the ones who hate running and somehow managed to click on this article: I wrote this for you. Mainly because these are the things every runner already knows and the things I hope will convince you to try running as well.

Nobody who has ever known me would have predicted  the author of an article giving the last noble plea for every college girl to start running to be myself. And sometimes it still blows my mind to think I became a runner after a life of avoidance at all costs.

In junior high, I convinced my volleyball coaches (a very below average B team player) to go along with “National No Running Day for Girls Named Riley.” Oh, you haven’t heard of it? October 17th, look it up.

Seriously, ask every girl on the team and 7 years later they will tell you the ridiculous smile on my face as I got away with no warm ups or sprints that day. I also would “forget” sneakers on days I might be expected to break a sweat in gym class. And I would be lying if I said I never elaborated on an injury to get out of soccer practice.

I used to laugh so hard at the memes about runners and the 0.0 signs on the back of cars. Now I have a secret Pinterest board with cheesy, motivational running quotes (I can’t believe I just public admitted that). I started running in an effort to lose weight, and never expected the other benefits that would come along with it.

1.  A Stress Reliever… Better Than Wine?!

I know what you’re thinking. Why the hell would you run when you could just put your flannel PJs on with your feet up and a bottle of red wine to do the same trick?

When your calculus midterm just slapped you in the face, but you’ve got two exams to study for and a 5-page paper to due tomorrow that bottle of wine is not your friend.

But if you can squeeze in a quick run you will feel some of the weight sweat right off your shoulders. While you are running, endorphins are released into your body that chemically relax and reduce stress.

We college gals have a lot of things to stress out about – exams, projects, friends, boys, clubs, interviews, our futures, student loans, etc – and sometimes it all seems to hit you at once. Running not only gives you a “natural high” but time and place to think through the things that have you stressed out. It’s like shower time, only you’re burning calories too.

2.  You’ll Stop Competing With Others

By nature, I am a very competitive person in everything I do and that’s a fairly common thing amongst college students. Coming to school, I really struggled with the fact that everywhere I looked there was someone who was better than me at something. It’s easy to start to feel swallowed up like a little fish in a big pond.

I started running at my university’s gym and it seemed like every single person in the room was some sort of workout all-star.But when you’re really tired and you want to quit, you are not going to be thinking about the girl next to you effortlessly trotting along at 8mph. You’re going to be thinking about how the hell you’re going to do this. And then you’re going to be really, really proud of yourself when you do.

I’ve learned that you can’t expect to be as good as someone who’s been at it way longer than you. But you’ll become the best when you set out to beat the goals you’ve set for yourself. You are your only competition. If you only focus on making yourself the best you can be, you will be leaps ahead of the people constantly out to beat the person next to them. It’s that kind of approach that dulls the things you’re passionate about and makes life all the more stressful.

3.  A Healthy Lifestyle In College Is Actually Possible

Say what??? I know we all laugh about watching Netflix in bed all day and the unspeakable amount of calories we consumed in vodka and pizza Thursday night, but in all reality our health is still something we should be concerned about while in college.

Running is a great way to kick start a healthier lifestyle. If you can allow yourself the time to learn to love it, you will find that other aspects of your health will start to piece together. When I started running, the realization of working so hard to burn all those calories made me not want to gain them all back at on a McDonald’s meal.

You’ll start to form habits – habits of running frequently and making healthy meal choices. It’s never easy when you start, but habits only take 21 days to form. If you can hold out for three weeks, you’ll start to find it a lot easier to wake up for your run and skip the pizza at lunch. You may even find you have a better run or an easier time eating healthy after a good night’s sleep or a solid breakfast before you start your day. Look at you, you health guru.

4. The Extra Mile Makes All The Difference

The extra mile will take you very, very far in life. It’s going to land you the dream job, teach you about yourself, and give you the confidence that you really can do whatever you set your mind to. But it’s not always easy to be the excited, motivated gal we all know you are deep down.

Running will teach you that the margin between average and excellent is always and only the extra mile. A lot of people know the phrase but until you attach a personal meaning to it, it just sits pretty on your Pinterest board.

It’s finishing an exhausting run on a minute sprint, waking up extra early to squeeze a jog into a busy day, or running when it sounds like the most unappealing thing this world has to offer that will make you better. I can give you an endless list but until you try it for yourself and see the benefits, it’s just a list of things that sound really un-fun.

When you do try it for yourself, you’ll begin to understand the value in coming to work an hour early or staying an hour late. You’ll know that being kind to your horribly annoying coworker isn’t all for nothing.  You’ll know what helping your boss with an extra project will mean to him. And you’ll really like the place where the extra mile takes you.

5. You Are One Unbreakable, Unstoppable, Badass MFer.

One day you’re going to kill a 10 mile run for the first time and you are going to want to do a happy dance, scream to the world, call your mom, and then do it all over again. It’s the best feeling in the world to work so hard for something and feel it all payoff.

You didn’t care how stupid you used to look, or how slow you used to be, or how silly your form might have been because you just conquered something you thought you never could physically do. It’s powerful. And motivating.

That feeling is going to make you want to do it all. And you can. If you can physically push yourself to places you never thought it could you would go – Why can’t you ace that Calculus final? Why can’t get you get your dream job?

You’re a proven #GirlBoss powerhouse, and if you want something-  you’ll get it.

Go for a run. And try it again and again until you like it. You’ll probably end up with a cheesy, running motivation Pinterest board as well.




Riley O'Bryan

Editorial Contributor, Indiana University Majors: Professional Sales and Management Her heart belongs to: hard laughs, long runs, and Indiana University Dance Marathon Her guilty pleasures: cozy knits and good denim, football tailgates, dry humor, and Anthropology candles

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