I apologize

…to my thighs.  Yep, you heard me right.  I am apologizing to my thighs.

I was in the middle of a long run on Friday when I had a bit of an epiphany.  I had driven out to the trails to do my long run and realized AS I WAS PUTTING MY SOCKS ON that I didn’t have insoles in my shoes.  I was so pissed at myself.  I didn’t really have the extra time to spare but I really didn’t want to run my long, solo miles on the road so I drove the 25 minutes home and 25 minutes back to the trails (I was now 1.5 hours into this run and hadn’t even started) and I was in the worst mood.  I knew as soon as my feet hit the dirt that I would get over it though and just embrace being in the woods.

This wasn’t the case though.  I was just being mean to myself.  I was wearing some new shorts that were riding up and every time I would look down, I would think “ugh, my thighs are so big and pasty and white and ugh….” and because of this, I wasn’t having my best run. I was just too focused on something, anything other than just my running.  Typically when I hit the trails, I can literally feel all of my weekly stress fade away but I wasn’t letting it happen.

All of a sudden, it hit me like a ton of bricks that if I expect my body to do all the things I ask of it, I should be a little nicer to it.  I literally stopped dead in my tracks and took a moment to take in my surroundings and re-group mentally.  My “pasty white, big legs” have done a lot for me…numerous half marathons, marathons, and ultra marathon, tri’s, a half ironman….they have logged thousands and thousands of miles on the road, biking and running, and I was being so damn mean to them.  That’s just not fair.  So, I apologized and moved on.

Oh, and I ended up having a gloriously brutal run that I loved every second (thereafter) of and even shared the trails with 7 deer for a bit.  Moral of the story: if I expect a lot of my body, I need to show it a little more gratitude.


Sweat is Pretty


I was recently speaking with a woman I know and she said, “i don’t sweat. Ewwww. That’s just gross”.  Of course I was inwardly rolling my eyes as I like to sweat.  It makes me feel good.

A few days later, while on a run, I started thinking about it again.  “It’s gross.  Ewww” popped into my head.  I started my run a little later in the day so not only was I sweating, I was drenched.  My hair was plastered to my head and my shirt was looking more like a pathetic entry in a wet t-shirt contest.  I didn’t feel gross though.  I felt awesome.

I love to work up a good sweat.  This is good for my soul.  I know I probably look my worst when I’m out on a run but this is when I really care the least.  I’m not self conscious.  I don’t care how “bad” I look.  Whether it’s a good workout or one I’m struggling to complete, I am still grateful to be out there and thrilled that my body allows me to do the things I do.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I think I am this beautiful runner.  I still feel like I am mimicking Phoebe at times and I am perfectly aware my face gets beet red.  This is actually probably a good interpretation of me when out on a run:


The weird thing is, I am more self conscious when I’m not sweating.  When I’m dressed up to go out, this is when I am harder on myself.  This is when I think, “how do I look? my hair is so frizzy. I should have changed.  blah, blah, blah”.  None of these types of things creep in to my head when I’m out working up a sweat.

I hope to never think sweating is “ewwww” and will be grateful if I’m still able to get “gross” many years from now.

Letting go of perfect….

While out on a solo trail run the other day (where I do my best thinking), I thought about how long it has been since I have written a blog.  I write in a journal every night so keeping up with a blog shouldn’t be so hard.  I think I finally came up with the honest conclusion that I stopped writing blog entries because I was concerned they might not be perfect.  Is it what someone wants to read?  Does anyone even read it anyway?  Is it grammatically perfect?  Is it uplifting enough?  Is it informative enough?  Probably not, I guessed.

I ended up spending my entire run wondering why I even care about any of this stuff.  I am entirely too hard on myself, that’s why.  There, I said it.  I struggle with being “just ok” with something and I beat myself up over it.  I am shy and this irritates me.  I have my own set of body image issues and this irritates me.  I’m not the best athlete and this irritates me.  I’m ok with admitting this.  I think.

Keith always tells me to stop looking at what I think I can’t do and look at what I have done. I have done marathons, an ultra marathon, a half ironman, started my own business, and left behind a job that didn’t make me happy.  These were conscious decisions that took a lot of gumption, probably more than I give myself credit for.  I, for some reason though, still feel like I am striving for “perfect”.  Not the perfect job or family as these I feel like I have achieved but the perfect ME.  What is perfect though?  I have no idea.  I am not a competitive person but I have this inner demon that forces me to achieve but it also makes me question if I am “enough”.

I came across an old email from Keith today and it was referencing a blog he saw that made him think of me (http://runmantra.tumblr.com/post/100112586481/embracing-the-real-you).  I remember when he sent it, thinking “what is he thinking, this is so not me.”  Well, it is me and I now acknowledge it.  I am choosing to let go of perfect. I’ll continue to set big goals for myself because this is what gives my belly butterflies but I’ll be happy when I have achieved them instead of wishing I had achieved them more perfectly.  I will work on positive self speak and be proud of what this 41 year old body has done so far.  Although Wonder Woman has always been my idol, I now admit that I won’t ever be her and I’m ok with this.  Actually, this is a lot of pressure off of me!  Those would really be tough boots to fill.

So, anyway, I may blog and I may not and you may get something out of it and you may not but, beware, it won’t be perfect.  It will just be me.

Guest Blog: Tiffany F.

Guest Blog: Tiffany F.

Ok, so I just ran a half marathon! For some this may sound super exciting, and for others, maybe your first half was years ago and you have moved on to the full marathon or ultra-marathon. For me, it was a victory in many ways.

In 2005, I woke up to find that the entire left side of my body was numb. I was terrified. The neurologist sent me for an MRI, and the news was better than I thought-herniated discs-3 of them. I know that sounds terrible, but I was worried it would be much worse-my mom has Multiple Sclerosis and for years I waited for something terrible to happen to me. So, as I sat there feeling the relief wash over me, I thought I heard the doctor say “No. Running. Ever.” I asked him to repeat what he just said. He said “No. Running. Ever”. I would not have called myself a runner then, despite my brief membership on the White Station High School track team. BUT, I also don’t like being told that I can’t do something. I began to think about what I could do-walk, cycle, aerobics, swim, etc. The doctor told me that the cycling would hurt my back and that aerobics was pretty much the same as running. I should not do ANY of those things, except walk. I believed him.

I went about my life for a few years, enjoying a nice 3 mile walk here and there, and as I got older, those pounds started to creep up on me. It wasn’t just about weight, I did not feel well. I felt really lazy and unhealthy. I decided to swim more in the summer. I got stronger. I added in some cycling, but it never clicked with me as a way to work out. I changed doctors and went in for a physical. This doctor was different. Rather than telling me what NOT to do, we started talking about what I could do. The MRI was repeated and guess what?? All of that swimming and getting stronger was helping! The herniations in my neck and back were so small they did not even bother to measure them.

I decided to add Jazzercise to my routine. Wait. Before you say anything-it is a really great workout and nothing like Richard Simmons! All this time, I thought I would never be in shape again. I went back the next year and he asked how I was feeling. I told him I felt great, but really wished I could run. He said “If you can Jazzercise, you can run! Go for it, but just start slow and listen to your body.” So, I took the plunge and signed up for Star’s Cooper Young 4 miler training. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I could do it. FOUR miles? Crap.

Forward 3 months and I finished the CY 4 Miler in 48:36. The very next Saturday I thought “I bet if I can run 4 miles, I can run 5 miles”. Star invited me to join the half marathon group and I was all “Whoa now. I just ran 4 miles. That in no way means that I can run 13! Geez!” Turns out that I easily ran 5 miles. Not 5 miles fast, but 5 miles steady. It felt good (until the next morning). I liked it.

Then came the dreaded Plantar Fasciitis. My running career was over! What would I ever do? There were hundreds of suggestions online about the perfect cure. There were also hundreds of stories about superior athletes who were doomed to lives of sitting on the sofa and watching reruns on television because of the dreaded PF. But I just started running! How could this be? After the herniated disc disaster of 2005, surely this was not the end.

I know I sound dramatic here, but that is how I felt at the time. I stopped running. My feet felt better. I signed up for the CY training again, and guess what! More PF and foot pain. This time I was not going to give in. I worked too hard last time. It took a few weeks, but I finally found the right treatment team for me and my feet felt so much better (thanks to Star and her awesome recommendations). What did I do? I ran the Cooper Young 4 miler in 47:30, and promptly signed up for the half marathon group.

It all seemed like some crazy dream. Increase mileage every week by 2 miles? Star’s response, “if you can run 5 miles, you can run 7. If you can run 7 miles, you can run 9,” and so on. She was totally right. This is absolutely the most challenging thing I have ever done. Running is much more mental than physical. I struggled in the beginning because I traveled a lot this fall and I had to do a lot of my runs out of town. When I found out that I had to work on the day of our 9 mile run, I nearly self-destructed. I realized that I was getting so much support from my teammates that I felt alone and distracted without them. I don’t even always chat during runs, but I know my teammates are right there with me-in front of me, beside me, behind me.

Of course, a new foot problem emerged and got much worse 2 weeks before the race. After all of those Friday nights of going to bed at 9:30 so I can get up at 5:30 on Saturday to go on a long run! This time I felt different though. I went straight to solution mode. I was going to run this race and there was very little that could stop me. There are many scenarios that would lead to making a smart decision not to push a serious injury. Fortunately after talking to my doctor the day before the race and making some changes, we decided that I could run. I was…….terrified. Suddenly I was sure that I would never make it, despite the fact that I had already run 13 miles in training.

Later that afternoon, my husband and I got in the car and drove to Cotter, Arkansas for the White River Half Marathon. We rented a cabin with my best friend from high school, who was running her second half. I went to dinner with my teammates, drank a good luck beer and went to sleep. The next morning, I reminded myself of all that I learned over the past 3 months-pacing, fueling, strategy. I hoped for a respite from the pain. I got my gear, drove with Cathy to the race, and then I ran for 13.1 miles with no foot pain at all.

Wait a second. I didn’t say no pain at all, just no foot pain! I felt great until mile 11, when I realized that I messed up my strategy by speeding up too early. Then came the strong headwind and some icy cold pouring rain. It was tough, but I made it 11 miles before it got tough. The very best part was the structure of the race. The White River Marathon is an “out and back” along the White River. It’s beautiful, and flat. I ran with some of my teammates for much of the race since we were so close in pace, and I ran alone for a few miles. The best part: all of my other teammates passed by as they turned around for the last 7 miles. We all made the effort to run in the middle of the road so we could high five each other and encourage each other. Every one of those high fives and the words of encouragement absolutely got me to the finish line of that race. A lot of folks think that running is a solitary sport, but I am here to tell you that I run with a team, and they all have my back!

Thanks Star-for knowing I could do it and then showing me how. Thanks to all of the other Star Runners for encouraging me, running with me, and laughing with me. See you in January when we begin training for my next half marathon!

To prove how awesome it is to train for a half marathon-this is me at mile 7 with some jazz hands!


Guest Post – Laurie B.

(Laurie, thank you for allowing me to be a part in this journey of yours. I couldn’t be more proud. xoxox)

Guest post: by Laurie B.

So after 28 weeks of training, I finished the St. Jude Marathon today. I am glowing. I am excited, I am proud, I am happy. I haven’t even looked up my finish time and I really don’t care. This is marathon #3 for me; it wasn’t my fastest and it wasn’t my slowest, but it was my best.

That’s a hard concept for a lot of runners to wrap their minds around, I realize. Even those of us who are middle-to-back of the pack runners tend to be number oriented. What’s my pace, what’s my split time, what’s my goal time, what’s my PR. I have been that runner before, always racing myself and my own inner critic, if not the other runners. To a large extent I still was that runner when I started training in June. But after I received my goal pace, after I ran my first tempo run, I realized that this race wasn’t going to be about time.

To back up a few steps, I’m really not much of an athlete. As a kid I was terrible at sports. Not terrible like one of those people who says “oh I’m terrible at this” to be modest, but like someone who is legitimately TERRIBLE at sports. I struck out at t-ball regularly, I was always the weakest link during Red Rover, and I got encouraged to quit our no cuts track & field team because I couldn’t time my jumps right without faulting or straight up missing the long jump pit. The only game I ever succeeded in was dodge ball, and that wasn’t because I was any good, it was just because my failures in other sports taught me to be pretty good at ducking when there was a large object flying at my face. I do remember feeling different when we’d do our twice annual mile run – I wasn’t the fastest, but I wasn’t the slowest, and I always had this idea in my mind that some day I wanted to be able to run the mile without a walk break. In the summertime in northern Michigan, I learned it was half a mile from our lakeside cottage to the candy store, and I daydreamed about actually RUNNING there and back. Not that I actually did it. I figured I just couldn’t, like I couldn’t play basketball or throw a frisbee or whatever.

When I finally did start running, I was in college. By that point I had been struggling with an eating disorder since I was 12 and running was just another way to compulsively burn calories. I had moments where I loved it, but a lot of the time it was just all about the numbers. I had the eating disorder voice yelling in my ear: run farther, run faster, remember how many calories were in your lunch and you should probably burn twice that just to be safe. I had a certain arbitrary pace (10 minutes per mile) that was my cutoff and any run slower, regardless of how I was feeling or how far I was going, was BAD. I ran my first marathon shortly after I finished college. In some ways it was a huge victory, especially for the former gym class failure, but I finished in 4:23 which is just over a 10 minute mile. BAD.

Fast forward a few years. I got married, went to grad school, moved to Memphis, got a job, figured I’ve more or less outgrown the eating disorder. And then I started sinking. Slowly at first, then faster and faster until I was in a hole I couldn’t get out of. I was a zombie at work, I had stopped talking to my friends, I had completely shut out my husband, and my body was falling apart. In February 2013, I reluctantly entered an intensive outpatient treatment center for eating disorders. I was in denial that I actually HAD a problem and I was terrified. I was given a contract to sign: three solid meals and three snacks, zero exercise, and worst of all I had to actually TALK in my group therapy. All of my coping mechanisms (eating, exercise, isolation) were suddenly gone. It was the most raw pain I have ever experienced. It completely broke me. Which is just what I needed to rebuild my life.

Recovery has been a long, winding road. I had hoped it would be a straight line: do what I need to do, learn to cope, get better and be happy. But in any recovery, and especially in eating disorder recovery where there is no black and white “sobriety” to rely on, it’s a tangle of surges forward and setbacks and tears over the dinner table and amazing friends and bitter loss. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I took ten months off from running. I was terrified to start again. I wanted so badly to reclaim the run for me and leave the eating disorder out of it. That meant turning my training plan over to a wise coach (aka Star) who would tell me when to run, how far to run, how fast to run. I was blessed to find a coach who would not only do this but would ensure that I didn’t run a single mile over, that I slowed down when I needed to, that I didn’t sneak in any extra days. For me to reclaim running, I’ve needed to stay away from the treadmill, avoid solo runs, and be cautious about getting too attached to the numbers on my Garmin. And for me, running for recovery also meant I had to go back to Star after my goal setting run to ask for a new pace. A SLOWER pace.

This marathon and the months of training leading up to it have been about so much more than numbers and times and miles. It’s been about finishing what I start, and sticking with something that can just plain suck at times, even when the final goal is far far off in the future. It’s been about the discipline to do what I need to do, even when I don’t feel like it. It’s been about showing up and being accountable and knowing that whether or not anyone is watching, the little things will be what get me to the finish line. And – just for those who may be reading and think that marathons and recovery must be 100% horrible – it’s been about joy and courage and victory and some of the best relationships I’ve ever formed. And that’s why I fought, and I mean FOUGHT, to cross this finish line.

Race day was just what it needed to be. The weather was perfect, the training was behind me, the crowds were enthusiastic. I was full of nervous energy at the start and I had to remind myself early on that this is a marathon, not a sprint. I had moments of excitement, of gratitude, of pride. I had moments where I really wasn’t sure if I could cross the finish line. And I had moments of pain when I just had to push forward, one step at a time, knowing that there aren’t any shortcuts. But somehow every time I reached a low point of uncertainty, I would see a friend or a stranger who would give me just what I need to keep moving forward.

I crossed the finish line beaming. I don’t know what my time was, but whatever it was is my best time yet. Because that’s how long it took, and this race wasn’t about the numbers for me. I may run more marathons and I may not. Maybe I’ll try to set a new PR and maybe I won’t. I just know that for today, I’m pretty sure that I’m exactly where I need to be.

Thanks Star and friends for your part in my journey… it’s been incredible. Much love and congrats to everyone who has crossed finish lines, fast or slow, tangible or metaphorical. You are all rock stars in my book. :)


Ironman. A different vantage point.

Keith and I have experienced Ironman races as spectator (me) and participant (Keith) but never as a volunteer until recently.  Let me tell you, having now volunteered at an Ironman, I am even more blown away than before.

We drove to Louisville Saturday and arrived around dinner time.  It was pouring rain!  As we toasted our drinks, we noted how different this Ironman was already proving to be for us. Typically we would have already been in the room going over last minute check-lists and trying to calm our nerves..his and mine!


We signed up to volunteer from 2-6:30 as Transition Floaters and from 6:30 – 12:30 as Finish Line Catchers.  We really had no idea what this would entail but we were so excited to play a part.  Although we weren’t scheduled until 2, we wanted to be at the race start and out on the course so we got up and went straight to the swim exit to get a good spot.  We saw every single person exit the water, from the first pro to the last age grouper.


Once the last swimmer exited the Ohio River we decided to run and grab a bite to eat as we had a long day ahead of us.  We found a spot on the run course and waited until the first pro girls came through (missed the pro guys) and some of the age groupers and then headed onto our “jobs”.


As Transition Floaters, we had no idea what we would be doing..they would just place us anywhere there was a gap.  The amazing thing that we knew but didn’t put into perspective is that there are 2-3 volunteers per athlete.  You would think this is overkill but it’s not.  There is so much that goes into making a race of this caliber run as smoothly as it does.


Keith was asked to head straight in to the Mens Changing Tent (more on this in a minute) and I was asked to be a Gear Bag Sorter.  We were in T2 (athletes coming off the bike and heading out on the run).  The heat index was upper 90’s at this point and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  Athletes would enter the changing tents and the plethora of volunteers would re-bag their bike stuff into their Bike Gear Bag and then toss those bags to the Sorters (me) and it was our job to run them down the fence line and drop them back in the correct spots and run back for more.  At this point, I hadn’t had any interaction with the athletes but it was still pretty fun to be out in T2.  The volunteers out in the open field with me were starting to look haggard and needed water breaks fairly frequently due to the heat but the attitudes of everyone were absolutely 100% positive.

I saw Keith a few times as he handed off some Gear Bags to me and he suggested I try to get moved to the Women’s Changing Tent.  Although they estimated the air temps to be about 105 in the tents, you were still out of the direct sun so this seemed like it might be a smart move.  There is nothing but hustle when you are volunteering.  Before I left the field, I had the opportunity to run into transition for 2 different athletes who left something on their bike.  It’s super intense when you know they are potentially counting down every second and you cannot be what holds them back so you just put your head down and go.  And you’re more than happy to do it.  The guy who needed his salt tablets off his bike which was already racked in the next fence area…it was up to me to get him those salt tabs.  It’s a crazy fun pressure but most of the athletes were super appreciative of everything we did.

I moved from the Bag Sort area to the Women’s Changing Tent.  This is the most interesting and most bizarre place I could ever imagine being.  Funny enough, I would absolutely volunteer for this position again.  As a female athlete ran through and grabbed her Run Gear Bag, she came into the tent to get ready for the run.  In an Ironman, most people choose to change clothes before heading out on the run.  The volunteers met each athlete at the entrance to the tent with a cup of cold water and immediately took their hand and led them to a chair.  It was up to us to dump their bag, prepare them for the run, and help them in whatever capacity.  We helped them undress and dress where necessary…when you’re sweaty and exhausted, you loose a lot of your dexterity so that’s where we came in.  I literally applied Vaseline, helped one woman get her panties on, struggled to put compression socks on an athlete, tied hair back, gave hugs, ran and filled fuel belts, ran back and forth to first aid for ice, and most importantly, just talked to the athletes to make sure they seemed coherent and not in need of medical care.  It was our job as volunteers to hustle but never to make an athlete feel as if you were hurried.  While they were trying to just regroup, we were putting their race belts around them, making sure they had everything, going through a check-list but never letting them know we were anything but a friendly face.

This was awesome! It felt like an oven in there and I looked like I had been in a swimming pool but this was the one on one interaction that I love. I talked to one girl who attempted an IM only 3 weeks ago but her rear derailleur broke at mile 96 on the bike so this would be her first IM finish.  I spoke with a woman who had a baby 14 months ago. I spoke with numerous people who were competing in their first IM event.  Every single one of them seemed a little thrown off at first by the bevy of volunteers and our willingness to literally dress them but every single one of them left with the biggest thank you and smile on their face.  I tried so hard to pay attention to faces and numbers, hoping to see them later that night in the Finish Line area.

Once this shift was over, Keith and I ran over to the Finish Line area.  We could not believe how exhausted we were already but excited to get into the finish line.  We got our “duties” and headed on in.  This was electric and overwhelming all at once.  There were probably 50+ volunteers in the finish line area plus medics so it was very crowded.  It ran so smoothly though, I would be shocked if an athlete knew any difference.  We lined up and as an athlete crossed the finish line, one of the Catchers would run up and congratulate them while placing their medal around their neck.  In these first few seconds, we made quick eye contact with the Medic Catchers and determined whether or not the athlete could walk on his/her own.  We then physically escorted them (quickly but not hurried) straight down where a volunteer quickly grabbed their chip while we grabbed their bib, walked them down towards the Finish exit while grabbing their Finisher shirt and hat, stopping them at Photos and then walking them to the exit and hopefully into the arms of family and friends.  This was really fun as well.  You get to be the first person they speak to once they become an Ironman so, for the most part, they are gracious and giddy.  If one of your athletes required a wheel chair, you stayed with them until Medic #2 came and took your spot.  Again, it all ran like a well oiled machine.


With some time to spare (the clock strikes 17:00:00 at midnight and if you are not over the finish mat, you are not officially an Ironman), Keith and I decided to go out in the Finish Line chute and cheer for those coming in at the last moments of the night.  With less than 90 seconds left in the race, we could see 3 final athletes turning the last corner and sprinting down 4th Street.  I have no words for this.  I have never screamed so loud in my life.  I had already witnessed several people who had missed various cut-offs and we had battled tears all day long and we just could not have this last person miss it by mere seconds.  I felt like all of Louisville was running behind the last athlete, screaming at the top of their lungs.  I have no idea what she ended up sprinting in those final moments but it was as if she was flying.  She crossed the mat just as it turned 17:00:00.


I am pretty sure we have never been so exhausted in our lives.  Ten hours of volunteering and about 19 hours of race day “festivities” but I wouldn’t change a thing.  I am in awe at all that it takes to put on an Ironman and blown away by how smoothly it runs.  Keith and I both saw some of “our” athletes from the changing tents as they were finishing their race and it’s impossible not to feel like you had a tiny part in their race.  We were as proud as if we had known these people much longer than the 10 minutes we had spent with them, 7 hours earlier.  I had no idea volunteering could be so physical and exhausting but I also had no idea it could be so rewarding.

A friend sent me this blog post she came across and it just makes my heart happy:  http://crushingiron.com/ironman-louisville-volunteers-imlou/

I’d like to think I had the same impact on an athlete at some point in their day.  We were told as volunteers to welcome every athlete with a smile and it would have been impossible to do anything but.

Your Mind is Getting in Your Way

I just ran across the following article and I love it.  These are the most common things I hear from athletes.  Any of these excuses yours? Get over it.

5 Mental Barriers, Smashed

Even if you love working out, it’s completely normal to battle negative thinking. Here’s how to get over it.

By Jennifer Van Allen

Often the biggest obstacle to running has nothing to do with the legs and lungs; it’s about what’s on your mind. Here’s how to clear some common mental hurdles that can keep you from getting out the door.

THE OBSTACLE: Working out hurts!

GET OVER IT: Tuning out—not in—can help you get through those tough first workouts, says Christy Greenleaf, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Wisconsin. Recruit a friend to walk the neighborhood with you; watch your favorite sitcom while you’re on the treadmill; put together a workout mix with tunes that evoke happy memories. Studies have shown that listening to music reduces the level of perceived exertion, or how hard you feel like you’re working. “Any way that you can focus your attention on something other than how your body feels will help,” says Greenleaf. “As you get more experienced and your body adapts to training, you can tune in more to what your body is experiencing.” And remember, it’s unpleasant for everyone in the beginning. “Every step you take hurts at first,” says coach Jeff Gaudette, founder of RunnersConnect, an online training service. “But you’ve just got to trust that you will feel better.”

THE OBSTACLE: I’m worried everyone will laugh!

GET OVER IT: Enlist a buddy for your first outing to the gym, the trail, or even a group run. Or connect online with other newbies who are venturing out for their first runs. Studies have shown that buddying up—whether it’s a person, a running group, or connecting online—increases your chances of sticking with an exercise routine. Everyone feels self-conscious at first. Susan Monk, training coordinator for the Atlanta Track Club, says she often hears from people who came to the first day of training, but felt too daunted to get out of their cars. “We get so caught up in the anxiety and fear of being negatively evaluated by others,” says Christy Greenleaf, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin. “But the reality is that most of the time other people are way more concerned about themselves.” Recruit a support crew of nonrunners to support your efforts, whether it’s your spouse, parents, roommate, boss, or coworkers, says coach Mindy Solkin, of The Running Center. “When someone who isn’t in the running world knows that you used to be on the couch, they can appreciate what a big deal it is that you just ran two miles,” she says. “It’s a big deal.”

THE OBSTACLE: I’m too busy!

GET OVER IT: Find the time of day when running is nonnegotiable, says coach and exercise physiologist Susan Paul of the Track Shack Foundation in Orlando. For most people, that’s the morning, when no meetings are scheduled and the kids are still in bed. “If you do it first thing, you don’t have time to think up an excuse,” she says. And make sure that you have cleared enough time to work out so that it doesn’t jam up your day. If a morning run means you’re speeding to work and stressed about being late, the workout will start to feel like punishment, says Charles Duhigg, author of the book The Power of Habit. “The brain starts relating to the workout in a negative way,” he says. “And it will be hard to make it into a habit.”

THE OBSTACLE: I missed working out for a week because of my job (or I was hurt, sick, or…insert excuse here). It feels like too much work to start over. I might as well give up.

GET OVER IT: Press the reset button, and start over, just like you would on a video game, says online training coach Jeff Gaudette. “Let go of the past, and focus on what you can control today,” he says. “Ask yourself, Can I run today? Can I make myself better?” And you may be happily surprised at how fast you bounce back. “Even beginners are surprised at how quickly they can get back on track,” says Paul. “Even if they took two weeks off, they haven’t lost as much fitness as they think.”

THE OBSTACLE: I’m working so hard, but I’m not getting anywhere!

GET OVER IT: Be patient. Many of the positive changes that are happening when you start exercising won’t be visible in the mirror or on the scale. “Everyone expects to lose the weight in an instant, and run longer and faster right away,” says Paul. “The weight loss will come if you’re consistent, but it takes time to condition your muscles, ligaments, and tendons,” she says. The body makes more capillaries (tiny blood vessels that transfer oxygen and waste products into and out of cells), more mitochondria, (the energy-producing structures in cells), and more enzymes that help the body use fat as fuel, Paul explains. Plus, every time your foot strikes the ground, it stimulates bone growth, so your bones get stronger and denser. “When you’re not patient, “ says Paul, “you make all the mistakes of doing too much too soon and too fast and getting overuse injuries and thinking that running is bad for you.”