1. I can do hard things.
Running continues to be one of the HARDEST things I've EVER done. In my life. And I know it will always be hard. But I've learned that hard things are okay. It's GOOD to do hard things. After completing the 9 week Couch to 5k (C25k) running program, I learned that I CAN do physically demanding things and that my body, even at its most overweight, is an amazing creation that can do way more than I ever thought (or even tried to do). And it's okay to do HARD things. I remember feeling like I was going to throw up at times, and feeling like I wanted to stop... but then I'd check myself: Why do I want to stop... because I'm breathing hard? That's okay. Because my muscles are working hard? That's okay. Because my heart is beating hard? That's okay too. It's hard, but hard is good!
2. It feels SO good to be strong.
I remember the epiphany I had at the library, mid way through the C25k program. I used to HATE going up the long flight of stairs at the city library, but would make myself (sometimes that is all the exercise I would get in a week). Then one day, when I went up the stairs, I realized at the top that I made it and wasn't huffing and puffing. Running had given me the endurance to make it up the stairs without it even being a blip in my breathing rate. It was so encouraging at a hard part in the program, and helped me keep going.
3. Finishing something feels good.
When that last day of the program came at week 9, I was overjoyed. Not because I had done it and was done, but because I had actually started something EXTREMELY hard and requiring a HUGE amount of discipline, and I. FINISHED!
4. I realized how badly I talk to myself.
As I would run, especially at the beginning, but even now, a year into it, I realized how BAD I'd talk to myself. My brain would be SCREAMING in my head at me to STOP THIS CRAZINESS. And that I can't do this! What was I thinking?! I'm too fat. I'm too old. This is just like every other fitness/weight loss thing I've ever done and I'll never stick with it, so why put myself through this stupid pain... etc.
A good friend, who also started running this program about the same time, said to me in passing one day, how her brain does the same thing, and she just tells herself, calmly, "it's okay. The first part is always horrible. You've done this before, you can do it again..." And I realized that I was beating myself down with this talk. I could be nice. I could talk nice to me. So I started calmly repeating what my friend said to herself, and it really was okay. I really could do it. Something about me being NICE to me made all the difference, especially on those ugly runs.
5. Running will NOT help me lose weight.
Maybe other people are different, but running never did help me lose weight. I would work so hard, run so long, and for months and months and months would not lose an ounce. Running is good cardio exercise, it helped my body in so many ways, but losing weight is all about what I put in my mouth. Period. I run now because of all the good it does in every other area in my life... brain, heart, muscles, mind. Weight is going to be a constant battle of self-discipline. (salads in a jar, made ahead of time for a no-brainer daily lunch HAS helped me lose weight though!)
I seriously HATED running. It was horrible. On my days off from the C25k, I'd think about having to run tomorrow. It would be like a black rain cloud hanging over my head for the entire day. Then when the day came to run, I'd run and then think of the next one coming up and get all depressed and down again. When Mr. Measure (Mr. Perpetually-in-Shape) would run with me, I'd even start to dislike him. Making it look so easy. Me going so slow I was almost walking. I didn't want to talk during the runs, didn't want to look at the scenery. Just GET ME DONE AND OUT OF HERE and don't bug me.
Then, I rolled my ankle in January. So severely that I was out of running for over a month while it healed. And I really missed it. It's funny how you don't realize how much you like something (okay, maybe LIKE was too strong of a word here, maybe I didn't realize how much I really didn't HATE running) until it's gone. When I healed and could run again, I made a pact to never hate it again. And now, I kind of look forward to my running days, even though I know it's going to be hard (let me say, though, in all honesty, there still are those days that I "ugh" at the thought of a run tomorrow).
But in all my 39 years, running is the ONLY exercise I've stuck to doing for this long. One of the reasons why, I think, is because I can visibly see and physically feel improvement and stamina. Now that I can run for 3 miles, I can work on running faster. I can add running longer. I can SEE those numbers change and FEEL the muscles build in strength. That is the best reward!
7. You don't have to be FAST to be a runner.
If you go on pinterest or facebook you'll see a bunch of running quotes floating around. My favorite is: It may be a 7 min mile or a 14 min mile, but it's still a mile. Or: No matter how slow, you are still lapping everyone on the couch.
In September this year I was able to run the Warrior Dash with my husband and oldest son. It was SO hard, lots of hills, and obstacles that required more of me than I've EVER done in my life.
...and then I did laundry.