By Meagan McGone
Running and I have a love/hate relationship.
I hate the conversation I create in my head to motivate myself to go for a jog. I hate tying up my shoelaces and leaving my air-conditioned house to hit the hot pavement outside. And I hate every minute of running the first mile.
So where does the love come in?
There are days when I feel that no workout can beat a sweaty jog. It's a great way to get the blood flowing, work out muscles and build endurance.
My complicated-but-serious relationship with running began last year. Everyone around me was doing it, and they would rave about this so-called "runner's high," in which an overload of released endorphins cause one to experience immense joy. I wanted to feel anything but pain during my jogs.
So I signed up for a half-marathon with four months to train. With a clear goal ahead - to run 13.1 miles without passing out - I set out on my mission.
Looking back, I cannot believe that someone who feared and disliked running as much as I did finished that race. But that brings me to my next point: Running is all just a head game that you have to play correctly.
By that, I mean that the minute I step foot outside to go for a jog, a loud voice in my head starts to object.
"You can't do this," it says. "It's too hot outside, your legs aren't stretched properly and there's no way you'll make it past the first mile."
Once my body proves my mind wrong, that voice grows smaller until I'm finished with my goal and a new voice says, "Wow, that wasn't so bad after all."
So, if you're looking to strengthen your relationship with running, here are a few tips that have worked for me:
. Sign up for a race. Whether you participate in a 5K run/walk or go for a long-distance challenge, registering for a race will make you motivated to train properly by a specific date. Pick up a copy of Hometown News or visit runningzone.com to find out about local races.
Perhaps best of all is that most races contribute funds to local nonprofits and charitable causes, so you're helping the community, while also getting fit.
. Find a scenic route. We are fortunate to live in an area with beautiful river views and wide sidewalks. If you like what you're looking at while you run, you are less likely to quit too soon. Plus, the pretty views always put me in a great mood.
. Run with a friend. Jogging alongside a partner can push you to carry on when you might otherwise give up. Also, having a running mate is especially useful if you are exercising in the evening or early morning for safety reasons.
. Invest in good shoes. Your knees, shins and back will thank you.
. Don't be afraid to walk. Initially, I was embarrassed to have to slow down on my jogs, but now, I cut myself slack. Walking is still a great form of exercise.
. You can do anything for 30 seconds. Occasionally, I have to remind myself of this to obtain the extra push I need. Set small goals for yourself, and pat yourself on the back once you've completed them.
Remember: Your mind can be a powerful object, but your body is, too.
Now, excuse me while I set out in pursuit of that true-to-its name "runner's high."