How to get started with running (as someone who hates it)

For pretty much my whole life, I’ve hated running. I tried playing soccer when I was young and gave up because the running part was awful. For years afterward, I couldn’t even run a full mile. I could hike for hours, but the act of running was just so unpleasant that I couldn’t go more than a few minutes before quitting and switching to walking instead.

My dislike of running really frustrated me. It seemed like a great cardio workout and everyone kept talking about the health benefits, but every time I tried to make myself run I could only stick with it for a week or two before giving up or being forced to stop due to injury/strain. 

But within the last few months, I’ve finally cracked the problem. I can now run straight through a 5K without stopping and I’m continuing to increase my distance over time. It only took a few small adjustments to get there.

If you are facing the same issue–you want to start running, but just can’t seem to get over your dislike of it–I hope that the tricks I’ve learned can help you out as well!

Here is what I changed.

1. I signed up for a race to give myself a goal to work toward.

[Signing up for a race is a great way to give yourself an external motivator to get running! (Though as you’ll see shortly, this is not necessarily the type of race I would recommend)]

Every time I started running in the past, I did it without a goal to work toward. One day I would just decide “I’m going to start running now” and then I would do it. I never set myself a goal of a distance or mile-time I wanted to achieve, and I never had the pressure of a deadline (the date of an event) to get me motivated to keep running. 

Without something to work toward, the “I hate running” side of my brain took over and always convinced me to quit because I wasn’t really losing anything by doing so–I wasn’t failing a goal of any kind and letting myself down–but I was losing a lot by forcing myself to do something I didn’t like. So why keep going?

Once I signed up for an event, this changed. I had a date and a distance goal set–and since I’d already spent money to hold my spot, I felt pressured not to waste the opportunity. If you are a goal oriented person like me, signing yourself up for an event dramatically helps with concrete goal setting and can give you the push that you’re missing if you just jump into running without any specific outcome in mind.

There are a ton of different events out there, and making the right choice can affect your motivation to keep running and improving. I didn’t just choose something randomly, but made calculated choices to help give myself the best chance at actually sticking with running and being prepared when event day came.

I chose an event that would make running more fun.

There are lots of pure running events out there–a standard 5K for example–but if you’re someone who hates running, signing up for a 5K doesn’t exactly seem like a fun idea. Rather than signing up for a normal running race, I decided to pick something that involved running, but where it was not the sole purpose: obstacle course racing. 

[Obstacle course races are a great way to get into running because they distract you from the actual running part! Highly recommend.]

In an obstacle course race, you run a set distance and encounter fun obstacles along the way–a mud pit, monkey bars, a giant slide, or a jump over fire, to name a few (you can read more about what you might see during one of these races in the article I wrote about obstacles here). The obstacles are the main part of the fun, and running is just a way to get you between them. Races like this help you get your mind off the discomfort of running because it no longer is the only thing you are thinking about during the race. Instead, you’re thinking about the awesome slide you’re about to fly down. I did my first race last year (and wrote about what I learned), and the experience made me so excited to keep going–something I’ve never felt with traditional running races.

If normal running doesn’t sound fun to you, pick a more activity-focused race like an obstacle course that breaks up the running with other things. In my experience, it is way more fun.

I signed up for that event with someone who is a better runner than I am.

To help increase my motivation to prepare for my obstacle course race, I signed up do to it with someone who runs regularly. This provided another external source of motivation–I wanted to be able to keep up with (or at least not completely drag down) my teammate. If I didn’t prepare for the race, I would not just be letting myself down, but I’d be letting someone else down too. This made me try much harder than I would if I were just doing a race on my own. 

I picked a race that was within my ability.

If you’re starting from nothing, like I was, the biggest thing you can do for yourself is set a reasonable goal. If you set your sights too high, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. I have seen some people jump from not running at all to saying they’re going to try and run a marathon. Going from 0 to 100 may sound like a fun idea (who doesn’t want to be able to run a marathon?), but for most people, your body is just not going to be able to do that.  

Instead of making a big step, start small and work your way up. Sign up for a 5K before you sign up for a 10K. Then, if you get comfortable with these, you can start considering longer races like half marathons. Starting small helps you start to see your potential. As you complete these smaller steps, you can start to build confidence in your abilities, which will make it easier to complete longer and longer runs. If you start with something big and can’t finish, it is much easier to lose motivation and just give up.

I set myself a reasonable timeline.

When I signed up for my race, I scheduled it for a good 7 months or so away, giving myself ample time to prepare. If you are new to running, it can take you a while to get used to it and push past the discomfort stage, so you don’t want to sign up for a race that is only a few weeks away. 

When picking a race, give yourself a few months to prepare, but not too long. If your race is a year out, you may feel like you have ages to prepare, so won’t feel motivated to get started. 

[Whatever you do, don’t sign up for a marathon next month!! Just don’t do it!!!]

2. I decided to run less often.

This one is perhaps a bit counter intuitive at first. The more you run, the better you’ll get, right? That is perhaps true once you are experienced, but it is the opposite of what you want when you’re starting out. 

Going too hard is the easiest way to burn out and injure yourself. 

This is what happened to me in all my previous attempts to get over my hatred of running. Each time I wanted to try running again I’d try to run every day and I always ended up feeling winded after a few days or developing shin splints or some other pain injury. This then made it impossible to keep running, so I’d quit.  

This time, I decided to run way less often–I only run twice per week, usually about three days apart. This schedule has been much more sustainable. I have plenty of time to recover in between runs and haven’t faced any injuries yet. 

It also frees up my time, allowing me to keep my other days for exercises that bring me more joy, like weightlifting or rock climbing. 

When you are just starting, running can feel like a bit of a punishment. Doing it less often dramatically reduces this issue and can help sustain the habit long enough to reach the point where it can actually start to become enjoyable.

3. I found a way to limit excuses getting in my way.

I am someone who is prone to allowing excuses to get in my way of exercise, so to help myself stick with running, I decided to eliminate one of the excuses that was getting in my way the most: weather.

Unlike many other gym activities, running is very weather-dependent. It is very common to run outdoors, and if the weather is bad, you’re not going to want to do it. If you live in a cold or rainy climate, as I do, this can be a huge problem. Who wants to run when it’s pouring rain, snowing, or freezing? If you let those things get in your way, there will be a lot of days when you maybe should run but you don’t.  

[This person has way more willpower than I do. Can they teach me their ways?]

As someone who lives somewhere very cold and snowy, I knew I had to eliminate this issue for myself. I decided to find a gym that had an indoor track and decided to run there when the weather was bad. I would still run outdoors if it was sunny and warm, but otherwise the indoor track would be my go-to. 

After that, I never found myself quitting for weather except for when snowstorms made it physically impossible to get to the gym. 

If you live somewhere with good weather most of the year, this change might not help you much, but it is worth considering other areas where you find yourself regularly making excuses to get out of a run. Perhaps an excuse you use often is “I’m too tired to run after work,” in which case you could try running before work instead. It could be something else entirely–we all have different things happening in our lives–but whatever your excuses may be, it is worth taking time to consider how you might limit their effect.

Making these small changes has led to a huge shift in how I view running. It is now just a normal part of my workout schedule, I don’t find it miserable anymore, and I genuinely look forward to some of the races I’ll be completing.

If you’ve found yourself hating running and want to give it a try, hopefully my experience gives you some inspiration to get started and stick with it.

Why Are Jamaican Sprinters So Fast? 5 Potential Explanations [Femme FITale #4]

On today’s installation of Femme FITale, we’re taking a look at the fastest women in the world. More specifically, how a small, not particularly wealthy country in the Caribbean managed to take the sprinting world by storm.

Jamaican Excellence

Jamaica is home to around three million people, about the same number as live in Chicago. Although it’s classified as having an upper-middle income economy, Jamaica is still struggling, in part due to slow growth, high debt, and vulnerability to natural disasters.

In 2017, nearly 20% of Jamaicans lived in poverty. Additionally, the country faces relatively high levels of crime and violence (Note: all this according to the World Bank). Jamaica’s murder rate is three times the average of Latin America and the Caribbean, and it’s been considered multiple times to be in the top 10 most dangerous places in the world, particularly for women.

Compare this with the United States. The US has a population of around 328 million (more than 100 times the size of Jamaica) and a significantly lower poverty rate of around 13%. The country is considered to be very safe in most areas and is quite wealthy, with a lot of disposable income floating around.

You would think–purely given this comparison–that the US should dominate Jamaica in running competitions. The US has way more people to choose from and find the top talent, way more money to invest in sporting equipment and practice, and way less crime and poverty that could serve as a distraction/limit on competition.

But that’s not what you see when you look at the data.

Below are the top 10 medaling countries at the Olympic Games in the Women’s 100 meter and 200 meter sprints, ordered by total medals).

Jamaica is only 5 medals behind the US overall, they are nearly tied in silvers, and are even ahead on bronze. It’s incredibly impressive, and completely the opposite of what you’d expect if you just blindly looked at the backgrounds of the two countries.

What about when we look at Jamaica compared with the whole world. How do Jamaican runners stack up then?

Below we see the 100 fastest times for the women’s 100 meter and 200 meter sprints of all time. Note that this data does not only cover the olympics, but considers all major events. Jamaican runners are highlighted in Green.

We can see that Jamaican runners have performed excellently for several decades and that they are having a standout year in 2021. Five of the eleven fastest 100m times in 2021 were Jamaicans (including the two fastest overall), alongside three of the top ten 200m times (including the fastest overall).

In fact, there is only one individual who has performed better than the top Jamaicans: the iconic Florence Griffith-Joyner (Flo-Jo), whose sprint records in the 1980s were so dominant that they have never been topped since.

Jamaican excellence in athletics is relatively unique to sprinting. When looking at other Olympic events, it’s pretty rare to see a Jamaican medal. Jamaicans have only won a total of 87 medals across all sports, meaning that their sprint medals alone make up more than 1/4 of their total winnings.

So what’s going on here? Why does this small country, wrecked by natural disasters, facing horrible crime rates, and lacking tons of money, keep producing so many of the world’s fastest runners–including the fastest women in 2021?

Potential Explanations

There have been a whole host of potential explanations posed for this high performance, including heavy consumption of magical yams and green bananas. In this post, we’ll look at some of the most probable.

1. Track is a much more publicized sport in Jamaica than in other countries.

Beloved by Jamaicans, track is by far the island’s most popular sport. While in the US we have things like the Superbowl and the World Series, in Jamaica their big event is a track competition: The Boys and Girls Championships.

More affectionately known as ‘Champs’, the event takes place in Kingston ever March. It’s a huge spectacle. Five days straight of events–broadcast to national TV–with packed stands of more than 30,000 fans. And pretty much everyone, even if they don’t make it to the event, has a team or runner they’re rooting for.

If you want to be the superstar of your country and compete in front of thousands of fans–you do track. Nothing else really comes close in Jamaica.

And when you have everyone wanting to do a sport, you’ve got a lot more potential to find the fastest runners. Pretty much everyone wanting to be someone in athletics will try it, so you’re a lot less likely to miss the best runners because they went to other sports than you would be in other countries.

Look at the two fastest Jamaican women in the world: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah. Both competed at champs in their early days,

2. The small size of Jamaica makes it easier to find superstars.

Jamaica is a pretty small country–only 3 million or so inhabitants, only a portion of whom are young and athletic enough to be potential future stars. This means the pool of athletes is relatively small.

While this could be considered a downside–fewer athletes to choose from–I think it’s also an upside in its own way. In a small group, it’s much easier to find the best athletes. You need a lot fewer eyes looking and are less likely to miss someone. This is especially true when linked to point #1. You only really need one person to spot your running talent in Jamaica since the love of track means that everyone wants to find the best stars.

3. Greatness is a self-perpetuating cycle.

Role models play a key role in the development of great athletes. Consider a 2021 study focusing on the effects of role models in changing the self-efficacy adolescent athletes.

This study, conducted by researchers at Seoul National University in South Korea, found that when adolescent athletes have role models that they model their behavior after, they appear to–on average–have higher self efficacy. Higher self efficacy, an individual’s belief in their own capacity to succeed based on their skills, in turn seems to lead to increased ability of young athletes to achieve a flow state (being “in the zone”). Although statistical analyses always involve some amount of uncertainty, the researchers calculated that there was a less than 1% probability that their results were purely due to random chance.

According to the science, when young athletes have accomplished role models, they tend to perform better. And in a place like Jamaica, those role models are easy to come by. The fastest man in the world–Usain Bolt–is from there, alongside many of the top fastest women of all time!

When you come from the same country as those legends, it’s not so far fetched to believe that you can be just like them.

This becomes more and more powerful over time, too. The more Jamaican sprinters that dominate international competitions and break records, the more that young Jamaicans will think they can do the same. When there’s only one top sprinter, they can seem like an anomaly–but when there are dozens, you start to realize that the goal of getting up there with them is not impossible.

4. Jamaica has some of the best coaches in the world.

Coaching may play a big role too. Jamaica is known for having some of the top coaches in the world, which could help give the country’s athletes an edge.

Prior to 1999–before Jamaica made a name for itself in sprinting–Jamaican runners were not trained in their home country, but rather were sent to the United States for training. Jamaica slowly started to make a switch toward home-training, though, and sprinters kept doing better and better.

The first home-trained sprinter to find international success was Brigitte Foster (now Foster-Hylton) in 2003. She was followed by many more Jamaican-trained athletes: Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Melaine Walker.

This switch proved successful for a few reasons. For one, it meant that sprinters had no chance of getting caught up in the US college system and being neglected or becoming more interested in college life than being the fastest in the world. But perhaps more importantly, Jamaica had fantastic coaches that kept pushing their athletes.

Again, we have the small country conundrum. How does this small island seem to magically have such great track coaches? One potential explanation is their focus on coaching training.

Even though it’s a small island, Jamaica has a dedicated college designed to train coaches: The GC Foster College of Physical Education and Sport. In a country where poverty and violence play a big role, coaching is a way to do something to escape that, and a dedicated program means lots of opportunity to develop skilled coaches.

5. Running is a way to escape poverty and violence.

In a place like Jamaica, with high poverty and crime rates, it can be difficult to break out of the cycle and escape a difficult way of life. There are not all that many great opportunities in the country.

Running, however, has proven to be an effective way to escape poverty–at least for the best athletes.

Consider the story of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. She grew up in a one room building with no dining table. Some nights, all she ate was a little bit of bread and butter. Her family couldn’t afford all the groceries they needed, so they relied on a kind grocery store operator to be generous and help them.

She now has a net worth of around $4 million. And she’s not alone. Look up pretty much any top Jamaican runner and you’ll likely see a similar story.

If you can be one of the fastest runners in the world and impress fans on a world stage, it can be the break you need to escape a difficult life. This is a big reason why so many young runners train–and train hard. They want a way out. And they know that with hard work and a little luck, it’s not impossible.


So there we have it. Five potential reasons why Jamaican sprinters are so good. If you came into this with any knowledge of running, though, you might be a little confused. Why did genetics not show up on this list, when we know they play a big role in distance running?

Although “genetics” has been discussed many times as a potential explanation, it’s not backed up by evidence. If we compare Jamaican runners to black runners from the US–who tend to be their biggest competition–we don’t find any significant differences in their prevalence of so-called “performance” genes.

It mostly seems to be a combination of internal motivation, national culture, and good infrastructure for finding potential superstars that has led to Jamaica’s success.

The small island nation cracked the formula, and have cemented a permanent place in sprinting history.