Natasha Neal of Live Life Candid

Most people assume, since I’m a former soccer girl-turned-personal trainer, that I’ve also always been a runner. Not true. Yes, I know, there’s a lot of running in soccer, but running cross-country or track? I wasn’t into that at all growing up. In fact, I found it strange, always thinking, “Where are they running to?” and “Why so long?” and “Aren’t they bored?!” However, several years post high school, I found myself slowly, but surely, becoming a runner.

It wasn’t a planned thing, and I surely didn’t think much about it. In the beginning, I was only able to run five minutes at a time. However, over time, those five minutes turned into 5 miles, and on Nov. 3, 2013, 5 miles turned into close to five hours during the New York City Marathon.

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Simply put, running is my favorite pastime nowadays. It’s amazing to think of myself as a runner, and I can honestly say it has done more for my mental and spiritual health than it’s done for my body. This is how running has literally helped me also run my life.

1. Expect Great Things

Like life, running won’t be joyous all the time. There have been days when the last thing I wanted to do was run. In the beginning, and still sometimes today, I have to rev myself up before I lace up. However, once I finally do get out there, I can honestly say there has never been a run that I regretted. That euphoric feeling you get post-sweat, known as a “runner’s high,” is real. And while I know this inevitable pot of post-run gold is waiting for me at the finish line, truth be told, starting is always the hardest part. However, by thinking of all the things that can go wrong, you prevent yourself from enjoying all the things that can go right. So if you are thinking of starting to run, just lace up, do what you can day to day, and day by day it will change you.

2. Stay in Your Lane and Run Your Race

If I had to sum up the one thing that helped me become a runner, it would be my allegiance to staying in my own lane. By not comparing myself with others, I have also been able to run toward my dreams with confidence. So if you’re starting a running regimen, start each mile with the idea that “I don’t have to be the fastest runner, I don’t have to run the furthest and I don’t have to even run that frequently.” The best running regimen is the one that you set for yourself. Same goes for my personal life. With social media especially, it is easy to compare your life with the edited lives of others. The more you remind yourself that your only competition is you, the more pleasurable the journey becomes.

3. Let Your Weaknesses Strengthen You

The No. 1 reason many people refuse to pursue running is that they think they will be bad at it. Honestly, this fear is very similar to thinking that you’ll be bad at breathing. Both are natural occurrences. Infused in that fear is the fear of getting injured, which is completely valid. But I can honestly say that the most powerful lesson I learned in both running and in life is, “If something feels impossible, it is my weaknesses leading, not my strengths.” Most of the time, any pain felt in running is your body’s response to a physical weakness or imbalance. So the question then becomes, how can you strengthen those areas? This same response is helpful in life, too. By seeing my weakness as a chance to grow, I find that it makes the journey that much more achievable and enjoyable.

4. Have a Finish Line Mentality

One of the best quotes my mother used to tell me in regard to reaching my goals was, “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.” Believing that timing has no effect on attaining truly takes the edge off. It inspires faith that this or that will happen, and that belief literally fuels you. My most memorable experience of this mind power was when I ran the New York City Marathon in 2013. I kept telling myself, “I don’t know how long it’s going to take me, and I don’t know what may happen along the way, but what I do know is, I’m going to finish.” And I did. Simply put, having a finish line mentality can literally propel you toward any goal with a surge of confidence that makes you unstoppable.

5. Look the Part, and Start

Yes, running is a lace-up-and-go type of sport, but clocking miles in the wrong kicks can be super dangerous. Similar to tires, running shoes can take your running game from a hooptie experience to a luxury one. I didn’t know this at first and, like most, ended up buying the cutest and/or cheapest pair of sneakers I could find, not thinking about my foot type or running gait one bit. However, once I got fitted for the right shoe, my running experience drastically changed. I got injured less and was therefore able to run more. Similarly in life, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve faked it until I made it simply by looking the part. Dressing for success, as cheesy as it may sound, is honestly a game changer. When you look like you know what you’re doing, not only will other people be convinced, but over time you’ll be sold, too.