Flo-Jo. Kiliin' 'em.

I can’t even feature simply ONE question for this topic because I get so many. The bottom line is, if I can’t run, what do I do?

We all know there are two big reasons why people can’t run, and anything else builds upon that. Either a person can’t run because they’re physically prevented from doing so, or a person cannot run because they are mentally prevented from doing so. And nothing is wrong with either – particularly because, in almost all cases, this can be worked around.

But how? Here are four important tips to remember for any person who’s considering becoming more active.

Never underestimate the power of a good walk. I didn’t run, at first. I simply just got out the door with Mini-me. From walking our path, we went on to dancing. I think I’ve told this story on the blog before, actually – our dancing looked like so much fun to the neighborhood kids, that every night we wound up with more and more neighborhood kids tagging along. And, because I don’t love kids enough to have nine of them tagging along and dancing with us on a path, one day I just got fed up and before the kids could catch up with us, I picked her up on my back and took off running. It was fun, it was exhilarating, it was exciting and it was scary – I didn’t like the strain on my heart because, since I’d never ran before, I didn’t know what that feeling was supposed to feel like and didn’t understand that it was simply the result of cardio, not a stroke.

I didn’t start running because I was excited by the thought of it. My actual start simply came from not wanting to be bothered by the Little Rascals every night. Yes. I love my child. Everyone else’s though? That’s a struggle.

If you don’t think you can run, you won’t be able to. I had my own hang-ups about running, though, and if it wasn’t for running from those kids, I might’ve never started. It has its physical components, but we are perpetually limited by our mental portrait of how well we can do, as well.  Running from those kids allowed me to get beyond my apprehension about running, because it wasn’t going to keep me from getting away from nine snotty nosed, kool-aid stained kids whose Moms were all-too-glad they’d found something new to do besides bug them. Nuh uh.

Find something to focus on besides how much you know you’ll never be able to run… like, say, the fact that you will eventually be running. You might not be Flo-Jo (see above), but you’ll be going and that’s what matters. Don’t do the self-defeating thinking. It’s one thing to be realistic about your limitations, it’s another to try to crap on yourself simply because you’re feeling down and depressed about your current state of inactivity. That leads onto my next point.

Understand your body. I didn’t officially start until I was around 80lbs down, not only because there was a mental roadblock, but because there was a physical one, as well. There are two important parts of running that people have to remember: the impact of your foot hitting the ground, and the pressure it takes to lean on that foot to propel you forward. Your feet, knees and joints have to be capable of handling those movements in rapid succession. If they’re not, then that’s okay. Barring any legitimate medical circumstances (as in the kind that require surgical intervention), many joint and lower body issues come from inactivity and can be cured by slow increases in activity. Like… walking!

And, if you’re like me, and hurt yourself to the point where you couldn’t run or hit pavement for a while, there’s no shame in trading your legs for wheels and hopping on a spin bike, an elliptical trainer or even (my personal fave) rollerblades. Hell, even if you’re NOT like me and just have a hard time with your hips, then start off with a spin bike or an elliptical simply because you’re not dealing with the impact of your body hitting the ground.

The short of it is that there are legitimate reasons a person would be unable to run, and to progress beyond those reasons would also take time: time to physically grow, as well as time to learn to trust your ability to handle the exercise. If we’re talking a lifestyle change, then it’s worth the time investment it’ll take to learn where you should begin. And if I can go from running from the brat pack to running ten miles in one night, then I’m pretty sure that anyone can. (Seriously.)