I used to be exactly the same as you. I’m also petite and had declared myself “not a runner.” I’d run five minutes and be totally winded. I hated running and thought it just wasn’t for me, I couldn’t do it. But every runner I talked to said the same thing – running is TOUGH and it’s normal to have really bad endurance when you start out. Ellipticals, walking, etc. don’t compare to the constant physical exertion of running. It’s going to feel awful at first and there’s no way around it.
Darling Husband is a pretty good runner and he gave me some really helpful tips. First of all, start out slow. Set the speed just a bit faster than power walking, so that you’re forced to do a slow jog. Keep that up as long as you can. Don’t be surprised if you still get tired out really quickly and it feels like torture. What you’re going to do is get used to that feeling of torture. You’re going to feel like your lungs are bursting and that you HAVE to stop. You don’t have to stop, you can keep going and you will.
Having fast-paced music helped. For me, fast rock and metal are the best at keeping me going. When I wanted to give up and stop, I’d tell myself, “You can run through one more verse. Just until the second chorus. Til the end of the song. One more song.” And so on.
After a few weeks of jogging along, two things happened: I started to gain a tiny bit more endurance, so I could go longer without that feeling of exhaustion and torture setting in, and I started to get used to the feeling of torture so that I could push through it a little longer each time. What I thought before was the feeling of dying, just feels like running to me now. Bit by bit, I increased the amount of time, and then bit by bit I increased the speed. It’s easier to run longer than it is to run faster. Increasing speed has happened much more slowly.
Once you can run for about half an hour without stopping, you can try doing cycles of sprints. This REALLY builds your anaerobic endurance (how long your muscles can perform when deprived of oxygen). Try walking fast for 4 minutes, then turning it up to a full sprint for 4 minutes. You should feel like you’re dying at the end of four minutes. Then back to walking to catch your breath. If you can’t catch your breath before the next 4 minute cycle, dial down the sprint a little and try again.
Just be careful that you’re not running through actual PAIN, the kind that is your body trying to tell you that you’re hurt. Especially pain in your joints. Your muscles will develop and adapt much faster than your joints and tendons, and overdoing it is a surefire way to sprain something. Also make sure you’re warming up properly and cooling down. Most treadmills have settings for this.
I’m still not a good runner, and maybe it is more difficult for us petite women with little legs. I can only do about 6km without stopping. But that’s a far cry from where I started out. Give running another try, you might learn to love it!