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Finding Enjoyment in the Return to Running - episode 413 fuel your strength

Finding Enjoyment in the Return to Running

I recently decided to return to running after a 12-year-long break from it. While the idea of returning to running was a little bit scary and uncomfortable, I have found three teachable moments through my experience that you can apply to your own life, whether it is running or something entirely different that you want to make a return to but are apprehensive about.

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Key Takeaways

If You Want to Find Enjoyment in Returning to an Exercise Such as Running, You Should:

  1. Find another way to do your cardio that you can tolerate
  2. Find an intrinsic motivation to train for
  3. Find some sense of joy in doing whatever you are doing

Cardio and Strength Training Go Together

Some of you may not know that I used to be an endurance athlete. I focus more on strength training rather than cardio in my public work because when we look at the data, more women meet their cardio minimums than their strength training minimums. 

However, we need a balance of both strength training and cardio to see the results that most of us are looking for. It takes a combination approach for all of us to achieve our goals, no matter what our goals are.

Find Your Intrinsic Motivation 

Sometimes, exercise is uncomfortable and hard. It is a way that we build in a way of controlled discomfort. But finding other things that we enjoy about the experience makes it that much richer. This has been my main takeaway when getting back into running. 

Finding intrinsic motivation is key to putting yourself out there. Even if you do not love the exercise itself, finding joy in the other aspects of ‘the thing’ instead of looking for external validation will keep you going. It is possible to find a way to incorporate what scares you into your daily routine; you just have to take the first step.

Have you been looking for a way to reincorporate something such as running that you may have had on the shelf for a while? Tell me your story in the comments below.

In This Episode

  • Why I decided to make my return to running after a 12-year break (3:18)
  • The steps I took to get back into running to prepare for future events (12:29)
  • How you can find a new or alternative way to return to a specific exercise (14:45)
  • The importance of continued motion and purpose for your longevity (17:27)
  • How to find motivation and joy in whatever activity you are doing (22:52)


“If you were wondering why I go on and on and on about fueling and why I became a sports nutritionist, it is to help other women, especially women, avoid those pitfalls that I fell into all those years back.” (4:45)

“I knew that I was going to have to find a way of reconciling the fact that when I left the sports world, I was doing a lot of things for the wrong reasons.” (13:55)

“There was definitely an apprehension for me or kind of a burnout in putting running on the shelf for an indefinite amount of time, and as I started to return to things, I wanted to do it very mindfully.” (14:33)

“For so many years, we have swung the pendulum from only doing cardio to only doing strength training, and we need both.” (15:47)

“Sometimes it is the extrinsic stuff that is enough to get us in the door, but it is more the intrinsic side of things that keeps us going, and I very much have felt that with running.” (22:38)

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Related Episodes

FYS 389: The Benefits of Rucking for Women with Michael Easter

FYS 380: Lessons From Endurance to Lifting: Top Sports & Nutrition Training Lessons

FYS 410: The Power of Intrinsic Motivation in Fitness

Finding Enjoyment in the Return to Running Transcript

In 2023, I made a return to running after a 12-year hiatus, and on today’s podcast, I’m going to tell you why I returned to running and what you can learn from my experience if you’ve had a form of exercise that you’ve been resisting. If you’re an athletic 40, something woman who loves lifting weights, challenging yourself, and doing hard shit, the Fuel Your Strength podcast is for you. You’ll learn how to eat, train, and recover smarter. So you build strength and muscle, have more energy, and perform better in and out of the gym.

I’m strength nutrition strategist and weightlifting coach, Steph Gaudreau. The Fuel Your Strength podcast dives into evidence-based strategies for nutrition training and recovery. And why once you’re approaching your 40s and beyond, you need to do things a little differently than you did in your 20s. We’re here to challenge the limiting industry narratives about what women can and should do in training and beyond. If that sounds good, hit subscribe on your favorite podcast app. And let’s go.

Welcome back to the podcast. Thank you so much for joining me, I am excited to be here with you today because I’m going to be sharing with you a personal story of how I returned to running after a very long break. And when I say very long break, that was a dozen-year break between when I last was writing in my training, and this year when I started running again. So I’m going to be filling you in on the details here and giving you three takeaway, teachable moments that you can apply potentially, to your own life, if there’s a form of exercise that you’ve put off to the side, you had a tricky relationship with it, or you’re just looking to embrace something that you once in the past found was very difficult.

So I’m going to be sharing that with you on the podcast today. From my personal perspective, you may not agree with me here. And that’s totally fine. I’m not here to convince you that you should start running or that it’s the right way to do your cardio. But I’m just sharing a little bit more insight into my personal story because this is really going to dovetail in very nicely with some of the more recent podcasts we’ve been doing about fitness and mindset and the crossover between the two of those.

And before we dive in, if you are over 40 And you know you really need it to get your nutrition, your fueling, your training, and your recovery on point, you need to bring these things together and merge them together with science evidence-based backed strategy, and support from both a coach and community that I’m going to invite you to apply for Strength Nutrition Unlocked, this is my group program, we’re really going to get in there and help you implement this strategy to help you lay out the pieces that you need in order to get better results from your efforts, whether that’s building strength, adding muscle, improving your energy in performing better both in and out of the gym. So again, to apply, you can head over to StephGaudreau.com/apply.

Alright, so let’s kind of go back to where this episode really begins and that is earlier this year. In February or so of 2023. I decided to make my return to running. And I want to tell you a little bit of the backstory so that we can get into the three takeaways that I want to share with you today on this podcast. But the reactions were very interesting across my community. And they range from things like oh stuff, it’s so nice that somebody who does strength training is doing cardio now, which I found was kind of funny because a lot of my community maybe doesn’t know me from my earlier endurance athlete days. And of course prior to that, and being in athletics, my whole life running was always part of conditioning.

But I really did spend quite some time in the endurance sports world, between running things like half marathons and a marathon and what I did in 2007, all the way through endurance, mountain biking, and then of course, ending up in Exterra Off-Road triathlon. And that’s really kind of the end of my endurance story because I burned out from undereating and under-fueling, which is basically low energy availability chronically, and just overtraining, right training too much not recovering enough, and of course, the low food intake was a big part of that.

So if you were wondering why I go on and on and on about fueling and why I became a sports nutritionist, it’s to help other women, especially women avoid those pitfalls that I fell into all those years back so a lot of people who know me talking about strength training, we’re surprised as they haven’t known me for very long Now those of you that have been around longer, I’ve got a few of you out there that remember those days are like okay, yeah stuffs So I’ve seen a lot and has been through endurance sports and running and those sorts of things.

But a lot of you thought that this was the first time I’ve done cardio for many years, which is actually not the case. And of course, the last six, six and a half years I’ve spent doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which is its own unique brand of cardio in and of itself. There’s everything from quick bursts and kind of that anaerobic state to more aerobic. And the interesting thing about your just, and I’ll kind of probably tie this together later is that it’s so intermittent. And depending on who you spar with, and those sorts of things that it can be harder to, I think, in my opinion, gain some of the steady state benefits that you could potentially get from things like running, cycling, swimming, rowing, those sorts of pursuits.

But it was that interesting kind of reaction, which is like Oh, Steph’s doing cardio that’s so nice that you’re talking about, like why cardio matters. And I’m like, I’ve been doing cardio for many years, I just haven’t focused on it as much in my public work, because, frankly, when we look at the data, from the Hanes studies, particularly throughout the years, we’re seeing like, slowly strength training is eating up. But time and time and time again, cardio-based exercise continues to edge out strength training, in terms of how many people are actually participating in women’s specifically, are participating in both of those aspects of our minimum energy, our minimum exercise requirements.

So we have minimum exercise requirements. Those are from the who, but they’re also adapted herein, for example, in the United States to include cardio-based exercise, as well as muscle strengthening or strength training exercise. So it’s one of the reasons why I haven’t focused as much on cardio in my work is because more women are getting, or at least meeting their cardio minimums compared to meeting both cardio and strength training. And I just happen to like, really love strength training and love talking about it. So that was interesting. The other interesting feedback I got was DMS, and there were a lot of you who were like, Oh, my gosh, Steph, should I start running now?

And so I want to just like take a minute and kind of say that if running isn’t your thing, and you never want to run or you have no desire to or you’re like been there done that kind of like I had been for like the last dozen years. And you’re coming to this podcast listening and saying, Yeah, I’m still not gonna run, I don’t care what you have to say, that’s totally fine. I’m not here to convince you individually, that running is the pursuit, is the perfect thing for you to do, and that you should stop all the other things that you’re doing and start running immediately.

But I am going to kind of share through my own lens and experience why I returned to the discipline of running at least this year. Let’s take it back to 2022 so I’ve been rocking now for quite some time. Adding rucking into my training has been a great way to up the intensity of some of my walking. So I established a walking habit in 2021. I never really walked before that. So over the last two years, two-plus years at this point, because I started in April of 2021, I have really been building up my number of steps per day, and just increasing the amount that I’m getting out and walking each day, which has been really great. It’s so good for my mental health.

So, great for a lot of different reasons, and just getting more low-key activity. But eventually, at some point, you have to kind of look at how much moderate-intensity cardio you’re getting. And sometimes if you’re walking is more of a leisurely pace, you might not really be getting into that more moderate type of heart rate zone. Specifically, I knew that I had some things coming up that I wanted to improve my cardiovascular efficiency and really needed to build more of a base.

So because I had taken so many years off of any kind of really dedicated cardio training, specifically steady state cardio training, and as I mentioned, I get cardio in jujitsu, but it’s very intimate and very sporadic, and it’s up and down. So I knew that I needed to add some other ways to kind of be slightly up the intensity of walking itself. And one of those things was rocking. So rucking is amazing, especially for those of you that are like, I’m never going to fucking run. So I’ll wear a rock and I’ll go walking and wear a rock.

And that’s a great way because you’re adding weight or a weight vest for those of you that lightweight vests but adding that weight over distance will slightly make it more challenging. And so of course, you can load a rock up quite heavy and build up to those heavier weights. But even if you throw on a rock with like, say a 20-pound weight in the back or something of that nature or rock plate if you’re using a wrecker for from say go ruck that is going to up the intensity of your walking and I know for me if I look at how easy is it for me to get into zone two, which is that that place that we build are essentially aerobic capacity.

And we build our efficiency, it is much easier for me to get into zone two when I’m rocking versus walking without any pack on or any weight on my body. So that was one thing that I started to do to up the challenge of my walking if you will say, and by the way, a big shout out to go rock and all my friends over there. I’ve been partnering with them for a while and their gear is absolutely indestructible. It will last you forever. And they have an incredible warranty in case something does break. They have so many different products at this point.

Their rucksacks are incredible, and their weight plates are so convenient. And they’ve got all kinds of other gear as well. So if you want to go check out anything that they offer, I have a code which is FUELYOURSTRENGTH. And I just wanted to give them a big plug because they’ve been an incredible company to work with. And I just adore all of their stuff. And I use their rocks every week in my own trading and standby those, so go check them out.

But I knew that at some point in 2023, I got, kind of, bitten by the rucking bug that I wanted to do a rucking event in this year in 2023. So I knew that, of course, I have been upping my mileage carrying more a little bit more weight progressively throughout rucking. But I knew that at some of these events, there were some times of running and I wanted to get better at running with and without weight. So that’s why I decided to start running.

And again, I’m going to share with you these kind of like three teachable moments from my own reentry into running. But finding that idea that, hey, I wanted to actually start running. So like, I’m better prepared for these events. And by the way, we did one in May, we did the shortest one. So these are GORUCK events. But we did the shortest one in May, which was a few hours. And then we’re doing the 12-hour event here in about a month. So we skipped, there’s one in between, there’s a level, that’s a five or six-hour event.

So we’re just skipping to the 12-hour event. And then there’s also 24-hour events, which I’m not, I don’t think quite ready for but perhaps 2024, we’ll see that could be on the agenda. However, I knew that I needed to introduce more running into what I was doing so that I would be more prepared for this event. Aside from jujitsu and running around the jujitsu mats for warm-up, that was the extent of my running for 12 years.

So what I did was I found basically a couch-to-5k program implemented that program, It wasn’t exactly couch-to-5k, but similar, where you will run for short intervals, and then walk as you rest. And then you gradually increase the running and decrease the rest until you culminate in approximately a 5k or a 3.1-mile run, which is what I did. So in the spring, I got to my 3.1 miles, and I kept it up, and have kept it up since then. So I’ve been running three times a week, more or less for about the last six, seven months.

So I want to share with you today these three lessons as I think they’re really important. And you can apply them to anything, any physical pursuit, especially something that maybe you’ve done for a while, but like you’re kind of getting the itch to get back to or you’re just curious to explore it again. I know for me, I kind of put running on the shelf for a while because when I finished my endurance career, and you can go back and listen more to that on a podcast that I did about sort of my transition to like the lessons learned from endurance sports to more strength-based pursuits.

But I knew that I was going to have to find a way of reconciling the fact that when I left the endurance world, I was doing a lot of things for the wrong reasons. Right, I was under-fueling because I wanted to get thinner and thinner. I was overtraining and being competitive, I would say to a fault. I know some people would probably disagree with that and say like, there’s no such thing. But for me, the competitiveness was taking over. And it was causing things like an ego drive that was overriding things like smart training, and smart recovery. So there was definitely an apprehension, I think, for me, a kind of burnout and putting running on the shelf for an indefinite amount of time.

And as I started to return to things, I wanted to do things very mindfully, so perhaps you can identify with that. And if so, I wanted to make this podcast for you. So three, three kinds of teachable lessons are this is all going to be about finding. So number one, find another way to do your cardio. Okay, so I’m just gonna say this once again. If you hate running, and you’re like, I will not run. Fuck running. It’s the worst. I will never do it. That’s okay. All right.

You need you go do the thing that you will tolerate and that you will do, I will say that much and I’ve talked about on this show in the past of like why expecting that you’re going to love every day of exercise or love every day of training or love, every mode of training that you might do is this kind of putting a lot of expectation on it, and putting it a bit on a pedestal. But find something that you will tolerate.

And I do say this because a lot of us listening to this show are in our 40s, 50s, or 60s or beyond. I know there’s occasionally I get messages from people in their 70s and 80s, which is brilliant. And I love that. But for so many years, we’ve kind of swung the pendulum right from like only doing cardio to the now kind of like for a while it was like only doing strength training. And we need both.

And I alluded to this earlier, that’s why there are exercise recommendations and exercise guidelines from the who, from the United States, from lots of other countries that mirror very closely, that minimum exercise recommendation or minimum exercise requirement, right, of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio, or 75 minutes of vigorous cardio, and, and at least two strength training sessions a week. So we need both and frankly, and this is where you know, we have to be honest with ourselves, a lot of times because life has just gotten lazy as fuck, or we’ve just straight away, we forget that we need both.

So because as we go through the menopause transition, we lose that more protective effect of estrogen, we may see an increased risk of cardiovascular events. That’s one of the proposed kinds of mechanisms, although more research needs to be done on whether it is down to estrogen or not. But certainly, as we’re aging we are seeing for women an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. So we need to embrace the idea of doing some kind of cardio that we enjoy. But or we won’t tolerate I guess you could say that too. So find another way to do your cardio if you’re like fucker, right and I’m not doing running, that’s totally fine.

And for me for a while. jujitsu serves that purpose, walking, serves that purpose rocking in rocking and walking continue to serve that purpose as well for me. But introducing running was another way to get some variety as well for cardiovascular training. So find another way, find another way, we need to get moving. Movement is so important. And there’s a very famous quote, although I don’t know who is attributed to which is motion is lotion.

There’s a guy that I trained with, at Jujitsu, he’s 71, and his name’s Jack. And Jack and I were talking about this and I’m very keen to listen to his wisdom because he’s lived many more years than I and has been athletic for quite some time. And he was expressing that to me the other day, you know, hey, it’s just like all about staying moving, and how important that is. So cardiovascular exercise, we need to be mindful of our energy balance, a lot of times we get more sedentary and we don’t realize how much less energy expenditure we have throughout our day.

So that’s where getting just more active in our day-to-day, getting out getting our steps in walking. And then, of course, building in some of these other cardiovascular exercises to our weak and really be helpful in that regard. So that’s number one, find another way to do your cardio. If you absolutely hate running, that’s totally fine. Just find a way to do it. Alright, number two, find for me something to train for.

And this is really, really important because I had to connect to some reason why. And I think that this is the biggest meatiest takeaway of this podcast. So for so many, many years, running for me was tied to direct competition. And being the best running the fastest. You know, doing triathlons, the fastest winning triathlons, those sorts of things. And it became very tied to almost like an extrinsic motivator. So, we have done a podcast fairly recently on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, specifically in fitness.

So for me, when I was running prior, it was a very extrinsic, externally driven thing competition and winning, because winning means you look good to other people, at least that’s what I think in my mind, right? Of course, there are other ways. There are other reasons why people compete and identify with competition, but for me, it became a way to prove you know, how, how good and how worthy I was, was through winning races. So I had to find another thing to connect to.

And of course, we talked about on that podcast, that there’s a spectrum between intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. And there are things in between. There are gradients in between. So there are our more or less motivators that tie in to things like our identity and our value. was. And then we, of course, more or less arrive at that pure sense of intrinsic or internal motivation for doing things.

So for me finding something to train for, and it not be a direct running race was very important because I could have easily said, I want to train for a 5k and gone and run one of the myriad five K’s here in San Diego, which seems to be like the land of running, there’s so many people that run here, which is great. I’m always out running and I’m like, Hey, look at all these people running this is awesome.

But for me, I decided to tie running training into my rucking event. So the wrecking event, by the way, is a team event. There are no winners and losers, it’s just finishing. And you do it as a team, you do it as a group. So that was another deliberate decision on my part. And it feels vastly different for me now, 12 years later, than say, I’m running, and I need to, like get my running time up. And I need to improve my pace.

And I need to be able to win, you know, gain gained some more ground on the run part of the triathlon or I just need to be able to run my fastest half marathon time, those sorts of things. So really tying in running to something that was more intrinsically guided, although not purely intrinsic, but more along that intrinsic spectrum. With key and making the event that I’m now you know, I’m training course, I know when I go out, I have a purpose.

That was really important. And me getting started. I will say, that now that I’m out there, and I’m enjoying it it has become part of my routine. It’s taken on his own life of its own. I guess you could say that much. But when I was starting, I had to remind myself, why am I doing this because it was uncomfortable at the start. When you start running again, after as many years I took off again, even though I had a little bit of cardio base from doing jujitsu, getting out there and running.

What fell hard, I doubted. At the beginning, I was like I don’t think I can run three miles without stopping really, no, I don’t, I don’t think I could do that right now. So connecting to that reason was so key. So find something to train for or find something else that motivates you to do that thing other than things that are more extrinsic, ly driven. And we talked about that in that podcast episode, where sometimes the extrinsic stuff is enough to get us in the door.

But it’s more of those sliding toward the intrinsic side of things that keeps us going. And I very much have felt that with running. And then the third thing is to Yes, find some sense of joy in doing it, whatever that thing is. So for me, it’s not always thinking all I love running so much. But it’s sort of, hey, I want to go out I’m looking for, I don’t know what flowers are blooming in the neighborhood. Or I wear I run through, you know, a particular street.

And I know that I’ve always seen the same people walking, you know, of course, your area is going to vary. But I see, I’ve learned I’ve gotten to know my neighbors a little bit throughout this and they feel more connected to my community. Because I see people out walking their dogs or taking their kids to school, I get that sense of belonging to a neighborhood to a community. And even though there are many, many, many people here who I don’t know, because our neighborhoods are so densely populated, there’s still an element of finding joy in that, taking the ego out of it.

It’s not just about winning, it’s about the experience of it all. So for you, that could be riding a bike, it could be going to a spin class, it could be, you know, meeting up with a friend, it could be just getting out and feeling the ocean or the pool, if you go out for a swim. I don’t know you have to find something that you enjoy about it. Without it being about winning, I guess is the point there. So find something that you can find joy in related to that thing, even if it’s not the thing itself. I think that was my point here. Right?

So sure, sometimes you get that kind of runner’s high, you get those endorphins, and it feels really nice. But it’s about finding the appreciation in the other things that surround that particular event. So just to recap here, the three things I covered, were finding other ways to do cardio. If you don’t like running, that’s totally fine, but just get moving and start introducing more cardio into your routine.

Of course, we also want to see things like for women over 40 We want to see some of those short sharp intervals. So that could be one to two times a week of short, sharp hit or short sharp sprint intervals. And then of course, our lower intensity efforts right number two is find some reasons something to connect to your training that’s a little bit more away from that extrinsic side of things a little bit more toward identifying with your values with your identity.

So if you want to be a cyclist and you identify with that, well, okay, like, let’s find a way to bring cycling back into your life, or just to transition away from the purely extrinsic to something that’s a little bit more intrinsically driven. And then to find joy in those small moments, even if for you, that thing is, you know, it’s hard, it’s sweaty, you get out of breath, or it’s just uncomfortable. Because sometimes exercise is uncomfortable. It’s a way that we build in that feeling of controlled discomfort, I guess, if you will.

But finding other things to appreciate about the experience makes it that much richer. And at least that’s been my experience over the last six or seven months with building up to running and being able to then go out and do this go wreck event, and feel more prepared to actually get through the event and be a great teammate and a part of the group, which feels really exciting.

I hope you’ve learned something through my story here on the podcast today, one of those three ways of potentially looking at introducing a form of exercise that you’ve left out for a while or introducing something that you’re a little bit apprehensive about. So maybe you’re like, I kind of want to run because I want to do this event or something like that, but I’m just a little bit nervous about it, or I don’t know how to approach it and, and stay a little bit out of my ego and come at it from a healthier angle.

So I hope that’s been helpful for you today. Definitely let us know here in the comments on YouTube. Is there something that you want to bring back in terms of your training? Have you ever done running and what was your experience there? So share here in the comments, and also reach out on Instagram. And of course, send me a message if you related to anything on this podcast. Also, while you’re here on YouTube, hit subscribe, and also hit the bell for more notifications. Thanks so much. Alright, I will see you all next time. And until then, stay strong.

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Steph Gaudreau

Hi, I'm Steph Gaudreau (CISSN, NASM-CPT)!

Nutrition and fitness coach for women, Lord of the Rings nerd, and depending on who you ask, crazy cat lady. My mission is to help you fuel for more: bigger muscles, strength, energy, and possibilities. We’ll do it with my signature blend of science, strategy…and a little bit of sass.


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