This is not a post hating on running. It’s a post about why I choose not to run. If you run, more power to you. Please don’t take offense to this.
Also, this is a long post. If you’re game, grab a beverage and settle in for a bit of a read.
I went running today. If you know me well, you know this is odd.
I HATE running. The root is mostly a pride/mind game issue that I’m fully aware of, but, nonetheless, I hate running. When I run, I am highly aware of every muscle in my body and how much each one hurts. I get cramps in my sides almost immediately. I can’t breathe. My ears hurt. The back of my throat hurts. I’m thirsty, but if I have water, my stomach sloshes and then it hurts. It’s terrible. To this day, I get nervous before running. Like seriously nervous. Butterflies in my stomach, heart racing kind of nervous. Feel like I might throw up nervous.
This has been the status of my running for my whole life. For seven years in school we ran the mile every week. In 5th/6th grade, when we started running the mile, I ran about an 11-12 minute mile. By the time I graduated, I got down to an 8 or 9 minute mile. Improvement? Sure. But this was over 7 years of running a mile every week. Not much improvement if you ask me. Even in that last semester, I still don’t think I ran the entire mile without stopping. It was a whole lot of walking the curves and running the straights. The nervousness was definitely there then as well. A time or two, I got so worked up running that I practically hyperventilated and the coach took me off the track. On rare occasions we had to run 1.5 miles. Those days were TERRIBLE! There was lots of walking on those days.
BUT, I’m fairly interested in running the BolderBoulder Memorial Day Weekend. It’s a 10k, and I’ve never run that far before. But it’s a BIG event in Boulder. 28k people ran last year. Crazy. It just looks like a fun community event that I’d like to be a part of, so I want to do it at least once. I may even have a friend or two or three who may come here to run with me! There’s no pressure to be fast at this race. There are heats for all levels of fitness. Despite that, I got to thinking that perhaps I would train.
Now, I know NOTHING about running. Nothing. I got some advice to go out today and run at a slow pace, a pace at which I could keep up a conversation for the entire time. Another suggestion I was given was to not worry about distance. Instead, try to run as long as I could and focus on the amount of time I could run. This was new. I’d never done this before, and it was actually quite liberating. Since I didn’t have a time or distance goal, I was just out running. During that run, I thought about stuff, prayed for friends and family, and started thinking about this blog post. The app I was using checked in with me every mile, but otherwise, I had no idea of my pace/speed/distance. Though I was nervous before I began, there was no nervousness while running. I didn’t get all the physical manifestations of hating running I normally experience. It was different. I was trapped in the gym because of snow outside, but I kind of got to a point where I could see why people enjoy doing this outside.
I got to 3.1 miles in 41:32. This is by no means fast, but that wasn’t my goal. My goal was to keep running for as long as I could. Because I had long times in my head, I “ran” at a very slow pace. As far as muscles and cardio go, I could have easily kept going, but I was getting a blister on one foot. I don’t know how long I could have gone, but maybe I’ll find out in future runs. This was a pretty ok first run. This run was half the distance of the BolderBoulder. I was in no way dying. I could have run for plenty longer if not for that blister. This tells me serious running training isn’t all that necessary. I’m not after a stellar BolderBoulder time. I’m after having a good time at a community event with some friends.
Now, on to why I don’t run: running is not in line with my fitness goals. That’s it. I have nothing against running personally. I exercise to take care of the body God gifted me while I’m here, to be functionally fit, and to look good for myself and my husband. I want to be strong. I want muscle mass over being skinny. I’m 5’4” and weight 117 lbs. Weight loss is not one of my fitness goals. Keeping off weight is not one of my fitness goals either because I know the way I eat will not lead to weight gain. Due to my personal goals, running is not for me, just like some Crossfit workouts, and overtraining in general are not for me.
These things are not for me because with all of these things comes cortisol. If you’re unfamiliar with it, I suggest reading here and here about how cortisol may be hindering your fitness goals as well. In short, elevated cortisol levels tell your body to hold on to fat and catabolize muscle. Bad stuff if you are trying to gain muscle mass or lose weight.
I want to look like this woman:
Tanya Wagner, female winner of the 2009 Crossfit games. Former PE teacher and now gym owner.
Not this woman:
Paula Radcliffe, world marathon record holder
Now, realistically, I’ll never look like either woman because both of them dedicate more to their sports than I anticipate I ever will. That’s ok with me, but if I’m picking one to look like. I want the first and not the second. And if your goal is to look like Paula Radcliffe, go for it. Again, I have nothing against it. It’s just not what I’m after. On a side note, I know there are women who will look at the first picture and shy away from muscles that big. I promise she worked REALLY HARD to get those muscles. You probably won’t ever work that hard. You’re not in danger. And if you do work that hard, you’ll be darn proud of those muscles.
What I do have against running is that society has sort of constructed it as the epitome of fitness. If you can run, you’re an athlete. If you can’t, you’re not. Plenty of people who are not all that fit and even overweight can run. Some of them even run marathons. That doesn’t mean they are healthy or fit. Similarly, plenty of people can pick up big heavy things, but are overweight and unhealthy. They are also not fit.
Now at the end of the last season of Biggest Loser, the contestants all ran a marathon. That’s awesome. Those people accomplished something. It takes a serious amount of dedication and determination to finish a marathon. These are people who were slaves to food and prisoners in their own bodies. This is truly something none of them ever thought possible. I will not take that away from them. I’ve never run a marathon, and likely never will. This is an accomplishment they will always have. Good for them. However, I will not call those people athletes as the show so often does. I will not call anyone who runs a marathon once as something to cross off their bucket list an athlete. To call these people athletes takes something away from both women pictured above and all others who truly are athletes.
There are plenty of people out there who, for them, running is accomplishing something they never thought possible. It helps them to overcome various trials of their past. Other people simply enjoy it. They like to be outside and the feeling of the wind rushing by as they run on a trail. There are many runners who are true athletes. Again, great. If those are your goals, what you want, and/or running makes you happy. Good for you. I’m glad you’ve found something that gives you that satisfaction and fulfillment. Know that I find that same or similar fulfillment when I’m swinging a kettle bell over my head or doing a deadlift. Running is not for me. Weight lifting and interval training are. It’s where I find the beast inside of me that wants to kill a workout and where I find that woman that knows she can tackle things she never would have thought possible on that track in high school.
A closing note to all those people like me out there reading this who HATE to run. It’s ok that you don’t like running. Not running does not mean that you will never be healthy or fit. It took me a long time to escape from this lie that I picked up somewhere along the way. In the last six months, I’ve gone out to run a mile three different times. Each time, it was no big deal. I picked up and did it. Today, I went out and ran three miles without stopping. It wasn’t that big of a deal. My limiting factor was a blister, not an inability to breathe or a cramp in my side. Was I super-fast on any of these runs? No, but I did them just fine. You don’t have to go to the gym and do 45-60 minutes of cardio multiple days of the week to be able to run or to be fit and healthy. In the past six months, I was in the gym maybe twice a week, and never for over an hour. I went out and ran three miles today. You don’t have to run if you don’t want to. And you certainly don’t have to be on a treadmill for hours every week to be able to run. Find what works for you, what you enjoy, and do it. If that’s running, awesome. If that’s not, don’t give up on yourself. Just explore until you find the activity that you love to do and you feel good doing. Find the exercise that enables you to find that inner beast. Discovering mine was one of my greatest accomplishments.