run or don’t. your choice.

Last Thursday I published a piece on my relationship with running. Specifically, I was trying to explore why running plays any role in my life, given that it’s an activity I generally don’t enjoy.

Rather than write about my main concern: i.e. that my ego might be the driving force in my decision to run or not, I chose to focus on the technicalities, referencing an article that reports why long, slow jogging is not an activity that will deliver the type of physical results I’m after.

In other words I wrote a post which gave me the perfect EXCUSE as to why I shouldn’t include running in my regime. How convenient. For my ego, that is.

Even though my content missed the mark, the interactive dialogue that it spurred, fueled by reader comments, honed right in on what really matters to me. i.e. Why I do it if it’s neither enjoyable nor effective?

Your comments made me think. They made me want to delve even deeper. So much so that I spent much of this past weekend talking Mr. Enthusiasm’s ear off about it. He was very excited about that, as you can imagine.

source: reactiongifs.com

source: reactiongifs.com

He doesn’t run, and has no plans to start. Moreover, he sees no path to self-actualization through running. He doesn’t view it as something that would ever be a source of pride. In short, he doesn’t give a flying fuck about running.

That, my friends, pretty much kills my hypothesis that a large percentage of people run just so they can brag that they are runners.

Uh oh, What if it’s just me who does that?

But if it’s just me then why are there so many others out there who seem to hate running but do it anyway?

One of my favourite comments came from Martha, who, in response to my suggestion that this phenomenon is limited to running, said, “I am imagining someone full of Zumba hate showing up for class and rage dancing.” Seriously, how great would that be?? But would it happen? Probably not. Running, though… all the time.

Okay, so clearly some people love to run. And why wouldn’t they? According to an article I read on Medicinenet.com, the benefits of running, at any speed, are many. It’s a great article, if you want to learn a lot about the what and why of running, you should click on over.

One of the coolest side effects that some runners experience is the “runner’s high”. This article says:

There’s a bug about running that you catch. It could be the exhilaration of propelling your body through space, or the pounding on the ground that sends sensation up your bones all the way to the pleasure centers in your brain, or it could simply be the sheer satisfaction of having done something good for yourself. Whatever it is, running can be addictive.

I have never been addicted to running. Nor have I ever felt that running has touched the pleasure centers in my brain.

I don’t always hate it. Sometimes I actually enjoy it. But the only running I enjoy is done in short, fast spurts. The only thing extended runs make me feel is nauseas and tired. And often like a failure.

I know people who enjoy running. People who are truly addicted to the high they get from it.

And I also know that there are a shit ton of people who absolutely hate it. Yet they do it anyway.

Case in point, the day after my epic Grand Canyon hike, we took the long, long, long way home in order to enjoy the gorgeous vistas of Southern Utah. As we made our way between Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon, we passed a relay race, the Top of Zion.

The event is a 2-day 195 mile relay run by teams of 12. They race all night, typically finishing in 36 hours. Given the altitude, the steep inclines along the route and the scorching sun on May 30th, this race would have been a crazy challenge for runners of ALL levels.

I rolled my window down so I could shout words of encouragement as we drove past the runners. I’m nerdy like that.

It was then that I noticed the difference between what I’ll call *real runners” and “wannabe runners”.

The real runners looked like they were working hard, but they didn’t look like they were in pain. Or dying. Not even a little bit.

The wannabes fell into two categories: poseurs and haters.

The poseurs looked the part. They wore all the right gear, but walked, painful grimaces on their faces, when no one was around to see. They busted into a jog and donned a mask to cover the not-so-happy looks the moment our truck came into view.

The haters wore their misery all over their faces. They were not having fun. They were in pain, and they were not afraid to let us see. They walked as our car approached, and for the most part they just kept on walking. They didn’t even try to fool us.

So charity aside, what else would compel someone who is clearly not capable of running this race to sign up for it? Ego? Bragging rights? Help me here, because I genuinely struggle with the why.

In an effort to gain some clarity, I set out on Friday, with reader comments still dancing in my head, for a power walk along the lake.

My running...er...walking path.

My running…er…walking path.

I started out by asking myself, why did you start running in the first place? To answer that question I had to take the time machine back to January 2013 and the start of My Year of Sweat journey.

untitled

Initially the running I did was part of my interval training, programs like Treading and Mountain. I did them to build up my cardiovascular heath, boost my metabolism and burn fat.

But once I got good at running in short spurts, or sprints, if you will, I wanted to see how much more actual ‘running’ I could do.

I set a goal for myself. I wanted to run for 20 minutes without stopping. I accomplished that goal on April 5, 2013. Colour me shocked when I followed that achievement with a 30 minute run the very next day, thereby setting and achieving my next running goal in the span of 24 hours.

And then I stopped running. For months.

By late fall I noticed that several friends were running in 5k races. So I decided I would do one too. Why? Ego, probably. I wanted to prove that I could. And so I ran my first 5k event in November 2013 and achieved a personal best in the process.

And then I stopped running. For months.

Never once did it occur to me that the reason I was so quick to dump running from my repertoire is because I didn’t actually enjoy it.

That bit of introspection would have served me well several months ago when I decided to run a 10k. Not because it was a burning desire of mine, but because I was just keeping up with the Joneses.

It was during my training for the 10k race that I realized three things:

  1. I don’t like distance running; and
  2. the farther I go, the slower I get; so maybe…
  3. my body is just not built for running long distances

I never completed a full 10k; the farthest I got were a handful of 7-8 km training sessions. But those provided me with a good sense of my pace. Based on that info, I set my goal for the 10k at 01:15:00.

Then, just for shits and giggles, I decided to time myself doing an all-walk 10k.

My default walk speed is quite fast, but this time I really put some extra effort into it.

I finished that 10k walk in 01:26:15.

Hmmph.

It hardly seemed worth the effort, not to mention the beating my lungs and knees would take, just to shave 11 minutes off my time by running one.

I decided to shelve the pursuit of a 10k goal.

untitled

Back to present day.

IMG_1107

As I power walked my way alongside the lakefront, I noticed a heavyset woman jogging approximately 750 meters ahead of me. She appeared to be going very slowly. The only reason I refer to it as jogging is because of her gait. I could see a slight bounce in her step.

Within a few minutes I had closed the gap between us, and then passed her. It was only then that I realized just how slowly she was moving.

I continued along my route, and eventually turned back, lapping her in the process.

Thoughts of this woman kept flashing into my consciousness throughout my walk, and long after. A look of defeat on her face as she saw me walk past her while she jogged.

Later, I told Mr. Enthusiasm about her. I ranted on and on about how many other forms of exercise would be more beneficial to her both physically and mentally. I nattered on, fixated on why on earth she would choose running.

Finally he stopped me. Nancy, why do you care???

And I had an epiphany.

He was right. Why do I care? I shouldn’t.

Is running her best choice? I have an opinion on that. But my opinion doesn’t matter.

Rather than concern myself with what motivates others to run, I need to focus on one thing only. Is running right for me?

For now, I’ve decided that I’ll run as a warm up before my 3x/week heavy lifting program at the gym. It will take the form of treadmill interval running, or wind sprints, as some people call them.

That said, I’m not limiting myself. Just today I went out for a power walk, but decided to throw in a series of short sprints just for fun. And it felt good. No, really.

Running under my terms is the right choice for me right now. Even though my running doesn’t make me a *real* runner, by my own definition. 🙂

Keep moving,

xoxo nancy

Related post: See part 1 of this “series” here.

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69 thoughts on “run or don’t. your choice.

  1. Running for me has always just been an alternative to when I couldn’t do my regular DVD workouts (for example, if I was at a hotel and had to use the treadmill). But I’ve mentioned before that my knees don’t care for long runs anymore, so that solves the issue for me. By the way—Best. Gif. Ever.

    • My legs, lungs, mind and soul all don’t care for long runs. 🙂

      In all seriousness though, it does feel good to finally admit that I don’t enjoy long, steady, slow runs and be done with pretending. It’s not to say I’ll never sign up for a 5k fun run for charity again — I probably will because they are…well, fun. 🙂 But no more charades about training for serious 5k or 10k races. Just not my bag.

      + First you give me ‘best line ever’ for my bagel-throwing comment and now I get best gif ever for bored to death. Yay me! #Winning 🙂

    • If you had any idea how many rewrites I did on this post. Where I thought I’d land on part two morphed and morphed and morphed again between Friday and Tuesday. Literally my second to last rewrite still had me fixating on that woman’s speed, and how she wasn’t really running at all. I also had a whole section on “the mad jogger”, a guy in our neighborhood who has been running for the 14 years we’ve been here. His body shape hasn’t changed a lick in the entire time we’ve been here, and yet he’s out there, steady Eddie, jogging for hours at a time several times per week.

      So clearly my goal was still, almost to the bitter end, to convince you all that jogging for long periods, at slow speeds is stupid and useless, and you shouldn’t do it [because I am no longer doing it]. Crazy. I’m a mental patient, seriously. Why do I care what they or anyone else does?

      I’m pretty happy (not 100%) with where this post ended up, and more importantly, where I’ve ended up.
      The irony of the situation, i.e. that I’ve done more running since writing these two posts than I had in the previous 2 months, is not lost on me, either. 🙂

      • It’s so interesting to learn how both activities, writing and running, shared the same difficult path to the conclusion of this post, Nancy. Your thought processes made me remember how I felt years ago when all of my friends were getting married and I was still single. I sat in my car on the way to another wedding and wished I could just be as happy as they were. I didn’t wish for a partner though, I just wanted to feel the same settled kind of happiness I thought they must have and yes, I feel the same way about running. I sincerely don’t enjoy running but I would like to experience that happy feeling some of my friends get from the activity. I guess it’s more emotional than physical and really I do get that same feeling from exercise that is better suited to me. Of course not all of my friends from that time are still married and John and I will celebrate 20 years this summer so lessons and parallels are all over the place as encouragement to do just what you decided and tailor your exercise routines to suit you, not someone else. 🙂

      • Lisa, I love this comment! Perfect analogy, you hit the nail on the head: I think it’s more that I wish I could feel that happiness/love for running that others do. And you’re right – other forms of exercise do give me that, so why fight it?

        Happy soon to be 20th to you and John! Ed and I just celebrated our 27th in May!

      • A belated congratulations to you and Ed! We won’t be celebrating with a trek through the Grand Canyon but I think I’ve got John convinced to go hiking in the Olympic Mountains. 🙂 I want to see Hurricane Ridge…

  2. This is spot on 🙂
    Running or not running is up to you 🙂 and for the very very slow runners out there (like me) if your running pace is faster than your walking pace then it is probably elevating heartrate and such 😉

    I agree, I don’t think I am built for distance running some people are and some people aren’t. Even if you aren’t you can improve relatively well.

    Having just declared myself “not a runner” but someone who will run a bit, I have just been convinced to run a half marathon with a friend of mine :-S She wants motivation and does no exercise at the moment so Wanted someone to run with…I might be a crazy person!!

    • Now that is hilarious, Sam! Somewhere, in the deep recesses of my mind, I too had a glimmer of a bucket list item that I would one day half-marathon. Again, reality check though – if you walk more than half of it, does it really qualify as ‘running a half marathon’? In my books, no. So I’m shelving the idea. Could I/would I walk a half or full marathon? Absolutely, and have done so. Walked for the Weekend to End Breast Cancer 4 years in a row – 60kms over two days, plus my 19 mile hike last month both come to mind.

      It’s interesting – a former employee of mine, Rob, does power walking competitive races: 5k, 10k, half marathon — but they are specifically for power walkers, not dubbed as running races. I may actually reach out to him to ask for more info. I am done with the posing. I’m not a distance runner. If I’m going to go a distance, a LOT of walking is going to be involved. So let’s call a spade a spade.

  3. Glad you are figuring out what works for Nancy! The other day I was walking with Mr. B and I told him I needed to power walk a bit (kind of like sprinting) because my friend Nancy had said that changing up the pace in exercise is good! Your research into this topic has made its way into your reader’s lives. Mr. B said, “Who the heck is Nancy?” LOL.

    Unfortunately, yesterday my left knee got swollen and filled with fluid (not because of you). I think it was a combination of too much exercise and lowering of my prednisone. 😦 Heading to the Rheumatologist for a cortisone shot. LOVE THOSE! And wine. 🙂

    • Oh no! I’m so sorry that the added exercise (plus drug adjustment) resulted in the knee issue. That must be so frustrating (and painful). 😦

      I hear you on the bloggy life crossing over to real life. I reference “my friend XYZ” to Ed all the time. He’s like, “who’s that?” I respond, “a blogger from ABC” He just shakes his head. But, seriously I think he’s finally starting to figure out that blog friends are becoming real friends to me! 🙂

  4. Pingback: speaking of letting go, it may be time for a break-up | my year[s] of sweat!

  5. Great post as always, Nancy.
    I think Mr. Enthusiasm and Big A were probably cut from the same cloth in terms of their live and let live personas. I, on the other hand, like to be a “helper.” Even when it’s way overstepping my boundaries. A YouTube clip that was going around awhile ago with a little girl telling her dad “you worry about yourself” comes into mind whenever I start flaring up. 🙂
    I think you should keep doing what you do, and if it moves you, then by all means, go get it. I think you have yourself pretty well figured out.

    • Gawd, I overstep all the time! You don’t know how much self-restraint it took not to offer my unsolicited advice to that woman jogging last Friday. Did I mention she was lumbering along while holding a big rock in each hand? Because her substantial bodyweight alone wasn’t enough for her to carry?? GAH! I so wanted to “help”, but managed to bite my tongue and carry on…

      • This is why I hate tough Mudder. How much do you want to bet that’s what running with rocks was for.
        I love doing Mudders but I took 3 years from wanting to do one to knowing I was actually capable of even training for one.
        I am an advocate for fitness at every size. And Mudder by no means is an elitist event, however, you have to establish your limits before you can push them. I hate the thought of anyone piss pounding their body with very little reward attached to it. Or an injury.
        See there’s helper Martha in a nut shell. I make huge assumptions and then go off on tangents 🙂

      • Oh no…it didn’t even occur to me that the rock carrying was tied to training for a Tough Mudder. I’m cringing now. This particular woman looked to be in her late 40’s and approx. 50 lbs overweight. She was laboring to move at a speed which I would estimate around 2.5 mph, the average person’s walking speed.

        Martha, you said it perfectly: I’m also all for fitness at every size and capability level – but you’re right, not at the risk of injury. Love your suggestion that individual’s should set a baseline and establish their limits before moving on to push those limits. That is sound advice right there. But I know that a lot of people would say, mind your own fucking business. And I get that too.

        Helper Nancy and Helper Martha should start a support group. We can work on corralling our tangents and ‘helpful advice’. Or maybe we could just give our helpful advice to each other? 🙂

      • We could write an advice column.
        That nobody would read except to tell us to shut the fuck up. 🙂
        Gotta love a side project.

      • YES!

        Dear Boring Broad and Sweaty Chick,

        I don’t give a shit what you think. So there. Please stop talking now. And forever.

        Sincerely,
        Everyone who’s not Boring Broad or Sweaty Chick

  6. I am NOT a fan of running either…at all. I have always considered it a chore…something I hate to do but force it. At one point in time, I desperately tried to convince myself I liked it. My sister gave me tips and we planned a half marathon (which we never did). It is an easy and cheap exercise to do and it burns fat, those were always my reasons. And I have a treadmill so I could exercise while my kids napped. Because as much as I wish it were the case, yoga just doesn’t burn fat like a 30 min hard run. I’d much rather swim laps, but again, expensive and away from home.
    i hate running and only force it for the health aspects, but I am with you, why do something we hate? I’m gonna sell that damn treadmill as soon as my son is in school and I can go swim laps, even if I have to spend the money . I will pay to not run. lol!

    • Do you know what’s crazy, Kerry? I have run more since writing the original post last Thursday than I have in the previous 2 months. It was mostly intervals and short sprints, but today at the gym I did a 20 minute straight thru jog. And I didn’t hate it. How retarded is that? I’m a walking contradiction. 🙂

      I think it’s awesome that you love swimming. That is such a great fat-burning activity!

      • It is, and I love it…totally meditative, that’s probably why 🙂 But, I’m happy you got your running-hate off or your chest that maybe you’re learning to “like” it 😉

      • I’ve heard others describe it as meditative too. Real swimmers. 🙂
        I, myself, rarely put my face right under the water, so mostly I’m just splashing about. Nothing meditative about that. 🙂

        Yep, I guess I like my style of running. Even if it’s not real running. 🙂

  7. I’m a big believer in exercise I enjoy. I don’t enjoy running, and I let that go a long time ago. There are so many other things I can do to exercise, things I do enjoy (like power walking), and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with focusing on that. I sometimes look at my runner friends and wish I could be more like them, but we’re all different for a reason. Some people like steak, while others like tofu, too. 🙂

  8. Nancy, I figure no one’s body is actually made for running distances. I mean, we’re all knobby kness and wiggly hips, that doesn’t sound like an appropriate body type for running. Plus, there aren’t exactly that many sabre-toothed tigers left to chase us.

    That comment about seeing people who obviously hated running doing it anyway… I find that mystifying. I guess there’s a compulsion to do it, but it’s so bloody hard to run that why would you do it if you didn’t really enjoy it? I’m baffled.

    • Oh there seem to be a whack of people out there whose bodies are built for distance running. Did you hear about the winner of this year’s Boston Marathon? He finished in 02:08:37. That’s a pace of < 5 mins / mile. So, essentially he SPRINTED for 26.2 miles. And there were 10 others that finished within 90 seconds of his time. That is some fucked up shit right there, my friend.

      Still, I get why they run. They are built for it, and seem to enjoy it.

      It's the ones who seem to hate it and do it… Yes, mystifying and baffling, indeed.

  9. Nancy

    I’m with Mr. Enthusiasm on this one. Why run when you can walk or drive? I am impressed with the fact you delved into this subject to fully understand why you do run. I’m also impressed with how fast you can walk!

    Patrick

  10. It’s a mystery to me Nancy. I’ve always been reasonably fit – volleyball, gymnastics, aerobics. jazzercise, cycling, yoga, swimming – but running has never appealed to me in the least. I’d say it was the pain thing but I’ve beaten myself up pretty well with all those other disciplines. That was the long answer. The short answer is dunno!

  11. I don’t know if this is relevant to your thoughts, Nancy, but I know that when I start to analyze a personal decision that goes back and forth in my mind, the reason I get stuck is because I so badly want to make a decision that is final! I want a routine I can stick to, and so the decision weighs heavily! But when I started telling myself that it’s just fine to change my mind as often as I want to, and that’s not a character flaw, lol, I made decisions, even very large ones, with less stress. I think that you should train to run, run and pursue running every time it seems right for you, and when it doesn’t, listen to yourself and don’t. I don’t know if that’s the least bit helpful, since I know that running does ordinarily require commitment, but I think it’s good to remember that you can do whatever you want. Your best line in each day is “Keep moving!” However you do it! 🙂

    • Debra, that is HUGELY helpful! Thank you! I’m not sure if you read through the comments, but the weirdest thing of all is that I’ve been running more since writing the last two posts than in the previous few months. How ironic. 🙂

      I think you’re right. I think I struggle with declaring that I will (or won’t) run, and then changing my mind. Thank you for reminding me that this does not constitute a character flaw or make me a bad person, or (gasp), a failure.

      I’m breathing lighter already!

  12. Pingback: monthly challenges recap: june edition | my year[s] of sweat!

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