OK, OK… it’s been more of a just hate-hate relationship. But I do it anyway and… *whispers*… sometimes I even like it!
Do you have to run to be fit? No.
You can jump rope for cardio, you can ride a bike, you can rollerblade, you can do metcons, you can walk. You don’t have to run if you really don’t want to. Running is not the holy grail of fitness like some people make it out to be.
Then why do I run? Well, endurance running or even jogging, has been a mental and physical challenge for me of epic proprortions for me throughout my life. I would call it a battle. I have battled with running all my life. And when I wage a battle, I want to win.
I think it’s important to push the boundaries of your comfort zone and challenge yourself in as many ways as possible and practicable. I always feel like jogging or running kicks my butt. Even now when I feel that I’m reasonably good at it, I’m always puffed out and sweating heavily at the end. That feels good. I like that feeling. That feeling makes me feel alive!
In addition to that, every successful running session I complete is a win against a personal childhood bogeyman of sorts, and you just can’t beat that for making you feel great, each and every time.
As a child, I was diagnosed with asthma and given a puffer. Then the puffer was mysteriously taken away, but I always struggled with any running based activity. I developed a huge aversion to doing it – it was associated with extreme physical struggle, shame, embarrassment. The teachers would always make us run around the school and I would always fall behnd and my lungs would burn and I’d get an unbearable stitch and struggle to catch my breath and inevitably have to stop and… I’d be last again. I grew up thinking it was just something I couldn’t do. I grew up thinking I wasn’t sporty, that I was terrible at sport. Pretty much everyone I know these days would be astonished to hear anything like that being said about me, because its so contradictory to everything I am and everything I’m about, but yes. I really believed that and so did most people around me, until I got to high school and dabbled in soccer and basketball… and found I was actually REALLY GOOD at sport. I was a natural at both those sports and always one of the most valuable players on any team I played with.
But I still hated running if it wasn’t up and down the soccer field or basketball court, and I did realise at this point it was more of a mental block than a real physical incapability. Or so I thought. I just didn’t know what to do about it, because every time I tried to “just run”, my lungs would burn, I would huff and puff, my legs felt like lead and sooner or later, I would have to stop, no matter how “determined” I was to just push through. I never lasted more than a few minutes at best. It was disheartening, to say the least.
Over the years, I tried taking up running again and again. My ex-husband tried to get me to run with him. His approach was to get all Marine Corp drill instructor on me, which I would resent since it lacked any finesse and did not account for the fact that it was really actually the hardest possible physical activity for me. I really was trying my hardest AND… I didn’t give a flying fuck about being as tough as a Marine. So yeah, FAIL. I tried following the Couch to 5k a few times and while I DID get to a 5k pace within a 30 minute run time (an arbitrary personal goal), every single minute, no… second was HARD and a test of mental and physical grit… and running never really got any easier on that program for me, I was just determined to do the damn thing no matter what – which is’t always the smartest or most awesome or admirable thing, regardless of what many fitness-y douches and pseudo-experts will try to tell you. Once I got to my 30 minutes of solid, torturous running… I always dropped the program like a hot potato. I can’t impress upon you enough how every second totally SUCKED and physically hurt, and by this time I was reasonably fit and quite used to pushing through things I may not have been very good at initially, but just building my skills and focusing and following a program and get steadily better. I did get steadily better at running, but my progress was slower than outlined and while my endurance improved, every second was still a physical ordeal. You just can’t make yourself continue with something that feels that awful, and in my opinion, if it feels that bad something is wrong and you shouldn’t force it. I am a huge advocate of listening to your body. Always listen to your body.
The real turning point for me was about two years ago when I adopted a gluten-free diet. I was working as a personal trainer in New York City and I got another bug up my ass about being more “well-rounded” in my fitness. I mean, I always lift. Never in my life am I ever not lifting or needing to be motivated to move some heavy ass weights around. Sometimes I might be taking dance or gymnastics classes, or martial arts classes… but I’m always, always, always lifting weights. So, at this time in 2011, I decided I should be more well-rounded and I somehow decided that meant I was gonna take another stab at “that damn running thing” and this time, I wasn’t going to stop doing it when I got to 30 minutes. I was gonna grit my teeth and go to my happy place and think happy thoughts while I ran week in and week out. Because I needed to be well-rounded and I hated that running was still this bogey-man activity for me. Maybe this time it would be different. Maybe I was just being a whiney bitch before? These are the things I was thinking. I mean, sure there is a lot of ego there too, I just really hate admitting that there is something I’m not god at or cut out for and that maybe I just can’t do it, especially anything physical. In my mind I need to be good at everything and tough enough for anything. It’s a conceit, certainly, but it makes me tenacious too. It’s a mentality that’s helped keep me fit and ever fitter and stronger, year after year.
To my surprise, this time, running, my deep-seated childhood nemesis and bogey-man of all bogey-men… was not that bad. Not even from the first run. I mean, sure, you take up a physical activity that you don’t normally do and its not a piece of cake. You aren’t adapted to it, it’s going to take an effort, but this wasn’t the lung burning, huffing puffing torture that I remembered from my previous attempts at making running a part of my routine. It took a little effort to continue and wasn’t easy, but it didn’t feel terrible like it had in the past. I got to 30 minutes within about 2 weeks instead of 6 – 8 weeks like I had in the past. I was astounded… and pleased. I even kind of liked some of my runs. It was a revelation.
What I believe was the catalyst for the big change in my running abilities was my now gluten-free diet. It’s one of the many profound and fundamental changes i’ve noticed in the way my body works and just one of the break-throughs I’ve made since eliminating wheat from my diet. I believe it’s probably connected with inflammation somehow inhibiting lung capacity, but of course, it’s hard to tell and hard to prove exactly what and how going gluten-free has helped my body to perform better. I’m working on something I’m calling My Gluten-Free Manifesto that I plan to publish on the site in a few weeks. Going gluten-free has been an enormous breakthrough for me in numerous ways.
And I’ve been running ever since. Happily ever after!
I don’t love it. I love lifting. I love plyometrics. I don’t love running. But sometimes I really enjoy my runs.I find I strangely love running in humidity and I love running up hill – those have usually been my most memorable runs. I’ve always loved sprinting, whether on a track, up a hill or on a treadmill. No ones ever had to twist my arm to get some interval training or HIIT done.
I always get a lot of satisfaction out of completing a run because it was such an achilles heel for me pretty much my entire life – and such a source of embarrassment in childhood, always being puffed out first, always with a painful stitch and searing lungs – and now suddenly, it isn’t hard anymore and I didn’t give up and I conquered it. There is a lot of satisfaction in that.
So now that I run once or twice a week, do I think everyone should run? Nah. Do it if you like it. Do it if you don’t like it, but you get a kick out of it in some way, because you like the way it makes you feel, because you want to build your cardiovascular abilities, because you don’t need anything but your running shoes to get out there and get something physical done and work up a sweat for a few k’s. But this is my running story and this is why this die hard weightlifter does a steady state run once or twice a week.