As someone with a background in dance, running was the enemy for a large chunk of my life. Although I tolerated it for the year I played soccer (poorly) when I was very young, running was on the whole something I dreaded. As I grew older, my distaste for it grew alongside me, as well as the unfortunate requirement to run even more. To this day, the thought of running “the mile” in gym class as part of our state-mandated fitness assessment terrifies me — even though I now happily log miles on a regular basis.
This is a common thread that I have traced through many friends’ experiences. We used to hate running, faking sick or simply disappearing in a bathroom stall to avoid the threat of the track, but now we actually pay money to run races. As with many cities, I feel that there is a bit of a running craze in Nashville — head to Centennial on a sunny day, and you might feel out of place if you’re not happily panting and sweating with the rest of them. So, what should you do if you really want to enjoy running, but for the time being, you really, really hate it?
Figure out if it’s actually running that you hate.
Yes, this is a bit of an odd first step, but I found that thinking about this point helped me tremendously in getting over my running aversion. Quite obviously, running is a tough cardio workout, and it’s that heart-pounding, short-of-breath feeling that most of us tend to dislike because, quite honestly, it’s uncomfortable. If your body isn’t used to this feeling, it really wants to escape it by simply not running anymore. I was puzzled by this idea because through dance, I was no stranger to cardio. In fact, I craved that feeling of exhaustion after giving a performance my all, so #1 wasn’t the problem for me. For others, it might be the cardio alone that’s pushing you away. Try cycling, swimming or even Zumba classes and see if they are as uncomfortable to you as running. If the answer is yes, the solution is simply building a stronger heart and upping your oxygen binding capacity, which you can achieve through any type of cardio you’d like. Then, you’re off to the races.
2. Assess your pacing — no one but you should care how fast you’re going.
If you’re like me and you don’t think it’s necessarily the cardio that’s causing the problem, you might want to take a look at your strategy while logging miles. As someone who learned to like (not even love) running just a few years ago, I remember how important it is to encourage yourself to keep proper pacing, and how easy it is to just go full steam ahead. The beginning of a run feels incredibly liberating — nothing hurts yet, nothing is itchy or sweaty, and it’s just air rushing past you and into your lungs. But forcing yourself to start slowly until you become an expert in your body’s limits is key. Pace yourself and run for time, not for distance. See how long you can keep a comfortable pace, then try keeping that pace a little longer next time.
3. Assess your technique.
A lot of running is just momentum — convincing yourself to get started is often the hardest part. However, it’s important to actively maintain that momentum the whole way, or else you’re quite literally wasting energy and making the whole workout harder. Try to minimize any motion that isn’t forward and backward. That means not allowing your shoulders/torso to twist and not letting your arms/feet cross your centerline or flail to the side.
4. Assess your mindset — never run for punishment.
From my own experience, I’ve found that running is likely the most widely abused form of exercise. The logic is certainly there. It’s convenient and cheap — you only need your body and the space to move. It’s cardio, which means it’s guaranteed fat-burning, and you probably have a device that supposedly tells you how many calories you burned. You could technically do it forever, or however long you’re able to push yourself. And finally, my personal favorite, distance running is supposed to just make you “lean” and “toned” — no bulk, guaranteed! It’s incredibly important to be mindful of these damaging ideas and to push them out of your mind as quickly as you can. No workout should ever be used as a socially acceptable way to inflict self-harm, period. No amount of food or hurtful comments or low test scores warrant you pushing yourself to be miserable. Approach running happily and in celebration of what your body can do, and it will be kind to you in return.
5. On second thought, don’t run.
If after all of the above you still can’t stand the thought of nothing but you and the pavement for miles and miles, that is perfectly okay. I firmly believe that running isn’t for everyone, just like barre, or spin, or boxing isn’t for everyone. Repeatedly forcing yourself to do something you don’t love is no way to achieve the lifestyle you’re striving for. Additionally, running puts a lot of stress on your joints, and if you might get hurt, shouldn’t it be while doing something you actually enjoy? Find your fit your own way, and that will be more satisfying than all of the race bibs you could ever own.