For as much as I yammer on about it running isn’t even my favourite way to stay fit. It’s at least 4th after biking, swimming and yoga at least, maybe even after that pole dancing class I took 10 years ago. I haven’t tried every sport so it might even be after those undiscovered loves too. But the VAST majority of my fitness time is spent running, why is that? Do I hate it no, but it is at least 4th on the list and it’s hard in a myriad of ways. It’s hard on your body, hard to get motivated, hard to get better, hard to go faster and somedays can be hard to have fun. Plus when your first starting out it’s just plain old hard. Anyone that tells you they don’t have bad runs is lying to your face, they happen on the regular and they SUCK! Even when I come home bleeding, covered in bug bites with a taco-ed bike wheel it’s still not a ‘bad’ bike ride. So why do I spend so much time and energy on it then, read on.
It’s easy to do (ie convenient)
As always I put this first because it’s the main reason. I don’t mean that it’s physically easy or mentally easy but it’s easy to get to. Easy to put on and then check off the to do list. You don’t have to do it at a certain time or drive somewhere or even pay to do it. You can run any time of year, anywhere you happen to be and at least in theory with almost no special gear. You can and I do go for a run between classes I’m teaching, get a pretty good workout in in less than half an hour start to finish and it can be done literally anywhere. In contrast biking requires lots of special gear like a bike, helmet, gloves, tools, repair kit and potentially a bike rack and a car. Plus you can’t do it year round. Then swimming you need to drive to a pool or wait for the lake or beach to warm up, really someone should be watching you plus bathing suits and that’s tricky. Also you have to shower after these things or you’re wet. One might think you have to shower after a run and you might but you would be surprised what clean clothes and dry shampoo can do. Plus if you want more results in the same amount of time you just push harder.
Many sports require you to spend a lot of money to participate, running doesn’t have to. That doesn’t mean you can’t spend a lot of money on it but beyond a couple of outfits, a jacket and a few pairs of sneakers a year that’s all you really have to spend. You don’t have to join a gym, buy a treadmill or take fancy classes. Doing more of it or taking it to the next level really just means buying a new pair of shoes sooner. Doing more of other sports just means more and more dough. Check out this post on how to buy fitness gear for cheap!
This is really a big one too it, running, really, really works wonders for increasing your overall level of fitness. Running is a really effective and efficient way to get to your a very high level of fitness and health as fast as possible. Cycling and swimming, my first and second loves are almost as good at boosting your fitness level as fast but yoga, even the fast paced style I do, not quite. Running will get you to where you want to be reliably and almost as fast as possible. Running will help you loose some weight, condition your heart, boost your overall health, help you mentally or give you a banging body as fast as anything else and potentially a lot faster. Even if you’re training for another less convenient or expensive sport running will help get you to where you need to be very efficiently.
It’s therapy, or religion or self-care or all three
Running has a magical quality to it that other sports might not have. You get some of the same thing biking or doing yoga that I’m aware of, but running still has a special edge. Biking is close, well mountain biking at least for me but I would say that might be from the location rather than the activity its self. Swimming at sunset it pretty close too. But laps in a city pool or cycling on a road with no bike lane or paved shoulder doesn’t have the same magic, for me at least as running in almost any neighbourhood. I can and have run through an issue the is pissing me the F off, no other way of saying it. I’ve gone for a run because I need to bawl my eyes out alone for a good reason and because I’m having one of those grateful to the core moments. I’ve worked through terrible things people have done to me and a few I’ve done to other people running. I’ve made action plans, been handed perspective and just let things go running that I’m not sure I would have been able to do otherwise. Certainly not as fast or effectively. Running lets you see the good others do in the world, shows you what a small part you are of it yet how connected it all is. To me these aspects taken together really constitute or can act very much like therapy or religion or both. You can also really count it as self care me time even if you never see a single health benefit, but you will! I just don’t get the same special stuff from a pump class, lifting weights or doing sit-ups. As much as I love biking, swimming and yoga running does have a certain way of boosting feelings of well being more, more reliably or maybe more easily. Check out this post I wrote for sad runner about the science behind a runner’s high!
It makes you tough
Now you can get this from a lot of other sports maybe even more. Lifting heavy, swimming in the north Atlantic year round (like my senior citizen yoga teacher), shredding some gnarly trail or body checking your opponent probably makes you tougher but running goes a long way too. Running can be painful or is occasionally painful and it’s hard. You ache, have pains, get tiered and want to stop from time to time yet you keep going even if it’s because you’re not home yet. You regularly can’t keep going up a hill for being winded, down a hill for your knee or on the flat for any other reason at all, you take a walk break for a few seconds and then get right back to running. You run when it’s dark, or cold, or raining or snowing. When it’s hot, muggy, windy, early or late. You go farther and then faster than you recently thought possible. Even if like me you pick and choose the best days and hours in the day to train for a race, you race at the crack of dawn in the pouring rain or cold starting off shivering and finishing covered in your own salty sweat. You keep going when your lips, eyelashes and water bottles freeze. You don’t want to really but you do because you’re not done yet. Then when life gets hard, you know you got it covered in part because running made you tough, you’ll live.
It lets you be alone yet connects you
There might be two types of people out there those that need people and constant stimulation and those that crave time alone and dedicated focus. Either way we need something that takes us out of our comfort zone. Personally I love being alone and being stimulated with lots of different inputs. Running gives you a way to be alone but also gives you a way to be out in the world with others. It gives you a means for dedicated focus, one foot in front of the other for a good long time. But you also have to take in a process multiple inputs at once. Form, traffic, music and noise, constant changing scenery and bio feedbacks. In short we all need to push our limits and natural tendencies. No matter what personal boundary you need pushed running gives you a way to do that.
It challenges you
Obviously it challenges you you physically you move more, go further and faster than you could before on the regular. You grow stronger, more confidant and learn constantly as you go. You want to stop and give up sometimes but you rise to the task and push through. But running also challenges you mentally. Who hasn’t flipped through a training plan on day one and though I’ll never be able to run 18, 26 or 32 km, but you do and you can when the time comes. You sign up for something that seems impossible and finish it. Some days you feel like you just can’t make it out the door but you make it happen. There is/was a hill on your regular route that you couldn’t get to the top of running and now or soon you will. You rest, recover and rally to come back from an injury and move those walls further down. Maybe it’s raining and cold but you find the mental fortitude to start and finish even when you thought you couldn’t do it.
It’s shorthand for a lot
Running is also an image thing, hate on that if you want but if you run chances are it’s important to your identity and how you want others to think of you. Hey I do it to. But professing your love for running really is shorthand for a lot of other things. We might not ever come out and tell people a lot of these things but when we say ‘I’m a runner,’ we’re strongly implying it. I’m a runner is shorthand for:
-I’m Super-fit and my health is really important to me.
-I’m outdoorsy and I value the world we live in
-I’m dedicated to things in my life and I do them even though it gets hard.
-I’m adventurous and I value experiences over a lot of material things.
-I want to get better at doing the things I love and I work at it all the time.
-I take time for myself and what’s best for me regularly.
-I like to do things to fill my time rather than let it pass by mindlessly.
Is running your first love, yes or not why do you do it? What makes you keep going even if you don’t want to?