I don’t know what it is about running, but people always have a visceral reaction to it. There is almost no one who is merely indifferent about it, it seems. The most common reaction from the detractors is usually to scoff, “Running is what prey does from predators, it’s not for civilized humans.”
It’s all fine and good if you dislike running, but why do you have to disparage others for it? The very act of someone running isn’t judging you or harming you. Always bothered me about exercise in general. If you don’t like to exercise, don’t do it. If you don’t like running, do yoga or play golf instead, don’t put down others for doing it.
Anyway, you move past hate by understanding why people do things. I can’t say I love running. Sometimes I find it a real grind. I have to make myself do it when I’m tired, or would rather watch Netflix movies on my lunch hour. When I’m actually doing it, I’m not even sure I enjoy it all that much; it can hurt my feet and knees when I’m first getting used to it, I sweat a lot, and I pant like an exhausted dog.
Then why do it? I started running a few years ago, before Covid-19. I started off with the Couch To 5K app on my phone; it is a running program that trains you to run by alternating walking and jogging until you can run three minutes, then five minutes, then a 5K, which is 3.106 miles. I wanted to run because I had always struggled with it in the past. I was that nerdy kid in PE class with baggy sweatsuits because I didn’t like my body and lopsided glasses, always getting mistaken for someone people could cheat off of in math. I could barely run a mile without an urgent need to pee.
Fast forward to my 30s, when I realized that exercise helped me get out of my darkest cycles of depression and anxiety. I’m the kind of person who gets easily bored and always needs variety to stay engaged, so I decided to try running to challenge myself. I was able to run a full 5K on the treadmill at my gym, and I tried a couple of 5K fun runs. I did a Turkey Trot in 2019 in 40 minutes, although I walked halfway. Running on pavement is quite different than running on a treadmill.
Then covid hit and I canceled my gym membership. I had a bit of agoraphobia and I didn’t leave my house much. I didn’t really do much exercise for a year. I got vaccinated which made me want to give running a shot again because I felt more comfortable outside, panting in spitting distance of other people. I still didn’t feel safe enough to join a gym, but I found I preferred my at-home workouts. I just did them on my lunch hour and I didn’t even have to put up with driving to a gym or feeling self conscious around the hardcore bodybuilder bros who probably thought cardio or yoga was for sissies. I bet most of them don’t think that, but that’s what insecurity will make me assume at a gym.
But 2021 has been more of a struggle than 2020 with managing depression and staying motivated and consistent with exercise. It wasn’t until July or so that I really got serious about running again. I first struggled to get enough sleep, and I only ran once a week, if that, skipping a couple weeks. I started with the Couch To 5K program again, and my route was on the pavement outside my house. It was hard to get used to the impact of pavement, so I kept repeating weeks. I’d be consistent for a couple weeks then fall right back into old habits. October was another bad month. I found myself stuck on Week Three, where you need to run for three minutes straight.
I kept psyching myself out. At first I’d find it hard to breathe, my pulse would race and I would need to stop for rests. Then I’d come up with strategies, like I’d count out the seconds mentally as I ran. I found that only impeded my mental block. I started paying attention to landmarks instead; I’ll run toward this driveway or this tree and then take a break.
This last week I finally ran three times a week instead of one or two, and I found myself making progress. It was such an exciting feeling, the feeling of approaching a goal that you didn’t think you could meet. I was running almost the whole three minutes straight. They call it a runner’s high. You feel a sense of exuberance or euphoria when you push yourself past your pain thresholds and finally can do it. I was elated and even more motivated to push through the succeeding weeks. Through rain and cold I have persisted; now I just need to work on my consistency. That was the biggest barrier to me being able to run that three minutes. When I tracked my progress, there were too many gaps.
I plan to repeat Week Three one more time because I want to feel comfortable doing it. I don’t mind repeating things over and over again until I feel confident with it. That way when I get to Week Four, I won’t have to repeat it quite so often. I don’t know if I’ll be ready in time for this year’s Turkey Trot with my pace, but I’m at least motivated. The next race after that isn’t till April. I will be ready by then.
I plan to blog about my running journey every week as a way to hold myself accountable. This time I will run a 5K outdoors; I’m committed. And it really does help my depression. I find myself going to bed earlier to get more sleep, eating healthier, cutting back on other unhealthy habits, to get better at running.
I hope that gives you a better understanding of why some of us like running. Predators, also, have to run to catch up with their prey. I’m a cheetah, not a gazelle.