• Thu, Jan 31 2013

Gym Classy Lady: Every Kind Of Exercise Sucks…Until It’s Awesome

how to be a runner

At first, I thought it was me. What do you mean, this isn’t working? “I can change! I’ll try harder,” I thought. I tried to rationalize my behavior, my outlook. I fell into the dangerous trap of comparing myself with others (thanks in part to the internet), thinking: “If she can figure out how to be a runner, so can I!” Eventually, I had to come to terms with a simple, but important fact: Nobody actually likes running. (I also learned another important platitude: Never compare yourself with others. It doesn’t go well for you or them.)

OK, I guess that’s not entirely true. There’s an entire sub-culture of runners. There are books, magazines, stores, and products devoted to the sport, and professional runners like Bart Yasso who spend their lives traveling the globe just to talk about running. So to say nobody likes it may be discrediting the sport a bit. But I’m not convinced even runners like the actual act of running.

Sure, it’s a great form of exercise. On the surface, running requires less skill than many other sports. I’m not saying all you crazy runners are no-talent hacks! Relax! I just mean that compared to, say, biking or swimming, the learning curve is a bit smaller initially. It’s also much cheaper (a pair of shoes is all you really need to get started), and overall, it’s a very efficient way to get your cardio done. But, despite the obvious pros, I still cannot wrap my head around avid runners.

Do you ever have a moment where you realize something that in retrospect, seems kind of obvious, but at the time was completely groundbreaking? Back when I did yoga on the regular, I had one such realization. At the beginning of class, no matter how I was feeling, downward dog was a terrible place to be. I’d be stretching my legs, making adjustments, wiggling my shoulders, but no matter what, it sucked. The first five minutes of every class were spent in discomfort. And then we’d begin our regular routine and I’d forget the pain and inevitably, somewhere later in the class, I’d find myself relieved to be in downward dog. Relieved. It felt good! And it was the same position that had been torture 40 minutes earlier.

When you begin any physical activity, there’s the moment where your body says: “Wait a minute, what are we doing here? Haven’t we been sitting at a desk for eight hours? A couch would be much more comfortable than this.” (Or at least, my body says that. Maybe yours says, “Oh cool, this again! Afterwards, can we pppppllllease have some green juice?” In which case, good for you. Please teach me.) No matter how intense or relaxing, the first few minutes of a workout are usually a bit rough. But then, you spend 45 minutes putting yourself in even less comfortable positions and suddenly you long for a little downward dog. It seems so easy.

So maybe runners are just people who have become accustomed to discomfort to the point of actually believing that discomfort is the new comfort.

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  • maggieag

    I love running, because I hate meditating. For me, meditating is the most boring thing ever thought up by humans. But I still want the mental and emotional benefits of it, so I run instead. It gives me lots of time to think (or not think) and I always leave a run mentally and emotionally refreshed, not just physically. Running is active meditation for me.

    • http://www.losingweightinthecity.com theodorable

      Totally agree with the active meditation…although I’ve also gotten into still meditation lately, too. Sometimes the normal-paced runs are kinda meh, but when I’m pushing myself hard and feel like I’m flying? That’s awesome. And after is always awesome.

  • AD

    I also hate running. What helps me get through a run is to not think about running. I know this sounds counterintuitive because you want to remain conscious of your form and pace, but I find I do better to when I just get lost in my thoughts. I forget Im running for a little while. Headphones helps with this. Especially e-books. You get lost in the story. Or some other podcast that is interesting. That’s how I get through a run.

    • Gym Classy Lady

      This makes perfect sense, although I have to say, you’re more evolved than me because I have never, ever forgotten I was running. Siiigh.

    • klynnw

      SAME. Spin is the only thing that I can completely zone out and forget what I’m doing. Running is the WORST.

  • http://blisstree.com/ Carrie Murphy

    I am hoping, hoping, hoping to become a runner. I’ve tried a bunch of time and it’s never stuck, but I’m always holding out hope that the next C25k I try will be the one that makes me bolt out of bed in the morning, all ready to be hopped up on endorphins. But I think there’s something to be said, for what you say about the mental hurdles. It is, by FAR, a mental thing for me. Hopefully, if I really “set my mind to it,” as they say, I can become a runner. Because it’s not my body that’s resistant. I am resistant because I’m lazy!

  • Alexandra

    I used to hate running… Then I found out it was because I had exercise induced asthma. Now I love it :) (with a pump or indoors, of course)

  • alexandra

    I love running and I have always loved it. However, after a few months of not running (usually due to injury), I’ve found it hard to get back in the swing– so I can’t imagine starting for the first time as an adult! (I was 14 when I started) It really takes a few months of regular running to get to the point where it’s thrilling, but once I am back, it’s seriously the best thing ever. I feel strong and capable and happy.

    I do think it depends on the person though. I have depression, so my shrink instructs me to run and I’m basically addicted to it– it takes off the edge of the depression.

    Sometimes I meet people who say “I wish I liked running, but I just hate it!” …and I usually recommend that they try something else. Yeah, running is “easy,” but so is stationary biking and I have NEVER been able to do that; I just hate it. I never recommend that people force themselves to run instead of exploring other types of cardio (rowing, biking, Zumba, swimming, etc) that they might enjoy more.

  • Sarah

    You know how you said how the first down-dog in the first 15-20 minutes of yoga class is seriously uncomfortable until you get into more discomfort and suddenly the last down-dog feels awesome? In the same way, running is an act of endurance, until it isn’t – on a larger level. When you’re just starting to run from scratch, the first maybe 2-3 weeks, or even several weeks, of regularly running any distance is always painful. Your leg muscles ache after the first half-mile. Your lungs and throat are raw. Your nose is runny. It’s hot. You have to pee. And every run is like this, until you’re a few weeks in, and you’re all, “Hey! This doesn’t hurt like it used to. I think I’m getting stronger! This might actually be fun!” And then, it doesn’t suck. It takes less effort to get yourself off the couch and into your sneakers. And then, a couple more weeks later, you’ll miss a run and be all disappointed because you’re all, “Awww! But I really *enjoy* running!” And then you will have come to the dark side.
    When you get to the point where you’re running pretty regularly, there is still the same endurance mentality of, “Once I get into it, it won’t suck,” but the sucky part gets shorter the longer you run regularly. In the first weeks, ALL of the running sucks. There is no doesn’t suck. Then, maybe only the first half sucks. Then, maybe only the first mile sucks. Then the first half-mile.

    And after the sucky part is over, you can enjoy how strong your body is getting, and enjoy the run for the beautiful places it takes you and how good you feel about doing something awesome with your body.

  • Eileen

    When it’s beautiful outside and I’m a little restless, I love running because it’s an opportunity to go outside that doesn’t involve the hassle of making sure my bike can go everywhere I want to.

    I also like running for the same reason as some of the other commenters – that’s when I get my thinking in. When I was in college and I had a paper to write, I’d often take 30 minutes or an hour to go running (and sightseeing!) through the beautiful town where I went to school…and think about what I wanted to say. I’d often get back to my room, hop into the shower, and bang out the first 1000 words without any awful “staring-at-the-blank-page-on-the-computer” wasted time.

    Finally…yeah, once you get good at it, it becomes fun. The first mile is okay. The second mile is hard. The third mile is awful. But the fourth, fifth, sixth mile – provided you’re in good enough running shape to make it there – are much easier. They feel good. Your quads don’t hurt the next day ’cause they’re used to it. And there’s something so satisfying about being good at an exercise that can also be very practical – like biking, running can be used as a healthy, green, cheap form of transportation.

    • mm

      AHH I did that last night! I usually just do my papers before anything else so I can go to sleep early, but since I started running I didn’t want to take a day off because my schedule is so packed. I did my run, then went home and wrote my paper. I swear it’s the best paper I’ve ever written. Running gets your brain moving, too.

  • mm

    I have hated running for my ENTIRE life. Like, I would lie through my teeth to get out of the mile run in high school. That said, I think it’s mental, because I like it now. I decided that I needed to get back in shape a month and a half ago, and I didn’t feel like paying for a gym membership. I live in Santa Barbara, where there are gorgeous trails on the cliffs overlooking the beach, so I started out walking them. Then, I got bored walking (I’m really impatient) so I’d run for a few minutes, then walk again. Now I’m addicted to it. I still sort of alternate between walking and running, but every time I end up running more than the time before. I’m sure the gorgeous view helps, but I really enjoy it and it completely clears my mind. Maybe your main problem is jumping right into it? I don’t think anyone would start their first yoga class at a high level, and I think every other sort of exercise is the same way. Start out slowly, ease your way into it, and you might end up liking it! It’s great for losing weight, I’ve lost 12 lbs in a little over a month.