Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Running Conundrum

So, I’ve been trying to run for a long time. Or maybe a short time, but it seems long to me. The latter part of 2010 has been spent with me trying to become a runner, first with half-marathon training and then with Couch to 5K. I’ve been frustrated with my progress thus far. I’m frustrated with how slow I am, how low my endurance is, and how I still can’t freaking run 3 miles without stopping.

The truth is, running isn’t fun for me. I worry about it all day until the time rolls around for my run. (I have to be at work at 6:30am so morning runs are not an option Monday – Friday.) I dread it. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve been excited for a run. (And half of those would be race days.) And running is hard. Really, really hard. And not just hard in the way it’s supposed to be. My ankles kill me almost the entire time. I get side stitches that feel like someone is stabbing me with multiple knives from inside my stomach. I spend the majority of my runs hating my life and wondering why I subject myself to this torture.

And I never, ever think these thoughts with any other form of exercise.

I follow 82 blogs currently. A good quarter of those bloggers are runners. And I would estimate 5-10 of those bloggers are hardcore runners. People who run 8-minute miles and think they had a bad run. People who are striving to become ultra marathoners, a feat I cringe at. And while I don’t exactly compare myself to them, the fact the majority of the healthy-living bloggers that I follow are runners, makes me believe I need to be a runner, too. Running is cool! It’s popular! If they can do it, I can do it! But what if I don’t like running? What about the dread I feel leading up to a run and the only part that brings me happiness is being finished?

It’s a debate I come back to again and again. Why am I running? Am I doing it because I love it? My mom loves it. She looks forward to her runs (not every run, but most of them) and absolutely enjoys herself while running. I don’t love it. Am I doing it because that’s what’s popular? All the bloggers are doing it!

I have an intense love for races, though. I love the atmosphere, the swag, the feeling of crossing the finish line. I feel like the only time I enjoy running is during a race.

Basically, I just don’t know what to do. Running has seemed to overtake my life, but it’s still coming incredibly hard for me. And I don’t really enjoy it. On the other hand, I have never felt the kind of accomplishment and happiness that I get when I complete a run. It feels awesome. But I also dread it. I don’t look forward to it and it just plain hurts. And not a good, I’m-getting-a-great-workout hurt. I also miss doing other forms of exercise because I’m trying so hard to run often and build up my endurance. I want to take Spinning classes and yoga. I want to bike more and strength-train.

What say you, blog readers? If you’re a runner, do you love it? How do you deal with these feelings, if you ever have them? Should I give up this “dream” to be a runner (I’m not even sure if it’s a dream I have, or just a way to fit in with healthy-living bloggers)? Should I scale back? WHAT DO I DO?


  1. This is really interesting because I am in the same boat. It does seem like "all the cool kids are doing it" but that doesn't mean it's for everyone. In the couple of months leading up to the wedding I tried to become "a runner" but it didn't make me enjoy it no matter how often I did it. I think the same can be said for anything - lots of bloggers like to bake, or knit, but that doesn't mean I'm going to enjoy it no matter how often I try! For me, I'm looking at maybe signing up for some kind of fitness class in the new year - I get terribly bored running, and I tend to dread it too - so maybe it's time to start looking elsewhere for exercise.

  2. I admire your honesty!

    You run, therefore you're a runner. I think you'd be surprised at what your body can do if you give it an extra push. That being said, if you don't like it, DON'T push it. I know some of your fitness goals involve weight loss. I think for success in that area, exercise needs to be a positive (but still challenging) experience. The negative thoughts create bad work out juju, you know?

    You should definitely get back to the other forms of exercise that you enjoy and make running something you do when you feel like it, not because you have to. If you stay fit with other forms (spin will definitely help your cardio endurance and weight training will build needed strength in muscles), you can still participate in races you enjoy without making running your focus.

  3. My feeling is - if you don't like it, you shouldn't do it! (I mean, obviously that doesn't always apply. I don't necessarily like being at work, but I do it anyways, because I have to pay the bills.) But, if at least part of the reason you're wanting to run is to enjoy yourself and you're just straight up not enjoying yourself, than there's nothing wrong with just saying running isn't for you. It isn't for everyone. My family thinks my Dad and I are crazy for liking running.
    In terms of staying active, there are lots of things you can do! Why not take a little break from running, try yoga and spin and other things you're interested in and see where you want to go from there?

  4. I was the exact same way...dreading it, trying to figure out when to get it in but then I stopped. I decided that running was my "break" from the day (I always ran at 1pm watching Ellen). It gave me an escape, time to get away from the stress...yes, I was still huffing and puffing and about to pass out but it was "me" time, it was healthy and crossing the finish line was oh so worth it! I think it's important to take breaks and CROSS TRAIN!!! Cross training is oh so important for your body AND your MIND!

  5. This is a hard one - I love to run, but I certainly didn't always feel that way about it. I hated it the first couple of months and did it because I had signed up for my half-marathon and knew I had to train for it. Then somewhere along the way I fell in love with it. Now I rarely dread a run..

    I say, do other things. Do things you enjoy! You don't have to be a RUNNER to be an athlete and I think that can be a really hard thing to wrap your head around in the blogging world but it's so true. Maybe spend some time cross-training and run when you FEEL like running and see where that takes you. Good luck!

  6. I love running, but running is not for everyone. if you don't enjoy it, I would say it's time to find a new activity that gets you active. You could try biking maybe? or taking classes at the gym like zumba (assuming you have a gym membership)? Or spinning? Then you would still be in shape and could do the occasional 5k, but it wouldn't be you sole focus... I didn't love running right away but I took to it pretty quickly. For me, though, have to run outdoors and in fun areas. I can't run in my neighborhood because it's boring. I find local trails & lakes to run around and then I can 'find my happy place' on those runs! Now that it's winter, I am shifting my focus to other activities and then I only run 1-2 times per week because it's not fun for me to run on the treadmill...

    good luck figuring out what works for you!

  7. The only time I enjoy running is when I am playing soccer, and that's because I am PLAYING, not running! My sister is a runner. I am not. I love swimming, Pilates, BodyPump, and other cardio activities that are not running. Heck, try hula hooping!

    Especially if it causes you pain, you should consider finding another way to stay active until you WANT to run again.

    Also read this post if you haven't already.

  8. I too hate running. It's painful, I have no endurance, and I don't enjoy any of it beyond the first 30 seconds. On this front, I understand completely. And I say there's nothing wrong with feeling like this. I'm sure there are many runners who will say they hate swimming, or spinning, or ultimate frisbee or whathaveyou. The easiest way to stay active is to find something you enjoy doing. If you dread it, it's just going to make it easier to come up with excuses.

    Take the time to explore different activities. Figure out you enjoy and leave the rest. One of my friends swears by swimming as a way to improve her running endurance. Perhaps you will find that in stepping away from running and doing something else when you try running again it might be easier (and perhaps more enoyable).

    And if you love the feel of races, don't stop doing them. If you make your goal finishing them, no matter how long it takes, and just focus on the experience (even if you walk the whole way!) perhaps you won't have to push yourself so hard in training.

  9. You know if running isn't your thing it isn't! Try another activity to supplement your runs! You sound like deep down you do love running, so maybe cut down the days per week that you run by 1 or 2 and try something else on the other days. If you add some flexibility to your workout, maybe it won't be so bad! Or try signing up for a big race! That way, every run is pushing you toward that goal and maybe you'll feel better about!

  10. I think if running makes you completely miserable, you shouldn't do it. However, I caution you not to give up just because you don't like something. This isn't supposed to be mean, but it seems like (from your blog anyway--I don't know you in real life) you give up on things rather easily. Like I said, you could be totally different in real life, but this is the sense I get from your blog. I'd love to see you follow through on something, rather than give up because it's too hard for you.

    There are solutions to the problems you are having with running. Are you strength-training at all? If you do some weights and some cross-training on your off-days, it will build up a ton of endurance for you, as well as alleviate your pain. Also, how are your eating habits? Eating the wrong food will hurt you, no matter how much you are working out. You need to be eating a good balance of carbs, protein, and fruits and veggies, and they need to be spaced throughout the day. Junk food will HURT HURT HURT you when you're running. Also, how much water are you drinking? You'd be amazed at what a difference drinking a ton of water does for your running.

    Lastly, your attitude can make a big difference in the way you feel. If you are dreading running and hating it while you're doing it, of course you're going to be miserable. You will get tired more easily and feel pain worse. The people who love running don't have anything different or special about them that makes them better runners--they just have a good attitude about it! This is why you love races so much more than practice runs. You go into them excited, and you run with a ton of encouragement. This is the same attitude you need for your practice runs.

    I'd really hate to see you give up on something else. You've made SO much progress with running so far! Your times get better with each race! I know it feels like slow-going, but if you let your determination fuel you and keep persevering when things seem difficult, you will make progress. You have so far! Just think--one day, in a year or so, you will look back and think a 5k is nothing! I know you can do this. Hard work is just that--hard. But you are getting somewhere, it is worth it, and you can do it.

  11. I agree with Amber - do what you enjoy. Non runner does not equal non athlete. Only run when you want to. Don't force yourself to. Fit in the other exercises you like, and just run here and there.

    Running takes awhile to get in to. To get "easier." If you really want to stick with it, it will probably get easier with time. But you shouldn't force yourself because it is popular. And if it hurts you should definitely NOT run (I mean, painful hurting, like shin splints and stress fractures, not breathing - that you just have to keep running for it to get better).

    Personally, I love the freedom of running, and the opportunity it gives me to be alone with my thoughts, or a fun podcast. I also love races and running with friends. There are definitely days that I would rather sit on the couch, but running almost always makes me feel better.

  12. I struggle with this a lot. I want to be a runner so badly, but I don't really love it. I'm hoping I start to like it better.

    One thing I've heard repeatedly is to try running with a heart rate monitor---if you stay in your target heart rate zone, you go slower but build endurance faster and don't feel like death. My boyfriend swears by one and says it's what helped make him a runner. He didn't get as discouraged.

  13. I can relate to this a lot. I see all these running blogs and it makes me want to run too!! My dad used to run all the time and I think it'd be fun to at least do a half-marathon some day. I'm afraid I won't enjoy it or will quit because it's too boring especially because I can't listen to music while running like a lot of runners can.

    I LOVE spinning classes!!! I took some in college and absolutely loved it! I've been waiting for the spinning class at my gym to move to a different hour so I can go. Supposedly all the mommies don't work in the town I live so the spinning class right now is during the work day, grr.

    I think you'd love spinning!! It's fun!

  14. I love running, but I do not preach the Gospel of Running. It is not the be all and end all of exercise, fitness, etc. I think the key to living healthy and happy is finding activities that you enjoy doing so you do look forward to doing them!

    Maybe if you focused on other things (tried and true or new) for a while you could think about doing a 5K in the spring and see how that goes. Or, you could fall in love with something else and never lace up your running shoes again.

    If you do keep running, try to put aside all expectations and pressures for keeping a certain pace or comparing yourself to others. I know its hard, but the best running motto I've heard is that you have to "run your own race."


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