How To Not Hate Running

Up to this point I haven’t written a thing about running on this blog.  It’s been all about cooking, particularly vegetarian or almost-vegetarian cooking.  I’ve tried to choose recipes that are hearty and nutritious (remember “vegetarian” could also mean Coke and fries) and could complement a training program, but certainly one could enjoy this food without ever thinking about running or exercising.

cimg2861 300x225My assumption is that most of the readers of this young blog are interested in healthy eating but are not runners, which is nothing to be ashamed of since even a slight interest in not eating yourself to death sets you apart from vast majorities of Americans.  But still, in writing about running for the first time, there is some risk of alienating those readers who have grown accustomed to enjoying the recipes and the pictures of me eating food.  But you know what, it’s not called No-Meat Television Watcher, so I’m willing to take that risk.

That said, I’m not going to immediately start discussing how to take ten minutes off your marathon time, how to avoid chafing, or prerace Port-a-Pot strategy (although come to think of it, vegetarian Port-a-Pot strategy might make a great post later on).  These are topics best left to blogs specifically about running.  Like RunnerDude’s, which I just found yesterday and have added to the “Links” section of this blog.  On just the first page there’s information about shoes, energy bars, technical apparel, and yoga for runners, so if you’re at all into running then check this one out.

My focus here is more on introducing you to running (and when I say “running,” I’m referring to distance running, 5k and longer).  I’ll be the first to admit that running is not the healthiest sport out there.  The rate of calorie burning is something like 1000 per hour, but it’s high-impact and therefore tough on your joints, bones, and muscles.  Truthfully swimming and cycling are probably lower-risk endurance sports, but the fact is that not everyone has access to a pool or decent roadbike.  And my favorite thing about running: you can put on a shirt, shorts, and a pair of shoes, and literally go from desk jockey to road warrior in three minutes.

When I talk to non-runners about running, their response is usually “That’s awesome that you like running that much; I love the idea of doing a marathon, but I just hate the actual running.”  A well-known variation involves replacing “hate” with “suck at.”  Well here’s a secret for you:  I don’t really like running much either, and I’m by no means gifted at it.

As recently as sophomore year of college (eight years ago is still recent, right?), I hated running.  I decided to do a marathon precisely because it seemed impossible, and for whatever reason, things that seem impossible are as exciting to me now as they were to that stupid college kid.  So a couple of friends and I gave it the old college try, and while the results weren’t pretty, all three of us crossed the finish line in San Diego a few months later.

Like I said, we were stupid.  We didn’t know anything about training, and we went about it all wrong.  It didn’t occur to us that maybe when we have to run n miles tomorrow, we shouldn’t drink n+1 beers tonight.  So while the process didn’t do much to ease my hatred of running, it did accomplish something else.  It made me realize that I love training.  There is a subtle but important difference here.  I still don’t particularly enjoy doing an eight-mile threshold run where the specific instructions are “maintain an uncomfortable pace,” and there’s nothing fun for me about running 20 miles on a precious Sunday morning when I’d prefer to leisurely do the crossword puzzle with a cup of coffee.  But when I step back and realize that I’m training for something, that the sacrifices I’ve made and the pain I’ve endured will allow me to do something that a few months ago was impossible, then I realize why I run.  And it sure makes the pizza, milkshake, or whatever else I reward myself with taste a whole lot better.

I’m not asking you to start running if you don’t run already.  You probably have plenty of other pressures in your life without my nagging, and besides, it’s not for everyone.  All that I want is for you to reconsider your reason for not running, and to appreciate that you don’t have to enjoy the actual act of running to get a tremendous amount of gratification out of the process of training for something which, to say it again, on some level seems impossible.  And please don’t misunderstand me; the actual act of running does become much more enjoyable as you train your body to perform more efficiently.  The bulk of my actual training mileage is done at a comfortable pace, and in fact all of yours could be if that were your priority.  Finally, if for whatever reason you physically cannot run, then everything I’ve written could apply to biking, swimming, or something else that you are able to do.

Running Tips for Beginners

So for those of you who are just getting into running or want to start, here’s the advice I can offer based on my experience and learning:

  • Choose a goal, be it an event, a weight, or anything else that motivates you.  Don’t make it a reasonable goal; reasonable goals don’t get you out the door when it’s raining.  Make it unreasonable, something that will make your friends laugh at you when you tell them.
  • That said, don’t hurt yourself.  If you’re new to running and want to do a half marathon, you had better make sure you have many months until the race.  Do research and figure out how long you need.
  • Find a good training plan online or at the bookstore to give you some direction.
  • Run slowly!  This is the biggest thing I can think of that will make running tolerable if you currently hate it.
  • Increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10 percent each week, even less in the beginning.
  • Put a bunch of different types of songs on your iPod and see what works for you.  Having music makes a huge difference for me.  Just don’t get hit by a car.

That’s what I have for you.  I realize it’s not much, but if you choose to get into running, you’ll find it easy to get lots more information.  Please, runners or other athletes, if you have anything to add, leave a comment!  Thanks for reading, everyone.  Food and pictures of me eating it will be back tomorrow!

[UPDATE- See How I Plan to Qualify for the Boston Marathon for more running info!]

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Comments

  1. Let’s see the “not such a pretty picture” of you and your friends crossing the finish line at the San Diego marathon!

  2. Matt,

    Really like the blog, keep it up. I also love to train (the planning, tracking progress, etc) and have come to enjoy the process much more than the race itself. That’s probably because I get smoked in my age group! Nevertheless, I find it tough to get out there and run if I don’t have a goal or an upcoming race to shoot for.

  3. Matt, All,
    Want to LOVE running, want to make running less HARD, want to try a fitness program that can allow almost ANYONE to become an efficient and injury-free runner … try ChiRunning (“chee-running”).

    ChiRunning applies simple principles of nature and laws of physics to improve technique and make running effortless.

    See my blog here (http://echifitness.wordpress.com) or check out http://www.eChiFitness.com.

    Best,
    David.

  4. I actually enjoy running, and the damage to joints/muscles etc is an old wives tale. Sure, you can injure yourself by running too much, just like you can injure yourself by biking or swimming too much.

    If you run in moderation (at least until you are able to withstand higher mileage) then you’ll strengthen your muscles and joints rather than damage them. I know plenty of people that have been running for decades and are in great shape as a result.

    Find a good coach, let them guide your training, and you’ll be fine. Try jumping in and running a marathon 3 weeks after you start running, and yes, you’ll probably get hurt.

    And if you don’t enjoy running? Find another sport. There are plenty of them out there, and as long as you are moving and having fun then you’ll keep doing it, which is how exercise becomes part of your lifestyle.

    • This is true in every aspect: there’s always a study to counter another study, if not today, tomorrow. With that being said, there are countless studies that say is good for your joints, muscles, and bones; the one’s I read said that running strengthens your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones–even some conditions can be reversed with running.
      It’s also true that too much of everything is bad for you–even too much water can kill you.
      a runner…

  5. Matt,
    Pose and ChiRunning have only one thing in common; they both utilize a slight lean to engage the pull of gravity. Aside from that there are very few similarities in running technique or running philosophy.

    I would disagree with you that ChiRunning suggests a ‘non-traditional’ form (although I don’t know what your definition for that is). ChiRunning suggests the same form you had when you took your first running steps as a toddler, instinctive and efficient. It is the same way most people run if they learned to run in bare feet.

    You have a few choices, two of which are to run with technique or to run with more muscle. I am going with technique; it will be available to me for the rest of my life.

  6. If you are worried about running naturally then run barefoot. You’ll get into a natural running gait much more easily than trying to force yourself to learn chi or pose methods of running.

    The only real problem is that most if not all of us have atrophied muscles in our feet from wearing shoes all the time so you can’t just start running barefoot all the time and maintain the same mileage.

  7. Blaine, interesting. Barefoot running appeals to some part of me (not the bottoms of my feet though). Do you know if the shoes that simulate barefoot running work well?

  8. :)

    I’m a newbie runner. I’ve done one 5K this summer (my first!) and was tickled just to come in at a pace under 11 min/miles. Yeah, I’m not speedy. ;) I’ve lost forty pounds, gained confidence and discovered that I LOVE to run. Even the “bad” runs where I want to vomit and/or pass out leave me feeling high for hours.

    Sadly, this love of running = I am stupid and over do it! I’ve had four injuries (Four! In only 6 months!! I am a moron.) including a stress fracture in my foot and plantar fascaiitis. Sigh. I’ve got my first 10K on Oct. 3 and am currently nursing a groin pull, unable to train. I’ll have to go into the race ‘cold’ after 3 weeks of rest and just do the mileage by sheer will power. Heh. Was up to 5 miles when I was injured, so I’m thinking I can do it! Cross training is currently my best friend.

    Oh, and I’m another no meat athlete. Vegan, represent! ;)

  9. I love this post! I know it’s old and I’m a brand new reader, but I love your blog and I’m adding it to my Google Reader right now!

    Like you, I did NOT start as a runner and I barely consider myself one still. But the thought of accomplishing something that for me would have been impossible only a short time ago, seems extremely exciting! It is amazing watching myself improve with effort! I have signed up for 2 half marathons and I am looking forward to them!
    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..Snow-pacolypse! =-.

    • Thanks Lisa, I love comments like this. It was one of the first “useful” posts I wrote, I think :) Congrats on signing up for the half marathons, that’s half the battle! Ok, maybe a quarter of the battle… good luck with your training.

  10. I love your blog, it’s interesting with lovely photos and recipes.
    I am aiming to become a runner, I have signed up for a half marathon in September and right now cannot run for more than half a mile at a go, but I love how it feels when I am running and it feels like pure freedom and i love the ease of it.
    Please keep blogging, I am gonna suscribe as I truly love it.
    Also you said in one post that you sent tshirts internationally but you forgot the UK.
    x

    • Hi Aisha, thanks for the nice words about my blog. I love to hear that it helps people. Half mile “at a go,” I could have guessed where you’re from! I’m not quite sure what you mean about the shirts and the UK. I just send one there today, so I think the shipping options are working. Is it broken for you?

  11. I have to say, the information you put is no revelation from other athlete’s advice and instruction but the way you word it has really gotten to me. Your college story was wonderful, how you love training even if running isn’t the best pasttime. I have always hated running with a passion. Not the getting up early or eating right or the gear, not even the training. I just hate putting one foot in front of the other and getting nowhere, but the idea of running on a cross country team has always been tantalizing to me and your article has really put things in perspective for me. Thank you.

  12. Using headphones while running is not a good idea. Exercise and loud noise each restrict blood flow to the inner ear.

    http://thecarsumer.com/no-hear-this-say-no-to-headphones-during-exercise/

    http://www.livestrong.com/article/465473-exercise-and-sudden-hearing-loss/

  13. I really love your blog. It meets my needs spot on! I am a distance-runner who has a healthy vegan appetite. I’m happy to report that I just began following you on BlogLovin. Now I can keep up with your posts easily from my smartphone. For me, running became fun once I began racing. It gave me a sense of accomplishment, and a drive to go farther and faster. Once I began to run long distances, I realized that it was much easier, and enjoyable. You can now find me out on a 15 mile run, just for fun! That’s incredible if you knew me 2 years ago. I think the “Vegan Port-a-Potty” post may do better than you think. With a high fiber diet, well… bathrooms can become an issue when you’re first starting out, lol. Anyways, thanks for the post and the blog. There aren’t too many of us out there… yet. Once people realize how beneficial a plant-based diet is for them, we will see our numbers rise.

    I also have my own blog, but it’s fairly new. Check me out sometime. I actually just wrote an article about this very subject here: http://www.forkstofeet.com/2013/07/when-will-i-start-running-for-fun.html
    Have a great day and Happy Running :)

  14. Hmm… I’ll see if I can find this one but no guarantees. I was near my heaviest weight at the time. The ugly part was actually in the six miles before the picture was taken.

  15. Thanks Brian, I didn’t know you were a runner. Do you run marathons?

  16. David, thanks for the tip. A friend just recommended Chi Running to me and I’m going to pick it up soon. Really looking forward to it, since he’s run some great times that I’d like have!

  17. There are many ways to look at it. Not one size fits all. Here is another view to consider:
    http://echifitness.wordpress.com/2009/03/10/natural-running-technique/

    … If you are not running and walking/hiking effortlessly, with little to no recovery and without any discomfort/aches/pains/injury … ever … I highly suggest you consider ChiRunning® and/or ChiWalking® and take a good look for yourself.

  18. echifitness have you heard of the Pose method? I don’t know too much about it but it sounds a lot like Chi running to me, in that it emphasizes a non-traditional form aimed at reducing effort and injuries. Somehow Chi seems a little more accessible though, cheaper and not so cult-like.

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