Below is a guest post from my running enthusiast husband Kris. You can see more of his thoughts and many of his amazing photos at: kmadaus.org. Enjoy!
Running is a funny sport. It almost feels odd to call it a sport because it is so simple. You just put one foot in front of the other. Many, many times. There’s not really a lot of skill involved. I have been a runner for a little less than five years. When I started, I never in my life suspected I would ever be a runner. Now, in less than five years, I am running almost daily, I have run in four marathons, I have run thousands of miles, and I am more surprised than anyone about it.
I have seen my own misconceptions about running dissolve slowly over time, and it becomes so obvious any time I am talking to a non-runner. Many of these misconceptions are so embedded in people’s minds. It almost makes me sad because they have shut themselves out of a sport that has brought me so much happiness. Here are a handful of them to ponder.
“I can’t run. My body is not built for running.”
This is usually incorrect, no matter what size or shape you are. I realize there is a stereotype that runners are tall and slender. I realize that I fit that stereotype. But I know many runners that do not. It doesn’t matter. Unless you have some major physical limitation, you are built to be a runner. All human are. There is evidence to suggest that early humans were persistence hunters. Humans were not as fast as a deer, for example. They would follow that for miles until the deer got too tired to continue. The humans persisted until they caught the deer or else they would not have had food to eat. If you were not a runner, you did not survive. We all evolved as runners. Read the book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall to learn more. It is a very entertaining book.
“I can’t run. The last time I ran, I didn’t even make it one mile.”
Incorrect. True, you may not have made it even one mile the last time you tried, but you were doing it wrong. I guarantee it because I was doing it wrong too. You don’t start off by running one mile. You start off my running for maybe one minute then walking one or two minutes. You build up from there. I was a pretty fit person five years ago before I started running. I could run one mile, but I was in pain. So I started of very, very slow. Everybody has to start off slow. You need a plan when you start running.
In addition to a plan, you need to learn about pace. Proper pace is critical in running, whether you are a beginner or an expert. Most people start off by running way too fast. When somebody can’t make it one mile without feeling like they are dying from suffocation, it is always due to improper pace. The rule of thumb is you should be able to hold a conversation with somebody while you are running. If you can’t do that because you are breathing too hard, you are running too fast. In the beginning, that usually means you have to do a bit of walking. But don’t worry! That will change if you continue with your plan.
“I can’t run. My knees can’t take the pounding.”
Incorrect. Once again, this probably has to do with improper form. You should never be “pounding” your knees when you are running.
When I started running, I was under the impression that I had weak knees. What I found over the years is that I never took the time to exercise the muscles that support the knees. Instead, I would go out to climb a Sierra peak, literally pounding my knees for 10–15 miles when I did not properly strengthen the proper muscles. The plan I used when I started running was specifically geared toward injury prevention. (Check out “The Beginning Runners Handbook” for more details.) What I found during my first year is that running actually eliminated my knee problems as long as I followed the plan. I was able to climb Sierra peaks without any knee pain at all – the first time ever.
Essentially, this means you need to increase your mileage gradually – about 10% per week – and build rest weeks into your plan. This allows for the leg muscles to be pushed hard and then spend some time recovering. It is a tried and true plan for strength training. It will not only save your knees, but it will make you stronger all around. If you go from running five miles one week to running ten miles the next week, you will have problems. Once again, it is best to pick a goal and follow a plan to get there.
“I can’t run. It’s just too boring.”
Untrue. I have only heard this comment from people who spend most of their time indoors. The best part about running is that you can get outside and experience the world. I would never recommend anyone run on a treadmill because that is boring. When you get outside, you get to meet new people, breathe fresh air, see wild animals, play in the rain, watch the sunrise, listen to music, explore new places, smell the world you live in, and many other things. It is great!
Just in the last three days of running, I ran a trail through a historic mission, saw a bobcat, climbed an unnamed peak, spent time with my dogs, ran barefoot, saw a huge owl, took some photos, ran in the dark under a (almost) full moon, listened to a couple of good podcasts, and watched a beautiful sunset. If I had stayed at home and watched TV, I would have missed out on life. You gain more appreciation for the world you live in when you run. You see and feel things that you would never see driving in a car, and you can stop to get a better look any time you want. It is anything but boring!
“I can’t run. I don’t have the time.”
Not true. Everybody has the same amount of time. You choose how you use it. If you are really honest with yourself, you will probably find that much of your time goes toward disposable things like checking your Facebook status, watching TV, oversleeping on a weekend, playing video games, or taking on projects for other people. Before you know it, these low priority items end up feeling like an obligation when they are not. The truth is that you can choose how you want to spend your time. You just have to find out what is most important to you and sacrifice the rest.
Some people have certain preconceptions in their mind about time and running. Here are some:
I get home after dark, so I can’t run.
I have kids to take care of, so I can’t run.
It’s raining outside, so I can’t run.
I made plans with so-and-so, and I can’t break that commitment.
Running takes a lot of time that I don’t have.
The list could go on and on, but none of these things are true. Here’s why:
It’s easy and fun to run in the dark. You could always get a headlamp if you need one. They are inexpensive.
Kids can take part in your running. They can ride bikes next to you as you run. You spouse can take the kids on your run days. Many options are out there for those that really want to find them.
Running in the rain is one of the most rewarding experiences. You get to throw away all of society’s limitations and just get wet! Shoes will dry. Run free! Enjoy!
Commitments with people are fine, but you have to make a commitment to yourself. If you are following a plan to reach your first 10k, marathon, or half marathon, is that important to you? If your friends are true friends, they will understand and support you in your training. If not, screw them. You can probably meet them after your run anyway, and who knows? You might even be able to talk them into joining you.
Running doesn’t have to take a lot of time. You can spend 30 minutes a day three days a week running. That’s better than nothing. Can you spare three 30 minute intervals per week? You should be able to. If not, look honestly at how you spend your time. You are sure to find places to cut.
Running is not for everyone, but it fits most people better than they think. It might fit you. If you are not interested in running, try biking, swimming, hiking, kayaking, or anything else that gets you outside. There is a long list of the benefits of an active lifestyle. Just don’t let these common misconceptions hold you back. Running can change your life. Literally.