11 May 2012


One of the busy, happy things I've been doing a lot over the past number of months is running.

I've written about running before, and I'm going to do it again because lately, a bunch of people have asked me why I do it or told me they could never enjoy it or that they don't understand how I could find running fun.

The main reason I run is that it is an incredibly efficient form of exercise. I don't have to belong to a gym to run and the only specialized equipment I need is something comfortable to wear and a decent pair of running shoes (those who run barefoot forgo even that bit of gear). I can run anywhere: in my neighborhood, at work during lunch, while I'm on vacation. In under 45 minutes--5 minutes to change into running clothes, 30 minutes to run, and a 10 minute shower/change--I can get a really good whole-body workout.

I'm not saying that finding 45 minutes is easy. It took the combination of the twins being older and less demanding, starting a job with a gym (facilitates lunchtime running), and having live-in child care to make it relatively simple to find four times a week or so to get out and take a run. These days, I go out two days a week at 6 a.m. and then try to run two more days per week during my lunch break. If things work out, I do a longer run on the weekend, too, but that takes more dedicated planning.

Here's a confession: I don't actually love to run. I know that it's important for me to take care of my body by exercising, and it's the simplest thing to do. I've only gotten what I would quantify as a runner's high all of once or twice in my entire running career, so I'm not doing it for that. Often, I have to give myself a serious pep talk to get out the door, and at least half the time I spend much of the run wondering what on earth I'm doing  to myself.

Here's what I do love:
  • being outside (I run exclusively outdoors, including in rain and even snow)
  • being with friends (running with a friend, which I do on both of my morning runs and one of my lunchtime runs, never feels like drudgery)
  • taking care of myself mentally and physically, and how I feel mentally and physically stronger when I'm running regularly
  • participating in road races (I love that feeling of camaraderie at a race)
  • overcoming the mental challenge of getting myself motivated and out the door, then putting one foot in front of the other
I'm not going to lie: I also enjoy the eating that goes along with the running. When I am running a lot, my body needs more food, and it's nice to be able to be a little more free about what I consume.

I think there's a mythology about runners, that we all really really love to run! I'm sure I give people that impression; I'm always trying to recruit people to run with me, and given that I have a limited amount of free time, I spend an awful lot of it jogging around and thinking about jogging around. I'll bet that it's not uncommon for nonrunners to hear the evengalistic pep talking of the runners, give running few tries, find it boring at best or dreadful and worst, and then write it off. Memo to the nonrunners: it's not the running itself that's great. It's all the stuff that comes with and from the running that makes it worthwhile.

While I often don't love it while I'm doing it, running has definitely become an important part of keeping my stress level and patience in check. When I don't run, I don't feel good anymore. I feel lethargic, I don't sleep well, I lose my temper. I'm an optimist by nature, but I'm happier in a fundamental way when I exercise regularly.

Running is what works for me, and I egotcentrically feel like it would work well for everyone else. Ha! Probably not really, but if you feel like trying it out, plenty of bloggers give fantastic advice to new runners. DoctorMama is one of my favorites. In the end, it boils down to this: start slow (distance and pace) and keep doing it. One day, it will all make sense. I know a bunch of people who have done the Couch-to-5K program and found it really successful.

/end PSA about the benefits of running/


Alice said...

I completely agree! :)

erk said...

OK, I need to know how running is a whole-body workout. There's very little involvement of the arms, pecs, etc.? Is there?

Snickollet said...


You get a ton of core work in running--it's great for the abs. If you're running with good posture/form, you get more out of the arm-swinging and general effort to stay night and upright while hurtling yourself forward than you would think.

It's certainly not an *evenly distributed* whole-body workout--the lower body is clearly getting more bang for the buck. But I've been surprised by areas of my body that running has helped to tone.

Mind you: this is my anecdotal evidence speaking, not peer-reviewed scientific evidence.


Snickollet said...

Uh, that should be *stay nice and upright* not stay night and upright.


Betty M said...

I've always found running with someone else is the only way I can force myself not to give up!

Tertia said...

I am not going to admit this out loud in case it doesn't work out but I am seriously considering taking up running. For all the reasons you mention above

What I want to know is:

How does it work running with a friend? Can you chat while you run? Do you manage to have a conversation?

Second question: do you think some body shapes aren't computable with running? (tall, long, skinny legs, big boobs). I feel like a cross between a hippo and an ostrich when I run. Very unatractive combination.

Anonymous said...

I just ran my first longer race today, the Hippie Chick quarter marathon. I had to walk a lot of it (long injury related training story) but it was good. I'm in some pain, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. I came in #796th, so no medal, but damn, I did it! You are so right, it's a great work out, and I'm glad I can do it anywhere in the world.

Snickollet said...


How lovely to hear from you. I follow along at your blog but am a very bad commenter, so sorry about that.

OK, answers to your questions:

1. Running with a friend works great. Yes, you can totally have a conversation. Having a conversation is actually a great way to gauge where your pace should be. You should be able to talk, although not effortlessly. If you can't talk, you're working yourself too hard (at least in the beginning, and for fitness running rather than speed training). Also, it's such a great way to combine social time with something that's good for the body; my other default social activity is wine, so the running is a good balance :). Oh, and also, I find that you often have conversations when running that you might not have otherwise. I find that I can be more open and candid and feel that same vibe from friends when I run. It's an interesting and really nice phenomenon.

2. Your body type is fine. I'm short and not terribly thin and somewhat top heavy, and if I can run, you can run. Those long legs give you an advantage in terms of stride, and you'll develop lovely tone in your legs/butt/core. As for the boobs, just get a really good bra. If Title 9 (www.titlenine.com) ship to S. Africa, trust their judgment, don't flinch too much at the cost, and get a really, really good bra. You won't regret it. If Title 9 won't ship to you, then they are still a good start for a recommendation and then you can find a place that sells the same item and will send it to you. Not that I need to tell *you* how to use the Internet. Ha!

Happy running! Let me know how it goes!


Hyper8 said...

I love running. I'm pretty sure I'm one of those crazy evangelist runners who tries to convince everyone that it's a great choice. I especially love the portability -- I traveled for work a lot for a long time, and I loved getting to run in exotic places while just packing my running shoes/clothes and my GPS (a necessity if you're like me and get lost in unfamiliar places). Glad you're enjoying the peripheral benefits of it, too!

django's mommy said...

I am hopelessly unathletic, and I started running (Couch to 5K ROCKS!) after J died... sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it, but man, do I feel great when I'm done!

I love that you've found a way to run during lunch- how do you manage the 10 minute post-run change?! I feel like it takes me a good half hour to cool down and be ready to get back to whatever I was doing afterwards.