Fostering body awareness, acceptance, and improved performance.

Confessions of a Reformed Runner

Runner on the Sammamish River Trail
Runner on the Sammamish River Trail

I have a love/hate relationship with running. I love to run, but I tend to hurt myself running, like many people do.

In the past, I’d sign up for a race and go gangbusters training for it. On day 1, I’d think “I’m in pretty good shape so I’ll just start training with a half hour jog”. Then two days later, I’d put on my trainers again, thinking, “Now I’ll try 45 minutes”. And I’d continue like that until I was injured and in no shape for a race.

It’s easy to see where I went wrong. I got excited and was too ambitious – starting too big and progressing too fast.

But with time, comes wisdom (and medical bills), and I think I’ve finally seen the light. I started a “couch to 5K” program in the spring. I followed the program diligently, progressing from walking 5K, to run/walk, and then 5K running in 24 runs. Like the program suggested, I took breaks and repeated runs – or even whole weeks – if I needed to because of illness or vacations. Sometimes I redid runs because they didn’t feel right, and I wanted to repeat them days I felt better.

Low and behold, I didn’t hurt myself. And I had fun. Now I can run 5K a full 17 years after my high school cross country career ended. I even signed up for a 5K obstacle race in November. If you want to join my team for the 2015 Winter Pineapple Classic on November 8th at Marymoor Park, let me know.

Here are four myths that hold me  – and other runners – back from success:

Myth 1: “Running is the best exercise” AND “Running is bad”

And I hear these comments from people all the time. These ideas are really two sides of the same coin – that there are good types of exercise and bad ones.

But that’s an oversimplification. Every form of movement has pros and cons that make it more appropriate for some bodies than others. Look at this example:

PRO: Running is higher impact than walking or biking so it’s better for building bone density.


CON: Running is higher impact so it will magnify joint misalignment faster than walking or biking.

No form of exercise is bad. It’s only bad if you can’t adjust it properly for your body.

Certainly there are people who shouldn’t walk or run because of a joint replacement, etc. And you know if you fall into that category. But most people are capable of progressing safely into a walk, run/walk or run program.

My personal opinion is that everyone, who can, should do some natural movement, which includes walking, running, climbing, and swimming. These are movements that have been transporting people for thousands of years. It’s very empowering to get somewhere using only your own force. And its convenient when your transportation time is also your exercise time.

I also believe that natural movement is a matter of safety. You may have to run or swim in an emergency. Life will often make you jog a few paces: be ready.

Myth 2: No Pain, No Gain

Some first or second day soreness is appropriate periodically. But if it hurts, stop. Do not run through pain. Wait until you feel recovered, then try again. And consider adjusting your program/equipment/terrain to keep yourself healthy.

For example, my joints feel better if I run on dirt instead of cement so many of my jogs are trail runs. See this blog post about the worst workout mistakes made by our instructors if you want cautionary tales about pushing through pain.

Myth 3: Running is like riding a bike. I can return to it anytime.

It was fun and easy to run when we were kids so why not pick it back up again. Right? Yes, but pace yourself. Begin by walking. Then progress to run/walk. You haven’t been up skipping rope all day like when you were in grade school. You may have to build up your walking endurance if you’ve not been active lately. A good rule of thumb: Only increase your training 10% a week – in either mileage, speed or incline.

Myth 4: A daily jog is like an apple a day

Rest is a valuable part of any exercise regime. Without rest, your body doesn’t have a chance to recover and your muscles aren’t at full strength on your next workout. This can limit your improvement and leave you susceptible to injury. So a daily jog may be too much. It may take some experimenting to find the right amount of recovery to make you successful.

And a parting word from a running god:

“I always loved running…it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.”    Jesse Owen

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