Running YOUR Way: Three Ways to Love Running Again (And I'm ALL About #2!)
You tried running once and that was it.
You went straight to the nearest running store and dropped $130 on running shoes after having your "gait" (the way you run) analyzed.
Before the sweat had even dried on your cotton t-shirt, you were online researching the best fabric for running gear. Oh...so it's not cotton?! Guess it's time to go SHOPPING!
That 3-mile run at a 10-minute mile pace was decent - for a beginner. Better get a subscription to Runner's World so you can start researching speed training programs. After all, you're signing up for your first road race - um, NOW.
5k or 10k? No. BOTH.
Wait - are there local running groups I can train with?
Do runners have special socks? What's with those weird belts with mini water bottles all the way around?
Is there an app for this?!
Yep, I was that girl.
I tried for years to make myself love running, and that included buying special socks and running magazine subscriptions, and doing one - ONE - run with a local running group who put the "fun" in Fun Run when they left me alone on an Arlington trail IN THE DARK because I didn't want to add another few miles to the evening run.
One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Washington, D.C. was the strong running culture there. There were people running everywhere, all the time, year-round.
I envied their runners' legs and set out to get a pair of my own.
I remember jogging around my neighborhood, looking at my stopwatch constantly and trying to distract myself with music and lampposts and how great my legs would look if I just kept going.
But I never ran fast enough, or far enough, or often enough to be a REAL runner, and frankly I never enjoyed it enough either.
I couldn't just run for the heck of it, I had to be ALL IN and I had to put myself on running programs and suck all the fun right out of it. All the self-imposed pressure lead to a serious break-up with running. I started bragging that I hated running.
"I only run if I'm being chased," I joked - but I wasn't joking.
This was around the same time that a chorus of trainers and fitness experts started writing articles about how running makes you fat, strips your body of muscle, and will break your metabolism.
"Because, weight lifting and gains, bro."
Photos like this started popping up on social media, enraging distance runners everywhere, and I posted my fair share of them, too:
Members of the anti-running, pro-weightlifting camp wrote that running leads to muscle loss and gives you a gaunt, stringy physique like that marathon runner pictured in the photo above.
Members of the hormonal fat loss camp wrote that running could wreak havoc on your hormones, increasing hunger and making lower body fat loss even harder.
While this is true - that too much distance running can strip your body of valuable muscle and isn't the most efficient way to train for fat loss - this doesn't mean that ALL running is evil or should be avoided if you're trying to get lean.
As with most things, the key is striking the right balance. You can love running and lifting weights. You can run just for the sheer enjoyment of it, and it doesn't have to jack up your metabolism.
Running isn't one size fits all.
The key is to run YOUR way: Find the running style (intensity, duration, distance, location, etc.) that fits YOUR personality, your body type, and your goals.
If your goal is fat loss and you're not seeing results from the way you're running, then CHANGE SOMETHING.
Equally, if you're trying to get leaner and you're not doing any cardio (ahem - that's where I was a few weeks ago), then experiment with short, intense runs 1-2 days a week.
Here's how I'm running these days, and I'm absolutely loving it and noticing some subtle changes in my legs after only two weeks of incorporating this style of running into my weekly training schedule.
This is especially for all my fellow type-A hard charging girls out there who have a hard time just going for a short, casual run and leaving well enough alone. You know who you are:)
1. Prioritize Intensity Over Duration
Exercise intensity is the strongest factor influencing EPOC (Excess Postexercise Oxygen Consumption), also known as "afterburn" -- the elevated calorie burn that continues long after your workout is over. (IDEA Fitness Journal 2015, Kravitz, Len PhD). This makes High-Intensity Interval Training (for example: running sprint intervals) one of the most efficient ways to train for fat loss and overall body change.
When results matter, as counterintuitive as it may seem, less is more. Running longer and more could actually be counterproductive to your fat loss goals. The longer you exercise, the less intensity you are producing and the less likely it is that your body is burning fat.
For the distance runners reading this, the good news is that short intense workouts and HIIT training has benefits that carry over for you as well. HIIT workouts increase your anaerobic threshold, which will improve your aerobic efficiency AND help you train for long distances with a reduced training volume.
2. Moderation in All Things
By now, most of us have figured out that "all or nothing" hardcore diets do not work. They blow up in our faces and lead to nasty incidents with spoons and jars of Nutella, yet many of us keep applying this failed approach to our workouts.
Moderation simply means avoiding extremes. It's not giving up or being weak or waving the white flag. It's a commitment to balance and sanity, and in the end, makes you far more likely to actually stick with your training.
BONUS: Think of all the money you'll save every time you decide to take up a new interest or hobby!
3. You Are Not Your Workout
“You are not your job, you're not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You are not your ---- khakis.” - Tyler Durden, Fight Club
There is nothing wrong with loving to exercise or loving a particular form of exercise like running.
It becomes a problem when your life starts to revolve around it and you start to define yourself by it.
You start to tie your identity and self-worth to what you DO, not who you are. It can be working out, teaching group fitness, or even the things you do outside the gym like your work.
When things are going well, you're on cloud 9 and untouchable and the universe is in perfect harmony and everything is wonderful! You've found your purpose and meaning in life! To run! To do handstands! To teach group fitness!
But then you get injured and can't run or do handstands any more. Your gym changes its class schedule and you lose your favorite class to take or teach. Your company eliminates your position and your important title and corner office are gone.
When you are what you do, it gives power to external forces and allows them to determine your happiness and self-worth.
You start thinking, "What am I if I'm not running, practicing yoga, or teaching group fitness? What am I if I'm not the Executive Vice President or the Director any more?"
Answer: you're still the same person, you just lost your REAL identity in that "thing" you were doing.
You are not what you do.
Now that I'm a little better at practicing moderation and balance in other areas of life, I'm ready to apply it to running.
I've started running 1-2 times a week for 2-3 miles tops. I keep my runs quick and dirty. I've discovered I prefer treadmills to outdoors when it comes to running, but the opposite is true for leisure walks. The only special gear I've purchased is a pair of Reebok running shoes that were on sale for $29.99. I don't schedule the days or times I will run, and I don't really have a plan. I just run. Or I do something else.
I'm running MY way and I love it.
Now who wants to join me for a run? It'll be short - promise!
Have you ever tried a sport or workout and gone "all in!" - only to crash and burn and quit? Have you given it another try? Are you a weightlifter who's ready to play around with running to shake things up a bit? Tell me in the comments below, then SHARE with your friends on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.
"Research Sheds New Light on the Exercise 'Afterburn,'" IDEA Fitness Journal, April 2105. Kravitz, Len PhD