Why I'll Never Be a Runner and That's Okay

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
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In this industry, the phrase "new year, new you," tends to lose its pizazz right around September, after my inbox has been flooded for a month with PR pitches claiming their product—we swear!—is the one that's going to turn the common promise into a reality. The same tag has been used on this site, as well as countless other health, fitness and wellness websites, and for good reason—it's promising, catchy, optimistic, all the ingredients you need to inspire daydreams about New Year's resolutions.
 
However, whereas I used to find it cutesy, charming even, I now find it to be too vague, too idealistic and too problematic in most instances. The brevity and simplicity of the phrase implies that change occurs with the snap of your well-intentioned fingers, completely disregarding the small steps it takes to actually achieve goals. Experts say it every year, but sweeping your hand over your local gym as you vow to "Get fit" is not nearly as effective as setting a specific goal, such as, "I will go to my Barre class every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6 p.m." Furthermore, who says the new year is the only time to reinvent yourself? And does it have to be a completely new you? Can you still hold on to the good bits? The implication is that last year you kind of sucked, but this upcoming year you will definitely be better.
 
I prefer to think that last year you maybe had some flaws, but hopefully you were still kind and thoughtful and warm. Last year you might have let an exercise plan fall through, but you still worked and the fact that you're thinking about 2017 you means that you still have drive. This year, let's resolve to focus on the positive, the ways that we work to improve ourselves incrementally everyday, rather than overhauling, overwhelming and over-exhausting ourselves. New year, improved you; new year, determined you; new year, happier you—now, that's better.
 

Sweat: Runner's High? More Like Runner's Cry
 

My loathe-hate relationship with running started around the age of 10, right around the time my fourth-grade softball team started commenting on my short stride, which apparently was incorrect and detrimental to both my speed and stamina, not to mention my pride. The nickname, "S.S. Cappy" didn't stick around for too long, but it has stuck in my head all these years later. I think about it every time I hit two minutes on the treadmill and start feeling winded. I think about it when people talk about their marathon training. I thought about it when some coworkers decided to train together for a half marathon. I thought about it when my boyfriend and I signed up for a mud run with some friends and I worried about them noticing that I'd likely get winded between obstacles, despite being able to conquer the obstacles themselves. I think about it when it's a really nice day outside and I can see the Ohio river from our parking lot and everyone looks so relaxed and happy running across the bridge and maybe, just maybe, I should try to give this running thing a shot again.
 
Here's the thing, though: I've never struggled with being athletic otherwise. I played a variety of sprint-focused sports growing up (volleyball, softball, various dashes in track) and I've always prided myself on being naturally flexible with strong legs. No matter how fit I was back then and no matter how finely tuned I feel today, though, steady state cardio eludes me. In fact, I've more than once been asked if I was a runner based on my physique, to which I have to smirk and just say, "I wish." Because I do. Or, rather, I did.
 
For years, I've beat myself up about not being able to run, thinking it must be something I'm not mentally strong enough to do, not physically built to run. Roughly once a year since high school, on days I feel particularly strong, I lace up, hit the pavement with some empowering tunes playing, only to get to the end of my street or to the top of the first hill completely exhausted. I make deals with myself, "You can stop at the end of this song," "You can stop when you get to that tree," before shortening the deal and compromising. "You can stop at the two-minute mark in this song if you do 50 crunches," or "You can stop when you get to the trash bin in between where you are right now and that tree you were initially aiming for if you do an all-out sprint to get to the aforementioned trash bin." And every time I would take a shortcut or make a deal with myself or come home when I'm 16, sweating and sore, only to have my dad note that I was only gone for 12 minutes, I'd kick myself—right after I finally catch my breath, of course.
 
What's that quote that's probably in a boy band song somewhere? "You always want that which you cannot have." Running has been the Daisy to my Gatsby, always just out of reach no matter how many killer jams accompanied my jog or how great my sneakers might have been. As a result, I started to think it didn't matter that I could finally hold Lord of the Dance pose or that I had upped my sprint speed by four notches on the treadmill. Nope, the fact that I couldn't run a seven-minute mile seemed to be the only thing that mattered.
 
That was until this year. This year, as anyone who read this blog knows, I got more into high-intensity interval training, which led me to start seeking out cardio activities that fit my personal stamina and body type. Maybe I'm not a great runner because I have shorter legs, maybe it's simply because I never learned proper breathing, maybe it's a mental block, but I was in the middle of a challenging 35-minute interval treadmill workout last month when I realized that none of those worries should permeate every aspect of my training. Chances are there is a distance runner who wishes they could perform overhead presses with heavier weights. I've had friends who run marathons who wouldn't be able to touch their toes if a date with Chris Pratt was on the line.
 
As it turns out, everyone has his or her thing. Despite participating in muay Thai for more than a year and a half, sparring is still a skill that Coach Jen Mueller says struggles to improve upon. "My instructor has told me that when I spar, all of my technique goes out the window because I totally panic about hitting and getting hit."
 
For Chris "SparkGuy" Downie, it wasn't until he developed the 10-minute workout program that he finally learned to be consistent in exercise. In college, our digital marketing director Joe Robb says he found it frustrating that, despite rock climbing regularly and building up muscle in the upper body, pullups were near impossible. Reporter Melissa Rudy, a talented runner, still feels like a phony when she steps foot in the weight room. "It's like I'm a little kid playing grown-up or something," she says. "I always feel like people are giggling at me, judging my technique—which is ridiculous, but I can't shake it!"
 
Ask 10 different people and their strengths will likely be 10 different things. Why, then, do we keep comparing ourselves based on those things that we might never be able to comfortably do? This is all not to say that you shouldn't reach for new benchmarks of success. Just because you can't run three miles today doesn't mean you'll never be able to run three miles. (Trust me, I'll continue trying to build my stamina, slowly but surely. My point is simply this: Be gentle on yourself as you pursue your goals. Just because you had running four miles every morning at 6 a.m. in mind doesn't mean that's your only option. Explore a variety of training plans until you find something that your truly love and look forward to sweating to often. Cast aside your expectations that might be based on fit friends or family around you. Remember, they're on their own journey, too.
 
With this new flexible, empowered mindset, you can celebrate the days when you run for five minutes straight at a moderate pace without jumping to the rails, rather than looking at it as a failure because you couldn't complete 10 minutes. In the weight room, focus on the fact that two months ago you couldn't complete 10 bicep curls and now you're doing 12 reps at a higher weight, and ignore the ripped guy next to you who is pumping out reps with 50 pound dumbbells. I might never be a marathon runner, but I can continue to change up my routine, experiment with new paces, challenge my body and push myself to longer sprints.
 
Healthy living is all about finding what works for you, and I for one am finally ready to start embracing my other strengths rather than feeling sorry for myself that I'm not the girl who runs circles around the competition.
 
What is a workout or fitness challenge in which you are especially talented? 

Every month The Go Get It Guide is your destination for motivation, musings on random goals and probably pop culture references. It's a space where we'll sort through the PR pitches and news, then share our honest thoughts on what's happening in the health and fitness world, what's on the horizon and just what we think of that video the internet obsessed over last week. Check in each month to Spark, Sweat, Smile, Savor and Shop with us!


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Comments

  • 35
    Everybody is different, some walk, some run, some spin. There does seem to be a push on sparkpeople to get people to run for some reason, lots of articles that want you to go to the "next" level. I love to walk and hike, but have no interest in running at all, I could never get up the want to start running, but that does not mean I don't get exercise. Sure you will find a way to do almost anything if you are really motivated to do it, but running is not something everyone wants to do. The idea is to get healthy not for everyone to do the exactly same exercise, find something you enjoy and you will stick with it. - 1/16/2017   4:25:20 PM
  • 34
    Running is not the be-all and end-all. I don't run and I don't do windows. I tried running and could never get the right stride. So I ditched running and started walking. Now I can only walk for short distances because of back problems. - 1/10/2017   1:15:38 PM
  • 33
    I have nothing but respect for runners, they run because they love it...they found their thing. Talk about amazing heart thumping cardio. Perhaps it is simply because running has been viewed as the ultimate, that others are jumping on the "running isn't really nirvana" bandwagon. If running is not your thing, find what is. So many amazing options to choose from...your heart will thank you.

    - 1/10/2017   7:25:36 AM
  • 32
    So sad to read the last comment. Running makes me happy and strong. So many runners feel the same way. This article could pertain to any activity. Some people enjoy them and others do not. There is no reason to put down any group just because you are not or do not want to be part of it. - 1/10/2017   5:54:54 AM
  • 31
    We have always noticed the look on many faces of runners, they look as if they are hurting or someone is behind them, whipping them, and they look awful in the face. That does not make us ever want to do that kind of thing, when there are plenty of other choices for exercise. - 1/8/2017   4:34:22 PM
  • HCWIFE
    30
    Thank you. - 1/8/2017   9:33:24 AM
  • 29
    Thank you for a great article! - 1/8/2017   7:06:31 AM
  • 28
    One of the best articles I have read in my 9 years on SP!!! THANKS! - 1/7/2017   10:19:16 PM
  • 27
    This article could be rewritten to address any form of cardio besides running. You donít have to spin, Zumba, play tennis, do step aerobics, kayak or speed walk. Find what works for you and do that. You can be injured in any form of activity done without proper form, preparation and just common sense. Donítí try to do too much, too fast, too soon. You can even get hurt being over ambitious in yoga.
    Research reports that runners have fewer knee problems than non-runners regardless of common misconceptions. If you donít like an activity, try something else. There is something out there for everyone.
    - 1/7/2017   8:48:23 PM
  • 26
    Good article. I never actually had an envy of the faster runners myself. I have always been satisfied with just finishing it. I still enjoy running with this same mindset. Prior to last Christmas I was jogging and a construction worker pulled up beside me in his truck while I was jogging and asked,"are you running?". I just answered "yes" and jogged on while his co-worker chided him about the last time he ran. Enjoy the run no matter how fast the pace. - 1/7/2017   11:46:37 AM
  • RAMBLER61
    25
    While there ARE lots of other ways to exercise, with each one, you have to WANT it bad enough (barring real physical limitations). I'm a really good example of that. 9 years ago, my doc told me I needed to get physical or get dead. I chose the "get physical" and decided to start running. I couldn't jog even 100 meters on the treadmill, let alone run anything. I had shin splints almost constantly for a year. I hurt all the time. In that first year, I almost gave up, about 365 times. But, I persevered. I couldn't run far or fast, so I ran slow, then walked. Then ran some more. Now, I run 5 days a week, usually between 25-30 miles per week. I race 5kms regularly and my recent PR is 23:15. Not bad for a 55 y.o. geezer. But can I spin? No! It wears me out in 5 minutes. Why? Because I haven't trained, and I don't WANT it bad enough. I did a lot of spinning and riding 4-5 years ago, but I'm just out of practice now, because it isn't my fav. Could I do it? Sure! If I want it bad enough. Can you run? Sure you can! But only if YOU want it bad enough. Same with any sport. Do you WANT it bad enough? Are you WILLING to do what it takes? Are you WILLING to start slow and build up? Or so you expect to run a 5k on your first day (not happening for most people!). So really, Alicia, maybe you should focus on HOW you were able to achieve what you have achieved, instead of telling folks it's ok to not be a runner or a spinner or whatever, just because they had a hard slog trying to start. With any fitness goal, the first few months or even year, like in my running experience, it's going to be a hard slog, especially if you are way into the obesity range. But you have to persevere if you want success, in anything. - 1/7/2017   10:54:16 AM
  • 24
    I used to feel bad about not being able to run until-- my doctor told me the cons about running and that it wasn't worth the toll it had on the body. He said speed walking was so much better on the knees and feet.

    Yea- I am sometimes still envious when I see someone running- more because I want to be as fit as they are.
    I am not- and that is my fault. - 1/7/2017   8:54:46 AM
  • 23
    Thanks for a great article. I get winded when I try to run very far. A 5K run is the most I have been able to do and even that was slow. My daughter runs marathons but she is built much differently than me. I could never even try to keep up with her and it is okay. - 1/6/2017   11:48:28 PM
  • 22
    Thank you for the story! I wanted to run, and I've read many stories where all a person had to do was keep pushing through it, and they made it. It may work for them, but for me...NO! Lol Every time I try to run, it takes approximately three steps for me to feel as if my body is a canvas bag full of breaking glasses and plates. However, I do well with strength training and I've destroyed my spin bike. Cheers for the article. - 1/6/2017   11:27:22 PM
  • 21
    When I run I just get out of breath easily but it's not asthma. It's just how I am. I have already been to a doctor and he just says that running is not for everyone. Plus I get injured easily even though I stretch a lot before running! I did run a 5k once and made it all the way through, but since I am older it is harder then ever for me to run. So I do other forms of high intensity to get my heart rate up. It's not to say that I I don't go out in warmer weather and enjoy some fast sprints with my son now and then. I always say do what works for you not the neighbors next door. - 1/6/2017   10:39:40 PM
  • 20
    That's a good, sensible attitude. However, I'm wondering if you might have exercise-induced asthma. That is what I've been recently diagnosed with. I'm out of breath quickly when running, too; but I am actually a walker/hiker who cannot do hills. I have to stop and rest, get my breath, and my legs ache. Now I have a prescription for an inhaler. If hills are part of a hike, I take one breath from the inhaler, and I'm good to go. I can keep up with others now. What a relief! I would never have known this...I never even heard of exercise-induced asthma before but I'm so glad that hills are much easier to climb now, and I bet if I started running, I could do a lot better. Ask your doctor about this condition. I don't have any other symptoms of asthma. - 1/6/2017   10:25:11 PM
  • 19
    Love the article. I have never been able to run or jog and I don't enjoy it when I try. I can go on a glider or an elliptical and get a great workout and enjoy myself...something I learned in the last few months. :) - 1/6/2017   5:31:07 PM
  • 18
    Love the article, these words definitely needed to be said. I'm not ever going to be a /runner/, my ankles start hurting if I walk too fast for long periods of time but I love swimming and enjoy the accomplishment I feel when I finish a strength training or cardio routine. I will still try to do short runs between walking but I'm not aiming for any marathons or 10Ks. - 1/6/2017   3:49:18 PM
  • 17
    I'm short legged and one leg is "significantly shorter" (according to two different chiropractic doctors who have examined me)... I can walk for long distances, I have a belly apron flap almost to my thighs, yet I have seened the shocked looks of amazement from others watching The Fat Girl flexibly extending her fingertips past her feet, whether seated on ground reaching forward or standing up and touching the floor past my ankles ... so yea, we don't need that crazy-making that comes from comparing ourselves (2 Corinthians 10:12). - 1/6/2017   1:41:07 PM
  • 16
    Thanks for sharing this! Enough of this emphasis on running!
    Namaste!!! - 1/6/2017   12:15:05 PM
  • 15
    I'm so glad this article came out. As someone else said, running seems to most common type of exercise, but I HATE it. I love other types, jumping rope, dancing, hiking, swimming. I'm okay with walking, too. A friend of mine told me it took her a year to like running. Sorry, but I don't have it in me to wait a year when I can do other types of exercise that get my motor running. Not a runner and that's okay! - 1/6/2017   11:49:59 AM
  • 14
    Spot on. Thank you! (Also, the "Daisy to my Gatsby" - perfect.) - 1/6/2017   11:39:42 AM
  • 13
    I'm a walker and proud of it. I've always hated to run even though I took part in basketball, volleyball, and softball as a school girl. I'd much prefer folk dance or Zumba or square dance. I walk every day. I have friends that I walk with weekly. I participate in 5Ks as a walker and have the same amount of fun as the runners.
    This writer truly represents what I've known for decades - There is no one sport, activity, or meal plan that works for everyone! - 1/6/2017   11:27:09 AM
  • 12
    This is absolutely in line with my favorite philosophy I've found here on SP, answering the age-old question "what workout is the most effective?" == the one you'll ENJOY doing!
    I love it when people embrace any sort of working out because it's such a personal journey and everyone has a different story. - 1/6/2017   11:02:05 AM
  • 11
    As fellow running hater I applaud this blog! - 1/6/2017   10:59:03 AM
  • 10
    Great article! Running is my love. But, I've long known that running IS NOT for everyone. We are each unique. Happy to read you are embracing and celebrating your strengths. If you really do want to explore running more, look into the Galloway method. It is all about intervals, not continuous running. - 1/6/2017   10:08:09 AM
  • 9
    Never, ever, wanted to be a runner or skinny, the nonsense drummed into people to be that to be fit is bull! We exercise and eat well and that is enough! The rest is bunk to sell unrealism to poor souls. - 1/6/2017   9:52:52 AM
  • 8
    Now this is the best fitness advise article I've read in a long time! Everybody, including people on this site, seems to be so convinced that running is the be all and end all, that they don't even give themselves a chance to experience other fitness possibilities. There are a million ways to stay fit AND have fun at the same time, and they are different for everyone. Finding our exercise/fitness plan is just as individual as finding our food plan. There is nothing cookie cutter about either.

    I am a maintainer and my running history consists of one 5k. I am NOT a runner! I don't enjoy it.
    I like hard workouts but at the same time they have to be fun. I walk, hike, Zumba, weight-train. I do yoga. My latest adventure is barre.

    No need to force myself to be a runner when there are so many other more enjoyable options to stay fit. - 1/6/2017   9:51:54 AM
  • 7
    Thanks for this. I have been getting down a lot when I read the Spark home page because it seems it's always about running -- and I've known for a long time that isn't my fit. Walking, swimming, dancing -- but running doesn't work for me. I wish it did since it's the easiest to carry when you travel! - 1/6/2017   9:14:52 AM
  • 6
    Loved the article because it forces me to look critically at what I can do. Unlike you I was a runner. Never a 7 minute mile but pretty darned good - and today walking can cause severe pain when I don't pay attention. Whether we want them to or not - whether we were in shape or not, our bodies to change. That should not change who we are. Too often it does. - 1/6/2017   9:08:37 AM
  • 5
    Great article!! I loved running and was great at it until my teens and the body of a woman came out. I am now 53, and I am great at lifting heavy, gr burpees and a kettlebell enthusiast. I still will attempt running, but it has a lot of walking mixed in. I often feel bad when I look at how fast and good I was compared to how awful I am today, - 1/6/2017   9:08:28 AM
  • 4
    Thank you. I can't run either, or my sciatica goes crazy and I have a serious pain in my butt! I can ride my bike 21 miles, but I have bad knees and running has eluded me, even trying the run, walk, jog programs on SP. Good article for all of us who will NEVER run a marathon. - 1/6/2017   8:35:38 AM
  • 3
    Thank you for this article ! Agree with all of it and think it is the most sane, reasonable approach ! - 1/6/2017   8:03:27 AM
  • 2
    I embrace the fact that though I have always had a hard time with pull ups, I can sprint with the best of them and stretch these long legs {at 6 ft.TALL} and win! I have strong arms ,that though they are not as well defined as others' arms,they ARE showing more tone! I AM getting STRONGER day by day ,using my Soloflex machine ,though I have yet to use the 25 lb. weights and 50- and 100- lb. wts., I HAVE INCREASED by weights from 5 and 10 lbs. to 20 -30 lbs. and will be going up to 35 and 40lb. wts. as I can see my stamina and STRENGTH in my strength training expanding. So, WOO HOO! It takes TIME,but it is ALWAYS WORTH the EFFORT!!! - 1/6/2017   7:54:13 AM
  • 1
    THANK YOU!!! Even though I walk at least 10,000 steps a day, eat healthy, track food and exercise, and have maintained my weight for more than 5 years, I am always made to feel inadequate because I haven't embraced running. I'm led to believe that if I only had the right pair of $150 shoes or the perfect 5K or the perfect headband, all would be well. I don't care what they say......some people are simply not built to run. - 1/6/2017   5:29:07 AM

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