Why does everyone have to knock running?

running-shoes-for-high-archesIt’s kind of cyclical, the complaint that running is not a good choice if you want to get “fit.” The latest bashing came from this article, “Running is the worst way to get fit.”

Why? Injuries…blah..blah…minimal cardio benefits…blah…not as good as resistance training…blah blah…bad choice for fat loss.  Wait right there!

I have a few issues with this attitude.

(1) It’s not an either or. It’s not running or weight training or spinning or swimming or yoga or … In fact, it’s not even recommended to take up just one thing and do that. Cross-training! That’s where it’s at. So no. I don’t buy the “do weight training instead” argument one bit.

(2) Have we not yet learned that “fitness” does not equal “weight loss”? We spend a heck of a lot of time on this blog arguing for an alternative attitude. You can be fat and fit. You can be skinny and in poor health. And there are a whole bunch of other places on the on the continuum that don’t equate fat with unfit. So please, let’s stop with that equation. The author of that article I talked about up top sets things up totally wrong by starting out with: “Running is a crappy way to lose fat and an inferior way to boost cardiovascular health..”

(3) Running, done the right way, does improve cardio conditioning and that’s a fact. It’s not the only thing that gets your heart rate going. Other recommended cardio activities include rowing, biking, and swimming. But running is among the good choices. When I say “done the right way,” what I mean is that it’s true that most runners run either too slow or too fast for optimal training. I blogged about this recently. If you run at the same pace all the time, you’re not likely to get nearly as much benefit as if you mix it up–interval training with high intensity bursts peppered with lower intensity recovery periods, tempo runs where you push the pace a bit, and long slow distance runs where you slow it right down.

(4) Not all bodies are suited for running, and not all bodies are suited for the same kind of running. Sam wrote about the difference between elite sprinters and elite endurance runners. And of course, most casual runners are somewhere in between.

(5) If you hate running, just say so. You don’t have to do it. But you don’t have to dump on it either. I know lots of people hate running. I used to be among them (now I love it). When I googled running and cardio, I happened upon a slew of links offering alternative cardio routines for people who hate running. Like “Six Killer Cardio Workouts that Don’t Involve Running” and “Good News if You Hate Running” and “Ten Cardio Exercises that Burn More Calories than Running.

(6) There are all sorts of other reasons people like to run. I have a friend who resisted races and any kind of structured training for a long time because her main reason for running was for the time out.  Another friend who also writes finds that she works out some of her ideas while running in a way that she cannot do sitting in front of her computer. Picking up on the “time out” theme, I often find running to be meditative. Or not: sometimes I like to do it for the social time with friends.

(7) It’s also extremely portable. You can take running on the road very easily. And it’s a good way to see stuff. I’ve seen all sorts of parts of cities and towns that I’d never have seen if I didn’t run. A couple of weeks ago I had an incredibly energizing 14K that took me to the rural outskirts of Sackville, New Brunswick, where I was attending a conference. None of my other conference-going friends saw those parts of town. Places I’ve run include Zurich, Guayabitos (Mexico), Annapolis, Niagara Falls, Toronto, Vancouver, Banff, Ottawa, Collingwood, Manchester, San Francisco, to name a few.

I’m not saying anyone has to run. And I’d never claim it’s the only thing anyone should do if they want a well-rounded plan. But if you like running, it’s not the waste of time some people make it out to be. And while not all runners lose weight, lots of us don’t have that as a goal anyway. So what’s the problem? Weight loss is not the mark of a successful, healthy activity. For any activity you can name, there are loads of people who do it without losing weight. That’s hardly a reason not to do something.

Let’s back off from the annual attack on running. Some of us like it.

About Tracy I

Writer, feminist, vegan, triathlete, sailor, philosopher, sometimes knitter.

8 thoughts on “Why does everyone have to knock running?

  1. Sam B says:

    I never quite get the vitriol either. What’s up with these guys? Where does it come from? Two thoughts: There are lots of runners who only run. So there’s that. Also, people feel pressured to run as a way to get fit and this is push back. I suspect a lot of get fit efforts end when people discover they hate running or can’t run. But you’re right, do something else.

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  2. Jean says:

    People assume I jog, because I bike often. I dislike running but admire people who trudge along in all weather.

    I have 2 family members who did occasional marathon, did jog for a number of years but can’t because his knee can’t take it. And she (sister) had a back injury which has taken over 2 yrs. of recovery. So they choose other exercises. The only drawback about running is that it can be too hard on the body when back/leg are significantly injured or just hard on the knees after several decades.

    For someone who has never exercised, I am not so sure I would encourage running much at the beginning or get them off running onto something else if they dislike it. The objective is newbies not to give up on exercise at all and if they dislike running/feel pressured, they need to find their exercise sweet spot elsewhere. I think that’s why some people give up….they are running when they really don’t enjoy it/feel obligated to become fit with friends /becomes a chore even after if they’ve been properly coached/trained on technique.

    I get that people are afraid of cycling or just aren’t interested. OR they dislike cyclists for appearing to be so free and accuse them of breaking rules (when drivers are also texting, speeding,etc.). We have the cyclist haters also.

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  3. catherine w says:

    I’m actually envious of runners, as it’s such a no-muss-no-fuss way of getting outside, clearing the cobwebs and moving through space. As a cyclist, it takes a while for me to get me and my bike of choice ready to go. And (until I buy my Brompton!), cycling doesn’t travel well. Alas, my knee just won’t let me run, but at times when I did it, I sort of liked it.

    I bet some of the dissing of running comes from a place of guilt; runners seem like the optimally virtuous athletes, and in fact I have to resist the urge to idealize them. As the blog has shown us, there are all kinds of running for all sorts of situations, weather, ambitions, times of life, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kim Solga says:

      I think you’ve nailed it, Catherine. I also have runner envy! Suffering from AS (ankylosing spondylitis, which impacts my joints badly), it’s a poor choice for me, but I often bring my trainers on trips anyway because I cannot always pack the dang bike (so much work – too much for any trip shorter than 10 days). My joints usually howl, but it’s instructive too: I can tell instantly that, as fit as I am, I am not a conditioned runner. Two miles at a moderate race pace and I’m struggling.

      I think you’re really right re “virtuous athlete” envy too; anger against cyclists comes from a similar place (though there, it’s also class driven – I think that’s another, more complex layer). Anyone who seems to be doing the virtuous thing (running not walking or trudging; cycling not driving) in this culture gets something of the “war against the car” backlash. It’s lazy but it’s also understandable. The time to exercise is a privilege – the time to be alone, to work things out in our heads, to breathe fresh air, to be with friends. I wish it was a privilege we could all share, so that the envy might be lessened and the false divisions between those who exercise and those who don’t might disappear.

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  4. Crave_Life says:

    I honestly don’t know what I would have done without running. I’d be even more crazy than I am. lol Seriously though. It was a way for me to not only stay in shape when my kids were younger without having to book sitters. I put one in a running stroller and one or two would ride their bikes or if the older ones were in school I could take the baby out. I stayed in shape physically but also gave me much needed outdoor time 🙂

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  5. Yup! I don’t get the hate on running. If you don’t like it, fine by me, but don’t shame me for it!

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  6. Jean says:

    “I think you’re really right re “virtuous athlete” envy too; anger against cyclists comes from a similar place (though there, it’s also class driven – I think that’s another, more complex layer). Anyone who seems to be doing the virtuous thing (running not walking or trudging; cycling not driving) in this culture gets something of the “war against the car” backlash. It’s lazy but it’s also understandable. The time to exercise is a privilege – the time to be alone, to work things out in our heads, to breathe fresh air, to be with friends. I wish it was a privilege we could all share, so that the envy might be lessened and the false divisions between those who exercise and those who don’t might disappear”.

    An excellent way of expressing this, Kim. I love it. It deserves further exploration and discussion as a separate topic in itself. But I don’t even see myself as an athlete even though I’ve been cycling for past 25 yrs. because I’ve chosen to be car-free. (I didn’t enjoy driving.) I’ve wondered if the same regular jogger behind the steering car wheel, gets pissed off at cyclists, cycle tracks for the envy thing or?

    A joke among regular cyclists, is people who drive to the recreational centre for their 1 hr. workout when it is only a few blocks. away….a 15 min. bike ride or a lot less. If it’s no car traffic to contend with nor any parenting responsibilities at home…. It’s habits that I see as a cyclist which I see in regular car drivers who might happen to be regular joggers, that may create this anti-cycling infrastructure (because that’s when the real opposition against cyclists comes out into the public discussion), anti-cyclists sentiment.

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  7. G says:

    Hate gets clicks, both from people who agree and people who disagree. Publishing an article that says “Running is fine if you like running” isn’t going to grab many eyeballs.

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