Running on empty

So, it’s 2018. Hope everyone’s having a happy new year so far. We’re only 11 days in, so there’s the possibility of a bad day in there, but I hope it was only a mildly bad day.

I’ll cut right to the chase: new year resolutions. What’s the most common? I think we all know without even looking at this chart I borrowed from Statista.

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Yep, “eat healthier” and “get more exercise” tied. The most likely motivation behind those resolutions was to lose weight, since, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 36.5 percent of American adults are obese. And toward what type of exercise do good-intentioned new year resolutioners tend to gravitate? What do we read in all the magazines and exercise articles? Start walking. After you’ve mastered walking, start running. And never stop.

Now, I certainly appreciate the value of a good walk, as well as a sweaty run, and I engage in those activities to stay healthy and in shape and – we’re friends here, so I’ll throw in some more honesty – look hot for my husband. *wink wink*

Buuuut here’s my hangup with running.

I grew up playing soccer. I remember priding myself on being a good sprinter as a kid, I’m talking, like, 7 years old, and I loved racing friends on the playground or at soccer practice. I had a coach early on (I started playing when I was 5, so this was maybe a couple years after that) who, if we paid attention and hustled in practice, would reward us by letting us play tag at the end – all of us against him. Imagine what fun it was for 20 first- and second-graders to run and tumble all over a big field trying to catch and tackle an adult. It was some high intensity cardio after an hour spent doing various forms of cardio, and we loved it.

Then I got older, and my coaches cared about winning because their jobs depended on it. They, too, used running as a way to get us to pay attention and hustle during practice, but it was a stick rather than a carrot. If one girl whispered to her friend while the coach was talking, “Everybody on the line.” I vaguely remember one incident, a la the film Radio, in which we were told to run suicides until Coach said stop. For the record, we hadn’t abused a mentally challenged man to receive that punishment. I think one of my teammates just kicked a ball in the wrong direction during a preceding drill.

And this wasn’t just one coach or one team I was on; it was a handful of them. But hey, I get it. When a school’s athletic record rests partially on your shoulders and you’re dealing with 40 talkative, hormonal teenagers, I’m sure you grasp for anything to get it through the kids’ heads that you mean business. And I’m sure my coaches didn’t plan for this to happen to me, but I grew to loathe running more than anything else on this planet. And I am not exaggerating.

I came to hate it so much that I stopped trying at it. I resigned myself to being the slowest or second slowest on the team, and I didn’t care about what I ate because I figured I was slow enough anyway, so why not eat the ice cream or the cookies for a snack before practice? Half a mile was about all I could muster at the age of 16. The only thing that kept me running during practice was the threat that, if I didn’t make the one, two, or three miles in the allotted time, I would have to run the whole thing over again. How I was supposed to push my spent body to do that, I didn’t know, but I was terrified to find out.

On the other hand, I loved weight training. I dabbled in it on my own, but my high school coaches introduced it during spring conditioning one year, and I attacked it. I was good at it, I enjoyed pushing myself, I could do more dips than anyone on the team, and, even better, my coaches were impressed and encouraged me. Just a few kind words, and I knew I’d likely weight train for the rest of my life. I learned even more about it in college and continue to do it to this day.

But you know what? I still kind of hate running. I do it somewhat frequently, but I still don’t like it.

I guess what I’m getting at is that maybe we wouldn’t have as big of an obesity problem if we treated activity like a reward for kids instead of a punishment. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve known who graduate high school, get out of sports, and don’t lace up a pair of tennis shoes for another decade. Some of that is due to the loss of the structure organized sports provide, but if I had to bet, I’d bet some of it is due to a feeling of freedom, of being released from the prison of forced cardio.

If not for my vanity, I wouldn’t have run ever again after high school. Heck, those fat people in the hover chairs in Wall-E would probably have been my heroes.

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If your new year resolution is to get healthier and you dread stepping on the treadmill because you feel like that’s what you’re “supposed” to do in the Laws of Exercise, I encourage you to find something else. Try the stationary bike. Hit the weights. Find a gym with a pool. Buy or stream a workout video. There are countless options, and you can do what feels the best for you.

And if you’re like me and learned activity to be a physical reprimand, try to get past it. Again, find something else that’s *you.* Take what you like and…run with it.

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2 Replies to “Running on empty”

  1. I never did sports, but its partly because as the “nerdy kid,” no one ever encouraged me, or thought I would be any good at it. Gym was a time with all the jocks picked on the rest of us. I hated it so very much – but I loved things like Volleyball, and would have done more of it had I been more engaged. We never had great coaches either – half the time our middle school coach was hanging out with his girlfriend and completely ignoring us as a whole. We played a lot of dodgeball…

    Liked by 1 person

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