Does this sound familiar? Is this something you might have said?
"I hate running," is one of the most repeated phrases I've heard as an athlete, coach, and personal trainer. Even at the gym I go to, when one of the HIIT workouts has running incorporated there's a collective moan.
"I hate running."
What is it about running we hate so much? Our bodies are created to be able to travel dozens of miles in a day. Humans are the best endurance animals on the planet, yet if the words "Run 200M" are scrolled on a whiteboard at a gym, everyone begins to recite their distaste for such an activity.
For years, I hated running. When I was a Division I athlete, I hated running. The only time in my life I enjoyed running before my husband died was when I was in high school, and we had to run a mile every day to and home from practice. But I hated it at first. But then as weeks went on, I started to enjoy it because I felt healthy.
So as I started to get healthier in the early months of widowhood, I laced up my sneakers and took my exercises to the streets. As much as I could in those early days, I ignored the distance and focused on the duration. Can I run for 20 minutes straight? Can I run for a half hour? Can I run for 45 minutes? How far can I go if I run for an hour?
But my love for running soon turned to hate again during marathon training. It was no longer fun. It felt as if I was in a relationship I couldn't get out of. It became abusive, and my thoughts would turn sinister halfway through my run. I dreaded waking up in the morning knowing I had to run. Getting out the door was a nightmare.
+Wake up at 3:15a. +Eat Breakfast +Drink Pre-Workout +Take Supplements to help break down fat into fuel (yes, these exist) +Drink Water +Take Magnesium to protect my muscles from cramps +Drink Water +Drink Protein to protect my muscles from breaking down +Use the bathroom 3-4 times +Download 3 hours worth of a Podcast +Roll out the legs +Head out the door no later than 4:45a
The sun was not welcomed on my training runs. Especially when I was cruising over 12 miles on my long runs.
When I headed out the door, it was as dark as being locked in a basement cellar. The streetlights were off, neighbor's outdoor lights were off. The world around me was still sleeping. Even the birds were roosting, and the crickets still owned the night. But I needed to get this run done as close to sun-up as possible. Alabama in the summertime is ruthlessly humid and stagnant, and you overheat so quickly because your skin doesn't perspire. The sweat stays locked beneath your skin, screaming like a tea kettle.
In the darkness, I'd head out toward one of the busiest roads in Montgomery to lay down some miles. This road during regular hours is usually bumper to bumper because it leads to the highway and to a popular shopping plaza. But before sunrise, it's like a commerce graveyard with little to no activity until the Starbuck's light shine at 5:30a.
As the miles increased during my training schedule, my mornings got earlier and earlier. To give an example, on my final 20-mile run, I was out the door by 4:00a so I could be done by 8:00a and ready for work.
It's a lot, and it's not easy.
But I did it, and 4 weeks later, I ran 26.2 miles. And my calves haven't been the same since. It took my hips two months to heal. For two months, my left hip would just lock up, and I'd misstep. It felt like a dead leg, like when you fall asleep contorted on the couch, and when you wake up you're stiff--yeah, my leg would feel like that stiffness in mid-stride.
I hate running.
I didn't hate it because I wasn't good at it. Running had become a fixture in my life, and it was too controlling of my time and my self-worth. I hated it because I couldn't do it at the speed and capabilities I knew I could perform at, but physically my body no longer could handle.
For hours a week, I would stretch with my massage therapist and close friend, asking him for advice on what might be happening. He was an experienced marathoner and knew the wear and tear running can have on the body. But finally, he said what I've known all along.
I needed to rest. I had to break up with running.
I hate running.
Running offered me an escape when my grief was so horrendous. The forward movement of running provided me comfort and clarity to the catastrophe that was my life. When I ran, I could control my effort levels and make it challenging or coast along for miles and miles. Running made me feel special because I would win races, finish top in my age group, or run a personal best that was brag-worthy.
But something that brought me joy was bringing me physical pain, and mentally I couldn't handle it, and I soon became depressed when I wasn't performing.
I didn't want to run. I hate running.
So I stopped. Once in a while, I would run with my current husband when he asks. Or I'd run with one of my clients indoors because she wanted me to pace her. One time in a lapse of judgment I signed up for a half marathon during my on and off relationship with running. Needless to say, I should've listened to my friend because, at the mile nine-point, the calf cramps pulled my legs from underneath me. I still finished but mentally I was defeated and emotionally trampled.
It's hard to say no to running with the seductive race bags and the flashy participation medals. And crossing that finish line just feels so good. But running was doing more harm than good, and I needed time away.
So for 7 months, I stopped. From March to October. To get back into running, I did a challenge I used to do with my former college teammate and best friend. We call it the 50-mile challenge, and I decided to bring it back as a Widow & Widowers only challenge. The online widow community I help run has gotten larger, and this is a great way to help establish a goal for some who feel a little lost, or for someone like me who needs direction. The accountability is there, and friends are so supportive, and we're all trying to create a healthy relationship with living a healthy lifestyle through exercise.
Some are using the challenge to create a healthy routine. Some are using the challenge to stay accountable, to help kick-start weight loss, to train for the next race or future races. And for me, I'm using the challenge to fall back in love with running.
For weeks I've been focused on 3-6 miles (5-10k) and to enjoy the world around. Running always provides me a little reminder of how special it is to be alive, healthy, mindful and now how great it feels to move injury free.
So when I hear people say "I hate running," it has to be the most overused saying outside of "I don't know." Yet, if you ask someone why they hate running, it usually pairs well with a tall robust glass of "I don't know." Or perhaps they're underperforming. But sometimes, if you decided to engage in running, it might lead you to a unique mindset where you'll learn more about your will and drive to accomplish something you never thought would be possible. Running is interesting because it's an activity we all innately know how to do, but try to avoid. And when we no longer can do it, we miss it.