As a kid, I got into working out because I wanted to put on muscle. Running had absolutely no appeal to me; runners were skinny guys and I wanted to get diesel. And besides, running sucks! Who the hell would just want to run around for hours for no reason? I was going to lift weights, do pull-ups and get jacked.
Ironically, most people who begin running are drawn to it for the exact reason that I was turned off – they want to be skinny!
Turns out we’re both wrong.
In the Running
Running has seen a boom in recent years, but along with that explosion there has also been a backlash. Distance running has been called “chronic cardio” by members of the primal community and has been blamed for countless ailments and injuries. A lot of the backlash against running is aimed at those who are motivated primarily by a desire to lose weight (and those in the industry who pander to them). Truth is, while running can burn lots of calories, unless you change your eating habits, you’re unlikely to see any significant weight loss from beginning a running program. In spite of this, I believe that everyone should give running a shot as part of their fitness program. Especially those of you who hate it.
For the Love of Running
When most people (even fit people) begin running, there is an adaptation period that can be unpleasant and frustrating. Once you cross that threshold, however, the improvement that you will feel in your day to day life is significant. The increased aerobic capacity and cardiovascular function is just the beginning. You’ll also develop leg endurance that can carry over into walking, stair climbing and other everyday activities.
Of course, the best motivation to run is simply that it feels great (once you get accustomed to it). Simple pleasures make life worth living and few things rank higher on my list than a good run. Running can be an acquired taste, but just like riding a bike, once you get the mechanics down and start to build some endurance, it becomes a whole different experience.
Designing a Running Program
In the beginning, start out with run/walk intervals. You don’t need to follow a strict protocol, just run at a steady pace for as long as you can (which might be anywhere from 30 seconds to several minutes). When you need to, take a break and walk until you catch your breath. Repeat this process for 20 or 30 minutes, then stretch out and call it a day. In time, your walk breaks will get shorter and shorter until you can eventually go for 30 minutes without a break. Once you can do that, you can try alternating between jogging and sprinting for your interval training.
Anyone who’d want to run a Marathon must be tripping, right?
Seriously though, if you’re crazy enough to want to do a Marathon or Half-Marathon, be smart about it – you’re going to need to run at a substantially slower pace and gradually build up your mileage. This type of running is usually referred to as long slow distance or “LSD” running.
LSD running is slow enough that you can maintain a conversation while running, so feel free to invite a workout partner. Take your time on LSD runs, it should feel almost like how walking feels to a non-runner.
Running is Fun-ctional
For those of you who still think strength training is all you need, keep in mind that in the wild, you’re either quick or you’re dead. For that reason, running is the most functional bodyweight exercise out there. I don’t care how strong you are, if you can’t run, you’re not fit. But perhaps more importantly, you’re missing out on a lot of fun!