Season 4, Episode 7: The Treaty
Ann Perkins: I mean I was jogging; I hate jogging.
Chris Traeger: Jogging is amazing!
Ann Perkins: Jogging is the worst, Chris. I mean I know it keeps you healthy, but God, at what cost?
Chris Traeger: Well, I’m sorry that I added five years to your life.
I love Parks and Rec, and I love this quote even more. I feel like it sums up people’s view of running so well, because running is one of the most divisive forms of physical activity I can think of. In one camp, you have people who are the Chris Traegers of the world, who gracefully run along roads while barely becoming winded, and then there are the Ann Perkins, who look more like water dwelling creatures struggling for breath on land.
This isn’t just a case of being in shape or not being in shape. There are some beginner mistakes that occur with running that I will address, and hopefully will convince whoever reads this to a) give running a try b) attempt this new physical feat injury free, and c) learn to love it.
I am particularly passionate about talking about running because I used to be firmly in the Ann Perkins camp. Like, I seriously hated it. When I first tried running, it was for all the usual reasons most people tend to try it. It was a cheap, easy way to get fit. There were also all these “runner” types of people who seemed to genuinely enjoy it. I had tried running a few times, but without having a sport-focused ball/goal/base I found it incredibly boring and very difficult to motivate myself to continue.
I went out for my first 20 minute run a few years after high school, and I remember feeling like I must have punctured a lung—there was no way it should be this difficult. I consider myself a pretty mentally tough individual, and the amount of internal threatening I had to do to myself to finish the run was pretty intense. This all ended with me being exhausted; sore, and resolving “I guess I’m just not a runner”.
It was about 3 years ago when I took up running again, and I’m happy to say it has become one of my most beloved hobbies. The infamous “runner’s high” isn’t just an urban myth that is paid to be spread around by running shoe brands! When I was in my master’s program for physiotherapy, I had my first real brush with mental health issues (another blog post for another time). Running became my saving grace, and to this day, is still my main medication.
When my patients ask me to give them a running program, I always give them the same one. SportMedBC designed a running interval program aimed at inactive individuals attempting the 10km Vancouver SunRun. Interval training is all the rage in the health and fitness industry right now (for good reason). The intervals mean that there is a small period of running, followed by rest period of walking. Interval training is an awesome way to build up physical tolerance and cardiovascular fitness, while still feeling enjoyable. I thoroughly believe people dislike running because they either attempt too long of a run, or run at the speed they remember doing in their youth, or a combination of both of these things. Running is a strenuous, coordinated exercise that needs to be worked up to. Starting off modestly is the best way to prevent against injuries, and I truly haven’t had one patient get injured from following this program.
The benefit of starting off modestly and on intervals is that it’s not going to feel like you’re gasping for breath, and it will feel a lot more enjoyable. For those people who try the first week and still hate it, I tell them to repeat the week. Pick an awesome song playlist, and keep repeating weeks as necessary. Do not move forward in the program until you can honestly say you enjoyed the run you went on, and are looking forward to the next one. You should feel like you could karaoke along to a song on your playlist as you are running (and you probably should anyways cuz that’s fun). I know it seems more satisfying to say you ran for a certain period of time, but starting off with intervals is the best way to build lasting habits and an actual passion for running.
In the next few weeks I’ll be posting exercises I commonly prescribe for runners, footwear I recommend, and finding the right tempo for running. Comment any questions you have about running! Remember, as soon as you step out on that first run in the program, you are officially a runner! Congrats and welcome to the Chris Traeger club my friend. You probably just added 5 years to your life.