Fitness

Why Running Isn’t Terrible: My Experiences Throughout The Years

The other day was a beautiful day. The air was cool, the sky was a brilliant blue, and it was a great day to go on a run. I’ve been trying to get back into running regularly–especially since it has been so gorgeous outside–so I decided to write a bit about my experiences with running. It has been a strange but wonderful journey.

Early Cross Country Experience

I was in sixth grade when I learned that I loved to run. It began when I tried soccer. I liked getting outside and running around the field. I had a red ball with black stripes, which I thought was pretty cool. But, I was never great at it.

Remember that song, the one that goes “be aggressive, AGRESSIVE” or something like that? I wasn’t aggressive, not in the slightest. I was a timid child, and sports did not help me get out of my shell. If anything, they pushed me more inward. When other players came after me, I wanted to back away. When the ball flew high in the air, I flinched.

I tried basketball too and my kind coach wanted me to score once. I almost made it, but I was still terrified of getting hit. People asked throughout high school–and still do–if I’ve ever played basketball. I played in third, fourth and sixth grade, and I’m still terrified of getting hit in the face.

Cross Country

But, when I was in middle school, I had a math teacher that encouraged me and my sister to sign up for Cross Country. I don’t remember my thought process behind this. I knew I liked to run for soccer, but Cross Country? I hadn’t a clue what that was about, but I’m sure my parents encouraged me to sign up so I could be a part of some sport. I also remember I wanted the letterman jacket that my small Catholic school gave all the athletes in seventh grade. It was maroon and had a tiger on it. I think I still have it to this day actually.

The cross country team started training over the summer. Practices were a few days a week at a local park. The park has a mile-long walking trail loop, and there is also a more hilly area to run. The area was close to a nearby lake, and there were also big, gorgeous trees everywhere. There wasn’t a house or a sign of cars in sight.

We would spend our practices by warming up as a group and then we would take off on the trail. I absolutely loved it. It was the one time during my day where I could get away from it all. Unlike soccer or basketball, there was nothing in danger of hitting me. I got away from stiff brick school building and all the surrounding townhouses. When I ran, I got look around and could just be in nature. The trees weren’t in competition with myself–they were were just peacefully coexisting in the world. They were also still. In those moments, I could think about life or process events that happened to me or I could not think about anything at all and look out at the trees.

Cross Country challenged me in ways I hadn’t been ever before. The hot summers and endless hills tested my limits, but I kept going to practice every day. Running up hills felt like drudgery; I practically had to drag myself up at first. I still haven’t found a way to love running hills, but I’ve learned to get used to it. When I ran down a hill, I was filled with momentum and speed. It was exciting and thrilling at first, but I had to learn to stay in control. Otherwise, I could injure myself or just completely spiral out of control.

I loved how with each run I got better. At the beginning, a single mile would wear me out for the day, but by the end of the season, I could breeze through three miles. I wanted to do well and succeed, but there wasn’t tons of pressure to be the best and beat everyone else. My coach, our laid back math and science teacher with clear glasses, was pretty chill. My team also was pretty big. It was a small school, but the team included everyone from fifth to eighth grade so I didn’t stand out in a crowd.

When I was a part of the team, I often didn’t see my sister until after practice. Sometimes we would pair up by grades. I remember making a few friends just by walking and talking after practice. I’m currently reading Wordsworth for a Romantic Literature class. His poetry talks about going into nature and experiencing it with others. Beauty should be shared with others. I feel like I had that–walking with a friend and talking as we explored a new trail.

The parents of cross country were cool people, I remember a friend’s parents telling us that as long as were putting in our best effort it didn’t matter what place we came in. Finishing a race and crossing the finish line is worthy of celebration, no matter how you get there. My middle school cross country team was a great time, and I’ll always look back fondly on those days.

In my eighth grade year, I moved to a public school and I ran long distance in track in eighth grade. From what I remember I wasn’t too big on the competition element, so I took a year off. But during my sophomore year, I had the cross country coach teach my math class. He said the team was looking for more students to join and I had done track before. So, despite my dislike of competition, I decided to give it a try. I’m not sure I can express in words how glad I am that I took the leap.

That year, I ran cross country, track, and indoor track. I got a letterman jacket for that and band, and I even got a plaque that said “three sport athlete.” My mom still jokes about it sometimes, since I scorned all other sports. Unfortunately, my high school athleticism only lasted a year.

I enjoyed running with other people and going to different parks to run in, but I wasn’t a fan of the track itself. Long Distance was a ton of fun, but for track, I ran the two mile. If you’ve never run two miles on a—smaller than standard, or really any– high school track, I will tell you it is awful. To me, running in many circles while a crowd watched me was one of the worst things ever. Unlike the mile or 800 meter race, the two mile took an infinite amount of time.

When I ran cross country at a park, I didn’t think about ending at all or the crowd watching me. It also was boring. I got to forget that everyone was watching in cross country, but on a physical track I could never forget. I also didn’t like the gunshots or the competition aspect. Rather than a way to relax and go into nature, track was a time where it seemed like everyone was watching you.

Cyber Gym?

I decided not to do track or cross country my junior year of high school, and looking back–I regret quitting both cross country and track. Junior year was the most stressful year of high school, and I no longer had that an outlet for the stress. I didn’t stop running completely, but I didn’t feel as motivated without cross country and track practice a few times a week. It wasn’t until my senior year when I took a cyber gym that I unintentionally fell in love with running again.

What in the world is cyber gym? I asked this too. I was one of those kids who hated gym class. I wasn’t a fan of group sports or changing rooms so I put off my second gym class requirement as long as possible–but I could never escape it–despite trying everything. So for my senior year, I signed up for what looked like the only tolerable option–cyber gym.

I remember meeting with two gym coaches and all my fellow sufferers in the library. They explained to us that we were to do workouts– any kind we wanted–and take pictures and write a description of our activities as proof. We then put those into a PowerPoint presentation. Each workout had to be at least an hour. If I remember correctly, we submitted 10 workouts to our teachers every half a nine weeks.

On the bright side, I knew that I liked running, so I decided to run for a majority of my workouts. I also figured that running would be the easiest workout to record. I would run outside or on the treadmill and then take a picture of the dashboard. I also got the Nike Run Club app on my phone. The Nike Run Club is an app that tracks a runner’s mileage and times, and I just took a screenshot of each day’s workout.

When I started running regularly again, I had an outlet. I felt less stressed during the day and looked forward to going for a run after school. This time, there was no competition. I didn’t have to run on a particular track or at a place. I got to decide where I ran–except, of course, the days where the bitter cold kept me inside on the treadmill. The class actually wasn’t too bad, and I never had to enter a gym locker room or miss out on class time. It was awesome.

Mandatory College Gym Class Was Kinda Fun?

Of course, it didn’t end there. When I got to college, I found out I needed to take gym and health class freshman year. Just when I thought I had escaped gym it had creeped up on me again.

But it wasn’t horrible. Freshman classes at Grove City no longer have a gym requirement; they called it Fitwell instead of gym. Fitwell sounds a little less intimidating and sweaty. Some of my classmates complained about required gym, but I actually enjoyed it after a while. The first semester was a series of lectures about health, which were pretty boring, but the next three semesters that were actual gym were pretty fun. We got to choose three fitness classes to take on campus. There was walk/jog/run, free weights, mechanical weights, and swimming. So, in my first year of college, I ran on the indoor track, learned to use mechanical weights, and tried to swim.

I say try because I still struggle with the butterfly. I’m still a bit afraid of putting my head underwater for a long time–but I got a little better at swimming. I also met new friends and became closer with other friends in an environment that I wouldn’t have been in otherwise. Since everyone had to take it, I got to take a class with friends from different majors. With each class, I felt more confident about working out in college. The gym also was no longer an overwhelming heap of machines, and I started to understand how to lift seriously. (I lifted a little in track in high school, but I still wasn’t fully comfortable with figuring out how to work out on my own.) I also felt less stressed during an overwhelming freshman year.

I’ve found that I always feel better when exercise is a part of my life. The stress pours off of me, and I feel accomplished every time. Running has been a part of my routine on and off for a long time. When I realized that it was something I could continue in college, it was amazing. I had an outlet for stress in this fun hobby where I got to challenge myself. My college also has plenty of trails, neighborhood, and space to run outdoors. There are so many possibilities to go every day. I enjoy seeing new places and testing my limits. I love listening to my favorite songs and exploring new music during a run too.

The Nike Run Club App

From the neighboring streets and park trails to the outdoor track by the football field, I never run out of places to run. Every run is an adventure, a path that I carve, and a total blast. Of course, they aren’t always great. I get tired, and wish I’d done more sometimes, but overall, the benefits outweigh the bad days.

I really enjoy using the Nike Run App. It helped me get started running again during my sophomore year of college. Not only does the app count your mileage and track your distance, it also includes guided runs where you can run a specific distance or time with a coach’s guidance. I get to go on runs I haven’t done since track practice like the Fartlek run and a 5k. Your guide tells you what pace to run at–which you decide–the speeds usually range from a 5k pace to a celebratory sprint.

The Nike Run coaches that talk during the guided runs are encouraging and kind. They address the runner directly. It feels like you’re listening to a podcast where the speaker is talking to you and building you up the whole time. I’ve heard the headspace app is kind of like that, but I haven’t tried it enough to know for sure. As weird as it seems at first, it helps to hear someone on the other end.

Listening to a coach helps me to keep running when I feel like giving up. I don’t always do guided runs, but I find it helps a lot when I’m not sure where to start or want more motivation. For speed runs, your pace often changes, so it is nice to have a guide telling you when to stop and go.

The mentality of Nike Run Club matches some of the values I follow while running. With the app, it is always about doing the best, not comparing yourself to others, and becoming a better runner than you were yesterday. Their advice also applies to life. Finishing every run strong is just how we should do our work. The coaches also don’t just focus on the run itself and instead talks about heath as a whole.

They remind you to pause the video and warm up and tell runners to do static stretches and hydrate after a run and make sure to eat something afterwards. I was pretty wary of virtual coaching at first, but I realized I like it. It keeps me focused and I feel less tempted to give up when I have a guide. They tell you to keep going and not give up and they give countdowns at the end. Running through a countdown feels great. It was Nike Run Club that helped me get more serious about running in college.

Future Running Goals

Of course, Running can suck sometimes. Whether the weather is extremely hot or frigid–like this month–going on a run might not sound amazing. I feel tired, my playlist doesn’t match perfectly, and I’m not always sure which turn to make. When I feel discouraged, I usually remind myself how much better I feel afterward and that–if I’m out on the trail–that I am doing my best and trying.

Doing one thing is better than nothing. I’m in no way saying it is easy. It is way easier though, when you have a routine. I sometimes struggle with a lack of motivation, especially when I’m on a break from school. I’ve learned that feeling down or forcing myself isn’t what helps. I remind myself why I love it and remind myself that it is never too late to get started again. I can make it part of my routine again. I feel cliché quoting Nike, but I really need to just do it.

I just need to make time and start a run those days at the same time. I do my best when exercise–or any good habit really–becomes so automatic that I don’t have to think about getting started. Instead, I feel excited to start and appreciate the differences this day has from others. Running is a something I plan to keep with me as I keep making new goals and thinking about the future. It feels like a beautiful thing that I should keep up.

I’d love to run a marathon or half-marathon or run a 5K at some point. I also want to try trail running at some point, since I’ve never gone before.

Do you have anything that’s stuck with you for a long time? What type of exercises do you like best? Also, are you interested in more of this type of content? I figured I’d talk a little more about me, and I just figured I’d give telling personal stories a try. Let me know what you think down in the comments below!