“I would like to run but it is just too painful for me.” I hear this all the time. Too much actually and it is time I take a stand! The people who are saying this have it completely wrong, well sort of. Painful, by definition is not the right word.
Pain: Physical suffering caused by illness or injury.
You probably feel like you are physically suffering when you start running. I will give you that much. But if you are suffering from an illness or injury, you shouldn’t be running and you need to stop blaming running for the problems.
Uncomfortable: Cause or feeling of slight pain or discomfort.
Hmm, sounds a lot like the start of about 90% of my runs, and the others are just flukes. Running isn’t painful, it is uncomfortable. When you use such drastic terms you are doing yourself a disservice and psyching yourself out of something that could be really beneficial to you and your health.
Part of learning to run or taking on any physical fitness plan is learning to be accountable for yourself and your actions. Getting up and going to the gym in the morning or just putting on your workout clothes is the start to being accountable. In order to take on running and be successful at continuing with it you have to learn to be accountable as you progress. Every run starts with some level of discomfort. When we do cardiovascular exercises our bodies always go into a short phase of anaerobic activity for a brief moment at the start. Anaerobic by definition means “without oxygen” and that sounds pretty uncomfortable! Just about every run is going to start with this short bout of the sensation of breathlessness.
Once you learn to settle in, relax, and accept this mild discomfort your body will start to take you to new levels. As you begin to be accountable for your actions and allow your body to push past each new level, whether it be an extra 2 minutes or an extra mile, your body will start to transform from the inside and that discomfort will soon start to fade away.
Nobody that ever started running began without some sort of discomfort. You are doing something that is taxing on both your body and cardiovascular system. It would be impossible to start at zero and run swiftly around the track without feeling some sort of changes going on in your body; namely that burning in your lungs.
Once you can learn to distinguish the difference between actual pain (which you shouldn’t be running with) and discomfort, you will mentally be much better prepared to try taking running to new levels. Your body is capable of many things, and dealing with discomfort is something it is pretty good at.
Your mind is also an amazing thing and you can use it as a tool to help you focus on something besides that discomfort. Play games with your music. I like to imagine that 3 songs equal a mile and as each mile ticks by I count how many more songs I get to listen to. Sort through your day or a problem you are having. Have a conversation with yourself.
Every Friday Runner’s World comes out with “The List.” This is a list of the top 10 talking points of the week for runners. They put it out on Fridays so that anyone who is doing their long run has something extra to think about. It works!
Sometimes the talks I have with myself on my runs are pretty bizarre and often humorous. Yesterday I was running under an overpass and a homeless person had left his scraps behind. As I ran by a pile of orange rinds I thought to myself, “That homeless person has a healthy diet of vitamin C.” What?!
My husband claims that during yesterday’s 10 mile run he made a menu for us for the week and a mental grocery list. Looks like we should do 10 milers more often, I love it!
The next time you are ready to go for a run try to remind yourself that this is not a painful experience. Try to use words that mentally help keep you going.
And remember running is uncomfortable. Your sore legs the next day, that is painful!
A shout out today to my friend Kyle who won the Frozen Foot 5 miler on the Old Mission Peninsula this weekend!