Exercising Futility


Ah, spring. The fresh air, the warming temperatures, all that sunshine. Must be time to start running again. 

If this sounds like you, if you're that person who's put off "getting back in shape" until now and thinks running will do the trick, let's think through this together, shall we?

First off, you've done this before, right? It's nearly a ritual. Every spring (sometimes fall, too) you and thousands just like you break out a new pair of Brooks or Nikes, do a couple stretches and head down the bike path.

How's that working for you?

Chances are your answer is a variation of "Great! For about 2 weeks (or a month, 6 weeks, whatever) and then I pulled a calf/strained my groin/hurt my foot/got bored/got busy/took a break/lost the 5 pounds. And. I. Quit".

Congratulations! Mission accomplished. Nothing happened. Shoes go back in the closet, you can wear your running togs to Publix as athleisure, no worries.

Except you feel bad. Dammit, I did it again. For the 14th time. Since college.

It's not (completely) your fault. There are things at work here you've got to pay attention to.

One, you're not working as hard as you think you are. Nothing personal, most people think they work out harder then they actually do. If your "training plan" includes the words Just Finish whoever you got that plan from is a dirty liar. You will never, ever run hard enough to make any change. At all, Ever, if that's your mantra. Video yourself. You're shuffling, not running.

Two, exercise, especially LSD (long slow distance), makes you hungry. So you tend to eat more. And you don't give it a second thought because you've earned it. "I ran today, more pasta!"

Three, if your goal is weight loss (or fat loss) you've just guaranteed an experience not unlike the Bataan Death March. Nobody wants to do anything that seems like punishment, to pay penance for all the junk you've eaten or out of a misplaced sense of duty to "be good" and force yourself to exercise. That run will be as joyless as a box of broken glass. If you run because you enjoy it (freak) or because of the other health benefits exercise can provide - better sleep, improved immune function, stronger bones - then the weight loss will come easier and be a nice perk. A bonus. 

Look, there's nothing wrong with running. Unless you approach it from an emotionally unhealthy and ultimately unsustainable perspective. Done for the right reasons it can be a great way to build an aerobic base and ready you for the zombie apocalypse. Get with Karen for a lesson and you'll even look good doing it.