Seriously. I love working out. I start most mornings with some sort of exercise. Give me free weights, lunges, an elliptical machine, or a Zumba class and I am a happy camper. It doesn’t matter if I’m at the gym, at home, or outside – I love the way my body feels when I push it and the endorphins that come flooding through my veins when I’m done.
But I really don’t like running.
I know all the benefits of running. I have plenty of friends and family who love running and swear by the “runner’s high.” I’ve even spent periods of my life trying to “train” myself to be a runner. And yet, I can’t seem to find the joy in it.
I was faced with my non-love this morning. Due to a large family gathering this weekend, I made the long trek to my older sister’s house. I always make sure to bring my exercise clothes when I travel, and my sister knows that I like to start my morning with a workout. This morning she suggested a run. She had just finished training for and completing a Ragnar and wanted to keep up her regime. My younger sister (who made the trek with me) was on board, so we all changed, put my sister’s twin girls in the running stroller, and set off.
After about a minute, I was hating it. My inner dialogue kicked in, trying to keep me going. Well, mostly it was my pride. My pride wanted me to be able to keep up with my sisters. To prove that I was healthy and “in shape.” Bring a runner – or at least going on runs – has become such an accepted marker of fitness in our society, and it felt like that if I didn’t complete the run, then I was somehow proclaiming to the world that I was not fit or healthy.
This inner dialogue continued for a few minutes. While it kept my feet moving, it didn’t improve my experience. Instead, I just resigned myself to slogging through and finishing.
And then, a question popped into my head. Why do it? If I was going to be miserable, was it worth it? Why didn’t I just drop to a walk?
You see, for as much as I hate running, I love walking. I can walk for hours. Especially outside. Yet, there seems to be a stigma attached. Walking isn’t as “cool” as running. It doesn’t inspire visions of incredibly fit people. You don’t hear about a “walking high” or “walking legs.” And dropping from a run to a walk, especially in front of my sisters, seemed a little bit like giving up.
Then I realized that I was being ridiculous. So I took a deep breath and made a decision.
I gave myself permission to be a non-runner.
I confess, my pride took a bit of a hit as I watched my two sisters run off into the distance. However, it was amazing how that decision changed the whole experience. My lungs filled with air, relaxing my body. I started to pay attention to my surroundings – the sun beating down on my shoulders, the beautiful landscaping and architecture that is so different from my own neighborhood, the wind rustling through the leaves. Soon, instead of feeling like I wanted to die, I felt completely alive. My body felt strong and my mind felt at peace. Instead of hating every minute, I found that I was thoroughly enjoying myself.
I did the same distance as my sisters (and could have done longer). It took a little longer and maybe I didn’t get all the heart thumping benefits that they did. But I enjoyed every single minute. I felt energized and happy and ready to keep going. And I felt lightened.
I may never become a runner. And that’s ok. I won’t be ashamed of my non-runner status. . I will continue to encourage and support my running friends, but I will no longer feel bad, guilty, or less because I choose to workout in other ways. I will pursue other ways to take care of my body – ways that I actually enjoy instead of dread. And I will be a whole lot happier doing them.