Whether or not you’re a runner, you have inevitably heard several of the “buzz words” surrounding the lifestyle of a runner. Things like carbo load, “hitting the wall,” fartleks, and PRs are terms that most everyone has heard of. That said, I’m realizing that there are countless instructions, definitions, workouts, and basic “must dos” that seem to come with this sport.
And honestly, I think it’s all a little silly.
Running is so simple, so natural, and it’s something that requires very few gimmicks. That’s part of the reason I love it, and really why I think it sticks so permanently with the people who do it. As technology and sports science has excelled over time, however, the basic premise of running has been dissected to a point where there’s nothing simple about it. Or at least, that’s what it seems.
I’m totally and completely guilty of it—I pour over Runner’s World, running books, articles, blogs, and virtually anything offering advice and insight into running. And why not? I love running, I love talking about it, writing about it, reading about it—so it only makes sense that any information available for us runners would be of ample interest.
However, I think something that’s happened is that we’ve developed this sense of what’s “right” and what’s “wrong” when it comes to “how to be a good runner.” And I’m actually beginning the think that these overwhelming do and do-not-do mantras are taking away from the greatest thing about running: how simple and accessible it is.
Sure, there are some basic should and should not dos when it comes to this sport. For example, you should probably move in a forward rather than backward direction, and you should keep your eyes open instead of closed. Oh, and due to societal “laws” you should probably not be naked. But other than these types of very basic logistical nuances, I am would like to believe that running doesn’t actually have rules.
Running is very much tailored to each individual, and what works for you is exactly what you should be doing. If a Slurpee and a hot dog the night before a race helps you, then by all means that’s what you should have. If you need to warm up for 20 minutes, or if you can go 100% straight off the bat, that’s what you should do.
I’m not trying to discount all the statistics and research that’s been done toward running. There is definitely credibility in it all, and I do find value in exploring the information myself. But, I think we tend to forget the most important fact about running when we overwhelm ourselves with the paperwork.
I think Barney Stinson says it better than anyone else…
That’s it! Well, maybe not how to run a marathon exactly…but certainly how to run.
Once you start running, you begin to learn the finer points of it all—what kinds of shoes work best, how far you are comfortable going, what kind of fueling is most effective. But keep in mind that it’s what works best for you. One of my favorite things about running is that it is very much custom to each individual runner themselves. What works for me might not work for someone else and vice versa. It’s all about experimentation, and although we might take some advice to improve upon weaker areas of our running careers, I’m a big believer in the idea that if something’s not broken, there’s not point in trying to fix it.
And truly, mistakes are going to be made. But that’s when we turn around, take a look at some of our options, and decide on a different course of action. I know that the mistakes I’ve made as a runner have made me much smarter and generally more knowledgeable about my strengths, weaknesses, and my areas for improvement. Sure, there are times I wish I would have known better, but I do believe that trial and error can be a much more effective learning experience than simply following a set of rules that have been spoon fed to us by the running industry.
So when you feel exhausted by the never-ending questions of barefoot versus cushioned, Gu versus Gatorade, and Asics versus Brooks—remember that the most important thing to do is to just…start running. The logistics will fall into place, and in the end you’ll be happier that you listened to your own body’s instructions rather than the competing voices of the running industry.
They’re all good guys, but keep in mind they’re still a business—and their prevailing goal is to make a buck on promoting “NEW SHOES” and “THE BEST SPORTS DRINK EVER” and “COMPRESSION SHORTS THAT WILL MAKE YOU AN OLYMPIAN.”
Yea, the shorts might be awesome…but give yourself some credit, and trust yourself and your running enough to question if you actually will benefit from the newest running fad. And ultimately, I think everyone should keep in mind that running is a very basic human action—and maybe keeping it simple and obeying nature is actually the best way to keep us safe and make us faster.
So there you are. Some of my thoughts on all the rights and wrongs and to dos and not to dos about running. Tomorrow, I’ll be having some fun with the stereotypical “rules” of running and how my own habits measure up. Check back then, and have a great night!
Question…do you get overwhelmed by the ever-changing “rules” of running?