Running is something that hasn't come naturally to me in years. While I competed in track and cross country in high school, I quit as soon as I entered college and, for the most part, never looked back. I still love the idea of it (it's an easy and efficient way to fit in thirty minutes of cardio, even on a busy day), but mostly hate it in practice. This weekend, I went on my first run in months (years?) and was reminded of how difficult it is. To combat my running fatigue, I thought it would be fun and helpful to ask someone who spends her career helping people love running how to combat the most common reasons I choose not to run.
Debora Warner is the founder of Mile High Run Club, a Soul Cycle-style treadmill-based fitness studio in New York that's grown incredibly popular since its launch three years ago (Leslie was a devotee when she lived in the city!). But as someone who's exactly the type of person I'd expect to find smiling through hill repeats even on a freezing New York day, I was surprised to learn that Debora wasn't always a runner. While she competed in triathlons and worked as a personal trainer for years before opening her studio, she always thought running was a boring inconvenience. But after her clients convinced her to compete in her first half marathon, she reached a turning point. "Now, running is always the highlight of my day," she told me over the phone, "It's not something I dread anymore. I look forward to it and can't wait to do it." And she's seen the same change in her clients, "One of my favorite things I hear from customers is that they never thought they were a runner, or always hated running, until they came to Mile High. I think that sentiment resonates with a lot of people." Here are her suggestions for getting past some of the most common running-related complains she hears:
"The most common complaint I hear is that it's hard," Debora said, "But the way to make it not hard is to do speed training and put in the miles. Once you do it, it helps with solo steady runs. It should feel easier after a period of dedication."
"The reason people don't have a good relationship with running is because they may be trying to do too much too soon and they go out for a three-mile run having never run before, then they feel discouraged and defeated because it's hard. But they don't realize that walking for ten minutes and then jogging—breaking it up—is a better way to start running. No one, never having run before, should go out and run even a mile." You have to build up to it.
That being said, running isn't for everyone—you can't force something you hate. "No one should do it if they really don't enjoy it," Debora said, "Some people never get the runner's high, which I can't relate to because I feel like I get runners' high every time I go for a run from the endorphins, but that may not be your experience." She suggests committing six weeks to trying running, then see where you're at—if you still don't enjoy running but love cardio, you can get many of the same benefits from brisk walks.
My greatest frustration with running comes from feeling out of shape—I used to compete at a varsity level, so I'm constantly comparing that level of fitness fo myself now. Unfortunately, according to Debora, there's no shortcut when it comes to running. She suggested, "I would start building the cardio base back up with some low-impact cardio, like a stair climber or elliptical. Supplement that with slow and steady jogs before you feel ready to run again."
Pain is very different from discomfort, so it's important to differentiate the two. "I've heard people complain that maybe their body just isn't right for running," Debora said,"that they have had too many injuries—which is a very real thing." She suggests having a conversation with a physical therapist if you experience any chronic pain. "Usually these problems are not necessarily caused by running, but from an imbalance, tightness, or weakness that's pre-existing and exacerbated by repetitive use." A physical therapist can sometimes treat this pain by suggesting a stretching and cross-training routine to supplement running.
Even though I live in Los Angeles, where it's almost always 70° F and sunny, I struggle to find the correct gear to be comfortable when running and can never quite land on the correct balance. "This is always an issue in New York, which is why I've embraced the treadmill, but when I want to run outside, I have a high and low temperature that are my maximum and minimum," said Debora. Outside of that, she said, it's all about trial and error to find what works for you—and running in extreme conditions can be beneficial for training. "If you're training for a race in March, Debora said, it's going to be cold—you want to include some outdoor runs!"
Second to discomfort, I can't get over the simple fact that running is boring—both on and off the treadmill. Debora suggests creating playlists for runs and exploring new paths. "Find new running routes, go running when you're in a new city," she said, "and make it social—find a run buddy or group classes." If you aren't in New York, many gyms offer group treadmill classes that can help combat the inevitable treadmill boredom.
And because running isn't all bad... here's why Debora loves running:
I love that it can be done anywhere with just a pair of sneakers, and I love the community as well—the running community is full of positive people, with so many inspiring stories!