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How Running Changed My Life

Before choosing a sport for the next quarter, I asked several of the other lazy kids for their choices and was surprised to hear that many had chosen winter cross country running.
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Like many children in Navy families, I had attended 13 schools by the time I finished the seventh grade. Because of the frequent moves, I had avoided sports and exercise, did not develop sports skills, became lazy and gained a lot of weight. At this point my father became a teacher, we moved to Atlanta, and my new school required that each boy work out with an athletic team after school every day.

My patchwork of educational experiences had not prepared me for the demanding and competitive academic prep school environment, and I was struggling. The principal's comment on the report card was "A little more of a push next year and Jeff will make the top half of the class." I was already studying more hours every week than most of the students I knew, who were scoring better on tests. I believed that I was intellectually inferior.

During the fall I tried football, which was a total disaster from my perspective -- and especially that of my coaches. Before choosing a sport for the next quarter, I asked several of the other lazy kids for their choices and was surprised to hear that many had chosen winter cross country running. The consensus among the slackers was that the track coach was the most lenient in the school. "Tell him you are running on the trails, and you only have to jog 200 yards to the woods and hide out."

I did just that for two days. On the third day, an older athlete I liked, said "Galloway, you're running with us today." I quickly came up with my strategy: as we entered the woods I planned to grab my hamstring, claiming a muscle pull. But the jokes started right away, and I kept going to hear the punch line. As I began to get really tired, they started telling gossip about the teachers. I didn't last long the first day, but pushed a bit farther with them day after day, and started joining the political and psychological arguments that are often generated within running groups.

Most of these cross country runners were on the academic honor roll. But as I held my own during the controversial arguments, I began to believe that I was just as intelligent as the others. Each academic period, my grades improved and I, too, make the honor roll. More important, I had become a member of the group and set a new standard for myself due to group expectations.

I was most surprised about how good I felt after a run. The after-run attitude boost was better than I had experienced after any activity during my young life. The comradarie and fun during those runs kept me coming back, and after 10 weeks I was hooked on endorphins and friendship. I continue to be...more than 50 years later.

Today, millions are "discovering" the vitality and attitude boost that comes from a simple run. Sadly, many push themselves too hard, become sore or injured and wrongfully assume that they were not designed to run. Anthropological evidence leads in the opposite direction. Our ancient ancestors survived because they covered thousands of miles a year, and genetically destined humans to walk and run.

In this blog I want to explain how running and/or walking doesn't have to hurt.. I've spent more than 40 years developing a set of tools that can manage fatigue, virtually eliminate injury and allow average citizens to become endurance athletes. It is my joy to have heard from hundreds of thousands who have made this journey and have improved the quality of their life.

Until the next episode, enjoy every step!

Olympian Jeff Galloway, is a monthly columnist for Runner's World magazine, and has coached over a million runners and walkers to their goals through his training programs, beach retreats, books and ecoaching. Subscribe to his free e-newsletter or ask Jeff a question at JeffGalloway.com