Welcome to Workout Advice For Lazy Girls, where Refinery29's deputy editor of Health & Wellness (who also just so happens to be an ACE-certified personal trainer but is, we swear, not even a little bit athletic) fixes your biggest, laziest exercise conundrums. Got a Q? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
So many people say that running is the best way to get in shape. But I just don't like it! Should I force myself to do it anyway?
OMG, no. No, you should not. For a number of reasons, but I'll start by saying this: I am a personal trainer and I effing hate running.
Some of my most scarring childhood memories center around running -- in gym class, because of course. I'll never forget consistently being one of the last three kids to cross the finish line during the mile run, huffing and puffing and feeling like I was going to die. It was utterly humiliating. And instead of feeling motivated to improve, I decided to wear my terrible fitness level like a badge -- no, I wasn't a wimpy kid, I was a willfully rebellious kid who did whatever I could do to get out of mandated exercise. Mostly hiding out in the nurse's office. Because that was...cool. Sure.
(Side note: At some point in middle-school P.E. we were taught to play "mat ball," which I believe was kind of like kickball except with giant gymnastics mats instead of bases. As long as you were on a mat, you were safe, and you could have as many players on a mat at once as would fit. So obvi I just kicked that ball, jogged to the first-base mat, and sat down. Best game ever.)
I tried my hand at jogging on the treadmill a few times in college, but it was so uncomfortable that I'd literally end up with stomach pain. I know now that I was probably timing my eating and my workouts all wrong, but the discomfort was too much for me at the time, and I stopped.
After college, I got a bit more into fitness, doing three or four weight-based workouts per week, but cardio of any kind really wasn't part of my routine. Then I met the guy who would become my husband -- an enthusiastic runner -- and thought I'd give it another shot. You know, sharing each other's interests and all that crap. (Old-married-person side note: You do not have to have shared interests, other than maybe cats and making fun of The Bachelorette while drinking whiskey, to have a great relationship.) But knowing that I could barely run down the block, much less do whatever normal people mean when they say "go for a run," I had to start from scratch.
So I did Couch-to-5K, and it worked! Totally worked. I started off walking and gradually added little bits of jogging until, after maybe six weeks, I could run five kilometers without stopping to take a break or die. I even ran an actual 5K! (The Color Run, which is barely a race but was very enjoyable, and that's saying a lot coming from an avowed skeptic of mandated fun and twee-ness and mild cultural appropriation.)
But the thing was, I was jazzed about having accomplished something I thought was impossible, (and getting showered in colorful powder), but I wasn't really jazzed about running. It was still really boring, and if I didn't stretch a ton and keep up my weight workouts in between runs, I ended up with bad back pain from all the impact. I'd still do it every once in a while, but mostly as a way to enjoy being outside rather than a great workout I was pumped to do.
And then I got these sick new shoes. As a fitness editor, I often get sent gear to test out, and an activewear company that shall remain nameless sent me some insanely cute minimalist running shoes (no, not the individual toe kind, ew). A sunny spring day rolled around, and I strapped those suckers on and went for a five-mile jog through Prospect Park. When I got home, I took off the shoes, and something immediately felt...off. I had a sharp pain in the side of my foot that didn't feel like shin splints or normal stiffness. And within just a few hours, I could barely put weight on that foot.
It was awful. I'll spare you all the details, but basically I gave myself a condition called peroneal tendonitis (or possibly peroneal tendinosis -- I'm not sure which one, because I didn't see a doctor, just asked Dr. Internet and texted a couple of running-coach friends), which happened because I was incredibly stupid and did not pay attention to the very important instructions that come along with "barefoot"-style shoes, telling you that under no circumstances should you just jump into using them. You have to ease your way in, running like a tenth of a mile at a time at first. Otherwise, the repetitive motion with little to no cushioning can cause major damage and/or inflammation in your not-ready-yet legs and feet. Totally my bad.
As a result, I now can't really run at all -- even if I run 400 meters as part of a CrossFit workout, the tendonitis will flare up and I'll have to hobble around in a walking boot for a week. But TBH, I do not really care. At all. I know this is bad, but I still haven't seen a doctor about it, because this issue does not impact any part of my life that is important to me. Maybe I should be worried that I won't be able to escape an attacker or something, but other than that, I couldn't care less.
Because, seriously, I just hate running. And there are certain things I hate that I can still get behind -- I hate snatches, but I still spent five hours a week for five months last year training in Olympic weight-lifting, because I was determined to master them (I did not, but I met a lot of great people and got super ripped). I hate the Hundred in Pilates, but I do it anyway because it helps me have a freakishly strong core. But running? I just hate it. Period.
That's not to say cardio isn't important, and I do squeeze it in, but in other ways that make it more palatable: Sometimes it's a circuit workout that involves short bursts of burpees or mountain climbers; more frequently, it's my standard Sunday routine of watching two episodes of Friends while doing the elliptical.
And let's get one thing straight: I'm not here to tell you that running is across-the-board bad for you. Some people love it, and that is amazing! In fact, one of my favorite things to do every year is to stand on my street corner and cheer for the runners doing the New York City Marathon. Those people are insane, and so inspirational. And running can be super-healthy; it can be great for your bones, it reduces stress, and it may even increase your life expectancy. That said, it's also pretty common for runners, especially new ones, to injure themselves, so that's a downside. (Phew, it's not just me.)
Injuries aside, there's also definitely a school of thought out there that believes you should do more fitness things that you hate, since you probably hate them because they reveal some kind of weakness or imbalance that needs to be addressed. And I get that, and the idea that -- kind of like running my 5K -- accomplishing something difficult can be very motivating. But look: If you've given something a fair shot, and you hate it? Try something else. There's a whole world of movement out there, and the important thing is that you're enjoying it, and that you keep coming back.
By: Anna Maltby