May 7, 2021 | SPORTS | By Zeke Lloyd | Photo by Anil Jergens
Running is one of the more infamous outdoor activities in American society. It can appear tedious and uninteresting. It takes a relatively long amount of time to travel a short distance, making it an impractical (and sweaty) option for commuting, not to mention how painful it can be.
While it might be useful for evading dangerous situations that an individual might encounter while on foot, such as wild animals in the mountains, serial killers in dark alleyways, or undead in the apocalypse, it is otherwise a pragmatically useless habit.
When asked if running made her happy, though, Georgia Van Der Linden ’24 did not hesitate. A member of the track team, Van Der Linden is a long-time runner and major advocate for physical exercise.
“I think everyone should run, I think it’s a great experience,” Van Der Linden said.
She does not find running uninteresting or tedious. Instead, Van Der Linden finds value in the time she dedicates to it.
“I do use runs as a psychological digest,” she said. “It allows me to clear my head and I’m happy because I’m not concerned about the things that are happening [to me] and in my personal life.”
Van Der Linden’s sentiment is common among other runners.
“Both running and biking allow for your mind to wander in a way it doesn’t usually in your day-to-day activities,” said Ian Johnson ’24, a consistent biker and regular jogger. “Sometimes I’ll be stuck with a personal problem or an academic problem and I’ll come to a solution through running or biking.”
The question of the day, though, is about the physical price paid for this meditative experience. It has been said by many advocates of exercise (picture well-toned gym-enthusiasts in muscle shirts) that “the pain is temporary.”
This phrase is most commonly employed during the height of a workout’s agony, and so it has understandably garnered somewhat of a negative connotation. Even so, there is a kinesiological justification to this expression.
“Scientifically, after a certain amount of time running, your body releases enough endorphins to mask up what would be a probably excruciating amount of pain,” Van Der Linden said. “But those natural endorphins contribute to a general feeling of happiness which I take great pleasure in.”
While the pain might ultimately fade, that is not to say running is not a taxing ordeal. Getting into the habit of regular jogs can be difficult. Johnson pointed out that it takes two to three weeks for the body to adjust to the habit, so it is important not to give it up prematurely.
It can be helpful to ensure that you are motivated to continually run for a set period of time before considering whether to continue the habit. Do not let the pain of the first three jogs prevent you from taking a fourth. That would be like taking a thousand licks of a tootsie pop only to abandon the now-exposed chocolate within. Consistency is important in reaping the rewards of your hard work.
There is also a psychological barrier that must be overcome on the path to regular exercise.
“A lot of the time when people start out running, they time themselves and focus a lot on the results,” Johnson said. “I don’t run with a running watch that tracks my pace [anymore], because what I have found is that I will base the quality of my run on the pace that I ran.”
Instead, Johnson values his jogs on how they make him feel. It might be helpful to find a friend to run with to ensure that the practice is associated with enjoyable camaraderie. Or, for the introverts of the world, this might entail ensuring no one is going to bother you on your run so it becomes connotated with rejuvenation.
Even with a sense personal affection for running, the world of runners and athletes can seem daunting.
“It’s easy to be able to say I’m not as good as so and so or doing as well as I should be and use that mentality to give up,” Van Der Linden said.
But why compare yourself to others? Of all the tasks you perform daily, in how many would you rank among the best in the world?
Although, using this metric, engaging in regular runs would actually place an individual very highly if they were ranked against others according to speed. According to Statistica, 60 million Americans engage in regular runs; the habit of running alone is something that only a little over a quarter of Americans engage in. Why not be one of them?
It is easy to join the movement, too. Unlike other forms of exercise, running has no required equipment.
“It is convenient because all you need to run is yourself,” Van Der Linden said. “So I think I have been able to find really creative ways to start running and get outside.”
A person does not even really need shoes. Yes, footwear can be useful for those who want to run on sun-cooked blacktops or unforgivingly unpaved gravel paths, but these are not the most interesting places to exercise. We live in Colorado; use shoes on a mountainous jog or a riverside run.
In Colorado, the pandemic seems to be coming to an end. With vaccines rolling out and society beginning to reopen, the time to perfect useless hobbies is over. We can go to the store now; we don’t need more people who can make dry homemade breads.
The summer of 2021 is the time for healthy, long-term habits. Try a jog. Start with a mile, or start with less. It doesn’t matter. Just start running.