Why I'll Never Be a Runner and That's Okay

By , SparkPeople Blogger
In this industry, the phrase "new year, new you," tends to lose its pizazz right around September, after my inbox has been flooded for a month with PR pitches claiming their product (we swear!) is the one that's going to turn the common promise into a reality. The same tag has been used on this site, as well as countless other health, fitness and wellness websites, and for good reason—it's promising, catchy, optimistic, all the ingredients you need to inspire daydreams about New Year's resolutions.
However, whereas I used to find it cutesy, charming even, I now find it to be too vague, too idealistic and too problematic in most instances. The brevity and simplicity of the phrase implies that change occurs with the snap of your well-intentioned fingers, completely disregarding the small steps it takes to actually achieve goals. Experts say it every year, but sweeping your hand over your local gym as you vow to "Get fit" is not nearly as effective as setting a specific goal, such as, "I will go to my Barre class every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6 p.m." Furthermore, who says the new year is the only time to reinvent yourself? And does it have to be a completely new you? Can you still hold on to the good bits? The implication is that last-year you kind of sucked, but this upcoming year you will definitely be better.
I prefer to think that last-year you maybe had some flaws, but hopefully you were still kind and thoughtful and warm. Last-year you might have let an exercise plan fall through, but you still worked and the fact that you're thinking about the upcoming year you means that you still have drive. This year, let's resolve to focus on the positive, the ways that we work to improve ourselves incrementally everyday, rather than overhauling, overwhelming and over-exhausting ourselves. New year, improved you; new year, determined you; new year, happier you—now, that's better.

Sweat: Runner's High? More Like Runner's Cry

My loathe-hate relationship with running started around the age of 10, right around the time my fourth-grade softball team started commenting on my short stride, which apparently was incorrect and detrimental to both my speed and stamina, not to mention my pride. The nickname, "S.S. Cappy" didn't stick around for too long, but it has stuck in my head all these years later. I think about it every time I hit two minutes on the treadmill and start feeling winded. I think about it when people talk about their marathon training. I thought about it when some coworkers decided to train together for a half marathon. I thought about it when my boyfriend and I signed up for a mud run with some friends and I worried about them noticing that I'd likely get winded between obstacles, despite being able to conquer the obstacles themselves. I think about it when it's a really nice day outside and I can see the Ohio river from our parking lot and everyone looks so relaxed and happy running across the bridge and maybe, just maybe, I should try to give this running thing a shot again.
Here's the thing, though: I've never struggled with being athletic otherwise. I played a variety of sprint-focused sports growing up (volleyball, softball, various dashes in track) and I've always prided myself on being naturally flexible with strong legs. No matter how fit I was back then and no matter how finely tuned I feel today, though, steady state cardio eludes me. In fact, I've more than once been asked if I was a runner based on my physique, to which I have to smirk and just say, "I wish." Because I do. Or, rather, I did.
For years, I've beat myself up about not being able to run, thinking it must be something I'm not mentally strong enough to do, not physically built to run. Roughly once a year since high school, on days I feel particularly strong, I lace up, hit the pavement with some empowering tunes playing, only to get to the end of my street or to the top of the first hill completely exhausted. I make deals with myself, "You can stop at the end of this song," "You can stop when you get to that tree," before shortening the deal and compromising. "You can stop at the two-minute mark in this song if you do 50 crunches," or "You can stop when you get to the trash bin in between where you are right now and that tree you were initially aiming for if you do an all-out sprint to get to the aforementioned trash bin." And every time I would take a shortcut or make a deal with myself or come home when I'm 16, sweating and sore, only to have my dad note that I was only gone for 12 minutes, I'd kick myself—right after I finally catch my breath, of course.
What's that quote that's probably in a boy band song somewhere? "You always want that which you cannot have." Running has been the Daisy to my Gatsby, always just out of reach no matter how many killer jams accompanied my jog or how great my sneakers might have been. As a result, I started to think it didn't matter that I could finally hold Lord of the Dance pose or that I had upped my sprint speed by four notches on the treadmill. Nope, the fact that I couldn't run a seven-minute mile seemed to be the only thing that mattered.
That was until this year. This year, as anyone who read this blog knows, I got more into high-intensity interval training, which led me to start seeking out cardio activities that fit my personal stamina and body type. Maybe I'm not a great runner because I have shorter legs, maybe it's simply because I never learned proper breathing, maybe it's a mental block, but I was in the middle of a challenging 35-minute interval treadmill workout last month when I realized that none of those worries should permeate every aspect of my training. Chances are there is a distance runner who wishes they could perform overhead presses with heavier weights. I've had friends who run marathons who wouldn't be able to touch their toes if a date with Chris Pratt was on the line.
As it turns out, everyone has his or her thing. Despite participating in muay Thai for more than a year and a half, sparring is still a skill that Coach Jen Mueller says struggles to improve upon. "My instructor has told me that when I spar, all of my technique goes out the window because I totally panic about hitting and getting hit."
For Chris "SparkGuy" Downie, it wasn't until he developed the 10-minute workout program that he finally learned to be consistent in exercise. In college, our digital marketing director Joe Robb says he found it frustrating that, despite rock climbing regularly and building up muscle in the upper body, pullups were near impossible. Reporter Melissa Rudy, a talented runner, still feels like a phony when she steps foot in the weight room. "It's like I'm a little kid playing grown-up or something," she says. "I always feel like people are giggling at me, judging my technique, which is ridiculous, but I can't shake it!"
Ask 10 different people and their strengths will likely be 10 different things. Why, then, do we keep comparing ourselves based on those things that we might never be able to comfortably do? This is all not to say that you shouldn't reach for new benchmarks of success. Just because you can't run three miles today doesn't mean you'll never be able to run three miles. (Trust me, I'll continue trying to build my stamina, slowly but surely.) My point is simply this: Be gentle on yourself as you pursue your goals. Just because you had running four miles every morning at 6 a.m. in mind doesn't mean that's your only option. Explore a variety of training plans until you find something that your truly love and look forward to sweating to often. Cast aside your expectations that might be based on fit friends or family around you. Remember, they're on their own journey, too.
With this new flexible, empowered mindset, you can celebrate the days when you run for five minutes straight at a moderate pace without jumping to the rails, rather than looking at it as a failure because you couldn't complete 10 minutes. In the weight room, focus on the fact that two months ago you couldn't complete 10 bicep curls and now you're doing 12 reps at a higher weight, and ignore the ripped guy next to you who is pumping out reps with 50-pound dumbbells. I might never be a marathon runner, but I can continue to change up my routine, experiment with new paces, challenge my body and push myself to longer sprints.
Healthy living is all about finding what works for you, and I for one am finally ready to start embracing my other strengths rather than feeling sorry for myself that I'm not the girl who runs circles around the competition.
What is a workout or fitness challenge in which you are especially talented? 

Every month The Go Get It Guide is your destination for motivation, musings on random goals and probably pop culture references. It's a space where we'll sort through the PR pitches and news, then share our honest thoughts on what's happening in the health and fitness world, what's on the horizon and just what we think of that video the internet obsessed over last week. Check in each month to Spark, Sweat, Smile, Savor and Shop with us!

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Well written article. I was a runner in the military...not because I WANTED to be a runer. It was forced. I left the military 28 years ago and I haven't 'run' since. Thanks for your perspective. I don't feel so bad now. Report
LOULOU1709 11/19/2019
I’ll never be able to run either. I have asthma & even walking fast I get really winded. Plus the fact, I broke my my neck neck & I have bad tremors in my legs.. My DS looked it up & he said I'll have headaches for the rest of my life. Report
LRBARRIOS 4/10/2019
Last year my father unexpectedly passed away. I'm sure it was because he was out of shape and didn't take care of his body. I saw myself looking more like him. I didn't like what I was seeing and I didn't want to end up like my father. I decided to make a change (again - I've had my SparkPeople account for over 10 years). I recently lost almost 40 pounds (10 to go). I eat much better and I walk every night. Next year I'll be turning the big five zero and wanted to do something to celebrate that milestone. Something I've never done before. Something that will surprise my friends and family. I decided that I'm going to run a half marathon. I really dislike running, so this is going to be quite a challenge. I'm on week 2 of my 5K training (gotta start with baby steps) and I can already see the progress that I'm making. It gets easier with every run and I see my pace improving as well. I actually look forward to my next run (and am bummed out when I have to skip days between runs -- part of the training). I have a friend who runs 100 mile ultra marathons. I'm not interested in that and I'll definitely be happy with 13.1 miles! Report
I don’t run for exercise, but I do lift weights, pedal, row and actually I do run upstairs now that I have the stamina, but not for exercise.... Report
KACEYSW 2/8/2019
While I will never be a runner, I will certainly be a weight lifter! Report
I enjoyed the comments. Thank you, everybody! Report
Me either Report
I ran 5K's for a whole season (in Central Florida), hated every second, counted each block until the end. Kept waiting for the runners high....never reached it. Finally at the end of one race I asked myself why I was doing something I hated. Finding no logical answer, I hung up my shoes. Now please note that I am a gym rat, love going to the gym and working out hard. I could easily live there and now that I am retired I go to classes 5 days a week, work out with a heart monitor and max out my efforts. Even added two 30 minute core classes this year. Still hate running, but do manage to jog in my circuit training classes and don't hate that! I am very happy knowing that I found my niche and that I will never be a runner. Report
CHERRYZMB60 2/2/2019
I can't run either fast paced walk is all I can do happy with that!!! Report
JANIMOEN 2/2/2019
I’m also not a runner. As a kid I could win at sprints but never long distance. I am ok with it! There are many things I can do and I’ll just stick with them. Report
_CYNDY55_ 2/2/2019
Thanks Report
DMEYER4 2/2/2019
thanks Report
DMEYER4 2/2/2019
thanks Report
CECELW 2/2/2019
Run? I get excited to just get my walk in. I have chronic shortness of breath Report
CHRIS3874 2/2/2019
Never been much of a runner -even when I was THIN - due to asthma Report
CECTARR 2/2/2019
Thanks Report
MAWMAWJ2 2/2/2019
Great article! I was never a runner, even back in grade/middle/high school. Literally, I would be that straggler who made my classmates wait to hit the showers. I admit, I secretly envy runners, but not to the point that I under value my own abilities. What I do works for me, and as long as I continue to see progress, I'm happy with that. Report
AZMOMXTWO 2/2/2019
thank you Report
97MONTY 2/2/2019
Thanks Report
YBBHAPPY 2/2/2019
Great viewpoint Report
I can't run because of the impact on my weak lower back, so I power walk. And while I can barely get through a set of push ups on my knees, I can crush a leg workout any day! Report
LEANJEAN6 2/2/2019
I used to do 10K and 5 K ruins--loved it!--=not anymore tho--I do enjoy my walks tho-- Report
PICKIE98 2/2/2019
Running for an extended period, unless you are being chased, is hard on the knees, hips, heart and feet. I choose to walk and get my cardio in a much safer manner. Report
AMYRCMK 2/2/2019
Thank you Report
AQUAGIRL08 2/2/2019
Interesting article. I have many friends who do the Galloway run walk run method. Using that method, they build up their stamina and eventually their running time increases. For myself, I naturally did the run walk run method years ago. Running was fun but got to be boring. I turned to aerobics and deep water exercise instead. Report
NEPTUNE1939 2/2/2019
ty Report
I had an accident in 2011 that left me unable to run but I can walk very well. The leg was broken in 3 areas and I had 4 surgeries.Soooo I am trying to walk as many miles as I can and stay fit with the exercises that I love. Just keep moving and maybe someday it will happen again. Report
BOOKNUT52 2/2/2019
Great article! I, also, do not like running and don't do it. Maybe if the house was on fire I might do it a little bit. But...in my life I have learned to never say "never"! Report
LIS193 2/2/2019
Thank you! Running is hard on my joints, I rather walk Report
JANIEWWJD 2/2/2019
This article is awesome!!! Report
Loved the perspective. My legs are short, I get winded, but can celebrate making it 5 minutes without walking and then 10 and now a full 5K distance. Not fast, but with no walking and knowing I'm lapping the couch potatoes left and right keeps my momentum going. Great article we can all identify with. Each and every one of us can excel at something and any effort is worth applauding. :) Report
I have asthma and on 3 inhales what are changes that I could be a runner Report
Thanks! Not in the least interested in running; too hard on my particular body. Simply being fit it is a better realistic goal for me. Report
I walk not run due to the fact that I have osteoporosis and am high risk for a hip fracture. But, I envy those who so run. Each person is different and should do what they love and makes them happy. Report
I walk not run due to the fact that I have osteoporosis and am high risk for a hip fracture. But, I envy those who so run. Each person is different and should do what they love and makes them happy. Report
I can totally relate to this. I am a keen walker and I actually walk 5 to 6 miles every day but I have never been able to run more than a few hundred metres in a row (and I have long legs!). I have big problems regulating my breathe, so I always ended up panting and exhausted. Recently, I had to give running up altogether before of knee problems (chondropathy) which are probably related to my poor running technique too. So, I'm trying to introduce new and different ways to exercise and this article is a real motivator! Report
Thanks for this article.
I’ve spent close to 51 yrs with feet that turn out, weak ankles, and legs which are likely messed up somewhere in my hips or mutiple places. I’ve tried to run. But at this point it really seems like running is the most unhealthy thing for me to do. I walk a lot. I’m still pretty flexible. I sometimes do intervals of walk run. But I will never be a runner because I was not created to run. I get tired of articles telling me I must do this and that everyone can run. People all say “If I can run, anyone can.” This isn’t always true.
And sometimes the wisest thing is not running. Report
I love to run when it's part of something else, but I loathe running for running's sake. Report
Running is bad for the bones and nervous system. Walking briskly with the right breathing technique will do the same job and be better for the health down the road. Report
Everybody is different, some walk, some run, some spin. There does seem to be a push on sparkpeople to get people to run for some reason, lots of articles that want you to go to the "next" level. I love to walk and hike, but have no interest in running at all, I could never get up the want to start running, but that does not mean I don't get exercise. Sure you will find a way to do almost anything if you are really motivated to do it, but running is not something everyone wants to do. The idea is to get healthy not for everyone to do the exactly same exercise, find something you enjoy and you will stick with it. Report
Running is not the be-all and end-all. I don't run and I don't do windows. I tried running and could never get the right stride. So I ditched running and started walking. Now I can only walk for short distances because of back problems. Report
I have nothing but respect for runners, they run because they love it...they found their thing. Talk about amazing heart thumping cardio. Perhaps it is simply because running has been viewed as the ultimate, that others are jumping on the "running isn't really nirvana" bandwagon. If running is not your thing, find what is. So many amazing options to choose from...your heart will thank you.

So sad to read the last comment. Running makes me happy and strong. So many runners feel the same way. This article could pertain to any activity. Some people enjoy them and others do not. There is no reason to put down any group just because you are not or do not want to be part of it. Report
We have always noticed the look on many faces of runners, they look as if they are hurting or someone is behind them, whipping them, and they look awful in the face. That does not make us ever want to do that kind of thing, when there are plenty of other choices for exercise. Report
Thank you. Report
Thank you for a great article! Report
One of the best articles I have read in my 9 years on SP!!! THANKS! Report
This article could be rewritten to address any form of cardio besides running. You don’t have to spin, Zumba, play tennis, do step aerobics, kayak or speed walk. Find what works for you and do that. You can be injured in any form of activity done without proper form, preparation and just common sense. Don’t’ try to do too much, too fast, too soon. You can even get hurt being over ambitious in yoga.
Research reports that runners have fewer knee problems than non-runners regardless of common misconceptions. If you don’t like an activity, try something else. There is something out there for everyone.
Good article. I never actually had an envy of the faster runners myself. I have always been satisfied with just finishing it. I still enjoy running with this same mindset. Prior to last Christmas I was jogging and a construction worker pulled up beside me in his truck while I was jogging and asked,"are you running?". I just answered "yes" and jogged on while his co-worker chided him about the last time he ran. Enjoy the run no matter how fast the pace. Report
While there ARE lots of other ways to exercise, with each one, you have to WANT it bad enough (barring real physical limitations). I'm a really good example of that. 9 years ago, my doc told me I needed to get physical or get dead. I chose the "get physical" and decided to start running. I couldn't jog even 100 meters on the treadmill, let alone run anything. I had shin splints almost constantly for a year. I hurt all the time. In that first year, I almost gave up, about 365 times. But, I persevered. I couldn't run far or fast, so I ran slow, then walked. Then ran some more. Now, I run 5 days a week, usually between 25-30 miles per week. I race 5kms regularly and my recent PR is 23:15. Not bad for a 55 y.o. geezer. But can I spin? No! It wears me out in 5 minutes. Why? Because I haven't trained, and I don't WANT it bad enough. I did a lot of spinning and riding 4-5 years ago, but I'm just out of practice now, because it isn't my fav. Could I do it? Sure! If I want it bad enough. Can you run? Sure you can! But only if YOU want it bad enough. Same with any sport. Do you WANT it bad enough? Are you WILLING to do what it takes? Are you WILLING to start slow and build up? Or so you expect to run a 5k on your first day (not happening for most people!). So really, Alicia, maybe you should focus on HOW you were able to achieve what you have achieved, instead of telling folks it's ok to not be a runner or a spinner or whatever, just because they had a hard slog trying to start. With any fitness goal, the first few months or even year, like in my running experience, it's going to be a hard slog, especially if you are way into the obesity range. But you have to persevere if you want success, in anything. Report