Running is an inherently simple sport. That's why it's one of the most popular sports in the world. You don't need much else besides a pair of running shoes and a place to run. It is cheap, it is accessible, and it is fun!
But somewhere along the way, we complicated running. We turned it into something that required lots of expensive gear, something that had to be recorded and shared, something that had to be an obsession!
We have to train in optimal conditions or our times will suffer. We have to wear the best gear or people might not take us seriously. We have to record our best times and share them on social media or people might not know that we are amazing runners!
Listen, I don't want you to think I'm being preachy, or judging you. I'm probably more guilty of this than anyone. Not only do I often fall into this line of thinking, but because I write this blog I often encourage other people to take running seriously, to check out certain pieces of gear, or to be my friend on Strava!
I'm not necessarily saying that any one of these things are bad. I think you could probably argue that these things are actually good for runners and growing the sport of running.
I mean, better gear can help us feel more comfortable, run faster, and keep us from getting injured. Social media allows us to be motivated by runners around the world, and obsessing over running helps us become betters runners.
The problem with all of this is that it can become a distraction. When we focus on all of these things it takes away from our focus on running and enjoying the sport for what it is.
I can't even think of all the times when I went running with someone and they spent more time talking about gear than anything else.
Or after the run when they are creating an Instagram post, Facebook post, Twitter post, and Strava post about their run. It just takes away from my experience when it feels like it was all for your online presence.
Another sad thing that I am more guilty of than anybody is taking running a bit too seriously.
Obviously I write a running blog so I need to review gear, research running techniques, and keep track of innovative technology so I can write about it. But I'm not really talking about that.
When I was first training for my races, whether they were 5k's or half marathon's, I would get so wrapped up in perfecting my training it would start to consume my life. I had to fuel properly, I had to follow my plan to a fault, and I felt like I had to neglect everything that wasn't running related.
I still made time for my family and friends, but they felt like a distant second to running. I wouldn't eat pizza or have a beer with my friends because it didn't fall in line with my nutrition plan. Our dinners at home revolved around my nutrition plan even though my wife didn't really enjoy that food. I "spent time" with my kids while I was stretching or foam rolling, instead of giving them my full attention.
And after every race I felt this huge relief. Not because I had accomplished my goals, but because I could finally take a break from my insanely restrictive nutrition and workout plan.
I got caught up in this idea that if I could perform better than my friends or people that I knew, I would feel better about myself. I would be a "better runner" than those people which would make me a better person too.
But as I continued down this road I realized that the opposite was true. As I became a "better runner" I became worse at pretty much everything else. I was a worse husband, father, and friend.
Luckily for me, I was able to recognize the issues this was causing when my wife brought it up a while ago. I was signing up for another race and when I told her about it she wasn't excited like I thought she would be...she was totally bummed and she wasn't hiding it!
She asked me questions like "Are you going to be training like you did last time?" "Are we going to have eat all those boring dinners again?" "Are you going to be tired all the time?" "Are we still going to hang out with our friends?"
After spending some time really thinking about it, I realized that no one was winning here. I wasn't enjoying my training and neither were my friends or family. So why was I doing it...?
Well, like so many of us, I got caught up in the competition. I started obsessing over the numbers and pushing myself to be better than the people around me. Being a fast runner was something I could be proud of, it gave me confidence and a sense of worth.
After talking with other runners I found out that I wasn't alone. Lot's of people get pulled into this world of distracted running. Distracted by competition, social media, gear, achievements, or even health goals like weight loss.
Running can give us this amazing feeling of accomplishment which can be addictive! We share a run on Facebook and immediately get likes and shares and people commenting how amazing we are; it's easy to get hooked!
So here's what I think. If you feel like you're not enjoying running the way that you used to or the way that you think you should, then maybe it's time for a change...
One of the most beneficial things I've done for my running relationship and my mental health has been implementing what I call "fun runs" into my workout schedule.
A fun run is whatever I want it to be. It could be fast, it could be slow, it could be a trail fartlek, it could be a track day. Regardless of what type of workout it is, I don't track the time, pace or distance. I try to rid myself of any and all distractions and just run for fun.
On these fun runs I focus on why I enjoy running. I think about the aspects of running that I like the most, how grateful I am to physically be able to run, and how fortunate I am to have the financial stability I need to give me the time to focus on running (or any hobby really).
The goal of these fun runs is...to have fun! I don't care how far I run or how fast, I just run until I want to stop. When I stop having fun, I stop my run. I don't push for one more mile or for a strong finish, sometimes if I'm tired, I'll just walk home.
These fun runs break up the intensity of my training plans. They help me take a step back to look at the big picture. I'm not a pro, I'm not an elite, I'm not running for money or a chance at the podium...I'm running because I enjoy running and I think the health benefits are important.
I encourage you to really think about incorporating fun runs, or something similar, into your workout plan. You'll still get some mileage and you'll definitely be getting an aerobic run but without all the worries and intensity that come with a more rigid workout.
The main takeaway here is this...running should be fun. So many of us have become distracted with by external factors that we can forget that. You don't need the best shoes, the latest tech, perfect weather, or thousands of fans cheering you on to have fun. You just need to run.
Hey everyone, I have a question for you, what do you get distracted by?
When was the last time you ran without tracking pace, time, or distance?
Have you been having fun on your runs, or do you feel like it's turned into a chore?
Leave a comment below, let's talk!
As always, thanks for reading!