Why You Hate Running
When staring into a cage watching a hamster run at full speed on his wheel, what do you think? I remember finding this concept hilarious as a child. I would think, “How does he not notice that he is going no where!?” Realistically it is probably great exercise for the caged animal. Although humans are rarely “caged,” yet many find themselves only running at the gym on a treadmill like a hamster on his/her wheel. For those who fit this category, they often do not associate running with anything positive. I believe running has much more to offer than the experience the treadmill gives.
What was the reason you started running? For many people it starts with disappointment while looking in the mirror. Running for physical health is the most common starting point and a great reason at that. Active’s article “Why Run” states, “running is among the best aerobic exercises for physical conditioning of your heart and lungs. Studies have shown the health benefits to be enormous, reducing the likelihood of everything from the common cold to cancer. You’ll lose weight; most beginners lose nearly a pound a week.” (Active) While the treadmill will help to achieve the physical goal, it leaves people with a negative stigma of running because it does not offer much more from there. The cases that support treadmill are very rare and do not apply to most runners. Running outdoors mentally stimulates the runner through experiencing the world. Running also helps mentally through adding motivation by having tangible goals that can be seen and conquered.
Many start running for physical gain, but find metaphysical benefits after frequent runs outdoors. The reason for this is because of the old adage that “running is 90% mental, and the rest is physical.” (Mind over Matter) The treadmill confines you to one space, in one room. Often the only “mental” aspect is to resist looking down at the blinking lights every 20 seconds just to be discouraged by the distance you haven’t gained. Instead “[Running is] frequently an opportunity to spend a little time with yourself and your thoughts, a chance to develop an increased self-awareness. As you become more aware of the nuances and conditions of your own body, you also discover things about your inner self…Running is a great cure for stress, emotional strain, even mild depression.” (Active) Without being outside and digesting the little things like: new terrain, what is going on in your surroundings, the wind blowing, the hill gradient, you lack the benefits of some of the crucial elements that lead beyond physical. For so many it is the mentally stimulating aspects of running that brings them back. “[The visuals have] always been my trick to running.” States Mike Saes, who created and popularized Urban Running Crews around the globe. (Strava) Mike explains, “It became, ‘let’s run where nobody else does and see things that nobody will.” (Strava) To these groups of likeminded people popping up all over the world, their motivator is the narrative created when taking-in/experiencing the world running from point A to point B. Treadmills make it hard to have any kind of unique experience.
Again, running is mental. Not only is running mentally stimulating, but also mentally motivating. Take it from the 1980 Boston Marathon Champion Jacqueline Gareau, “The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy… It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed.” (Mind over Matter) When I am staring up a hill, I can see the top. To me the top of the hill is my goal. Visible goals act as motivators while out on a run. When on a treadmill there is a setting on newer models that simulate running outside by changing the elevation as you run. Yet when I am on a treadmill and it has me running a steep incline I do not know when it will be over. The “hill” feature lacks the satisfaction of going out and conquering a goal. Another amazing motivator is being miles away from your home. You know the best way back is to keep pushing on. On a treadmill all it takes one step to give up, which is the opposite of motivator, an excuse. Head outside; when it gets tough consider calling that Uber, then push ahead because you are better than that.
There are a few cases where the treadmill may benefit someone more than the outdoors. The most obvious would be the necessity during extreme weather. As I experienced while living in New York, it was difficult in winter to get the mental perks when all that was going through my head is, “cold, cold, COLD!” With that said I encourage running in varying weather. Some of my favorite runs to this day have been in the pouring rain. It is such an uncommon situation to be out in the varying weather that the experience stands out more to our brains. It is hard to word the reasoning behind this, but I enjoyed the simplistic reasoning given by the “adventure-inspired” blog- “when the skies opened up for our 10k, I found myself shaking my head and smiling.” (Adventure-inspired) The rain and outdoors produced a smile that the treadmill would not have.
The other possible benefit of the treadmill is food and water intake training for long runs. “It’s crucial that you practice taking in fluids and carbohydrates on your runs to teach yourself how to eat and drink without stopping.” (runnersconnect) This case is incredibly specific and does not apply to the runners that already do not enjoy it. The article even goes on to say that the treadmill just helps logistically for this kind of training, and does not make the act of eating and running any easier. (runnersconnect)
To have more reason behind running, all it takes is getting off the hamster wheel and out of the cage to enjoy all the world has to offer. If you plan to run, why not gain the additional mental benefits from the outdoors as well. Instead of just running, choose to experience, you may even find yourself smiling.