This year has brought with it a lot of change for myself, particularly in the realm of the type of exercise I choose to do. Up until recently my training consisted primarily of weight training, either for strength and/or size. Earlier this year I started CrossFit at which point my training shifted to more of a conditioning focus. Then a few months back I started adding in running as preparation for the Tough Mudder and the St. Jude half marathon later this year. So the question is, as a former powerlifter who used to slander all things running, why would I change my mind and start preparing for a half marathon? Three reasons:
- I needed to lose some weight. This time last year I was 60 lbs heavier. This made me incredibly strong but walking up a flight of stairs required oxygen. I could only handle being that heavy for so long before I decided it was time to do something. Combine that with coming off testosterone and suffering from some knee pain, I knew it was time to put strength to the side and start getting my body back to a healthy level. Running allowed me a chance to burn some extra calories in a more functional way than walking on the stepmill.
- The adventures I want to do require a high level of conditioning. I’ve been itching really bad to go on an elk hunt next year. This is going to require some serious conditioning to be able to hike up and down the rocky mountains and pack out hundreds of lbs worth of meat. I’ve also been eyeing the summit of Mt Baker in Washington. It was recommended as a good starter mountain for mountaineering and the view looks incredible. I’ve also recently picked back up mountain biking so all these outdoor adventures require me to be able to put out a little bit more in the aerobic department.
- My mental toughness needed a major kick in the ass. While a high level of aerobic conditioning isn’t really vital for strength sports, that wasn’t the reason I said it was stupid. I said it was stupid because I was bad at it and it hurt to do it. Some obvious introspection shows that I was really just protecting my ego with this statement. In reality, running probably is something that everyone should do at some level. Human locomotion is a basic requirement for life and while we don’t all need to be able to run 5 min miles or run ultra marathons, the ability to move your body through space will give you a leg up on the competition once the zombies come. I still think running sucks, I think it’s stupid, and it hurts every time I do it but I do it because I don’t want to avoid something just because it causes me physical and/or mental pain. That limits life experience and growth. Instead, I try my best to embrace and push it a little farther each time. The difference between strength sports and running is that strength sports requires a decent amount of pain and suffering over a brief period of time. Running requires a much smaller amount of pain and suffering over a much longer period of time. This is the biggest challenge for me. I was used to psyching myself up for a maximum effort. I knew it would hurt but it’d be over soon. Running is just a constant sucky pain from step 1 until you finish. This has required a different mental approach for me and forced me to recognize how mentally weak I really was (and didn’t want to admit to). So now, running has become a mental challenge against myself to accept being uncomfortable, embrace it, and move forward regardless, one step at a time.