Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Walk or run?

This morning the alarm clock went off way too early. Well, too early after a second insomniac night. But I knew this was my one chance today to run. If I hadn't signed up for a sprint triathlon next week I surely would have went back to bed or found a different activity I could do later in the day. But I like to run alone and not at the track...which means this was my only moment to squeeze in a run so I don't collapse next Saturday. So I hauled my tired, achy booty out of bed, laced up my shoes and headed out the door.

Note to self: if I ever make the goal of getting up early every day, I must first have the goal of going to bed before midnight.

My entire run I listed out all the arguments for running...and for walking. Do I really HAVE to run to be healthy?

Every weekend my facebook feed is filled with pictures of friends finishing 5K's, 10 K's, mudruns, half marathons, marathons, and triathlons. Has it always been like this? Nope. According to the organization "Running USA" (, participation in running events from the 5K on up has increased 80% since 2000. That doesn't mean that 80% of us are running, it means that we have moved from approximately 8.5 million in 2000 to approximately 15.5 million in 2012. Still a small percentage of total population, but it's not just my imagination that more people are running. Women in particular are increasing running participation, especially in the half marathon. All that to say, based on what other people are doing running feels like something I SHOULD be doing. And even when I run, I feel like I SHOULD be running farther (I've already come to terms with the fact that I won't be any faster, so no guilt there).

Second note to self: Running USA keeps track of what half marathon races have the fastest median finish times...and the slowest. If I ever plan on picking a half marathon, I shall pick a slow one.

But is running necessary if my goal is increased overall health? Not necessarily.

The argument for running
  • I can get the same amount of "work" done in less time. I can run for 35 minutes or walk for 55. 
  • There is a sense of accomplishment in doing an activity that growing up I never believed I could actually do.
  • I have met and developed a bond with some really great people through running, even if they are all much faster than me.
  • If I want to run in a road race or mud run with some friends or for a charity, I need to include running in my weekly exercise. As in if I want to run, I need to keep running.
  • The more demand I'm able to put on my cardiovascular system through vigorous exercise, the more benefit to my cardiovascular health (as in I have a hard time consistently keeping my heart rate high enough to count as moderate-vigorous exercise when walking).
  • Post-run I generally feel awesome.
The benefits of walking over running
  • I CAN get similar cardiovascular and energy expenditure benefit, it will just take me more time. But if I also figure that post-run I also have to shower whereas walking mostly does not require de-stinking myself, maybe the time argument is a wash. Hmmm...
  • Almost always I look forward to walking. I can put on my music, listen to a podcast or book, or chat it up with a friend and enjoy the time. Some days running is fun, and some days running...
  • I like to have some social exercise sessions, and I can almost always find a friend to walk with. No matter their pace, most people are willing to go for a walk. Fewer people run, and if they do they are generally much, much faster than me.
  • My need for special clothing decreases with walking. With running I'm always having to worry about the status of my shoes, which undergarments are best for keeping the sisters happy, wicking fabric, visors, workout bottoms that prevent chafing...all that to say a running wardrobe can be high maintenance. Walking just requires a decent pair of shoes. The number of considerations for clothing greatly decreases, and I can generally stay in my everyday clothes.
  • My knees hurt less, which make me active the rest of the day. One of my overall goals is to include more daily activity through walking or biking the kids to school, etc whenever possible. If my body is hurting from exercise I'm much more likely to just grab the car keys.
  • I don't think I look too strange when I walk. When I run...

So running or walking? Either.

Don't let the thought that if you aren't running you aren't healthy keep you from being more active and improving your health. Just move. Grab a friend. Move. And to my running friends, keep blowing up my facebook feed with your active pursuits. I'll be cheering you on, I may just not cross the same finish line.

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