I like to run. I've learned that it really isn't about where you're going, it's about the getting there - the how, the why, the who with. This blog is just a little repository for my thoughts along the way; the setbacks, the lessons learned, and the occasional triumph.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hey, Coach!

Do your non-running (or barely running) friends ask you for running advice? Mine do. Not all the time, but it does come up with somebody every 2 or 3 months. Lately, the gist of the questions have all gone something like this: “Can you take me out some time soon and show me how to run?”

If these people weren’t my friends, I’m afraid I’d laugh at that question. Laugh in their faces. Because it’s kind of silly. Everyone knows how to run. It’s something that humans just do, right? Now, racing, that requires a little teaching. Likewise, pacing is a thing to be learned. But just running?

These people are my friends, so I look a little deeper and realize what they’re looking for is a little more complex, they just don’t have the words. So I get simple questions like, “Can you show me how to run?”

Maybe it’s a regretful side effect of the large, capitalistic industry that surrounds our little hobby. Shoe companies that proclaim you need their shoe to run faster. Drink companies that each purport to be the missing link to your personal best. Magazines that attempt to position themselves as the best monthly source for all the knowledge you need to complete your daily run. All trying to sell something to us consumers by convincing us they have something we are otherwise missing. No wonder all my friends, lacking all of that “crucial” information, feel like they’re on the outside of a club. Like I must have some basic knowledge that they don’t. (Heck, I understand the feeling completely, because it’s the exact same one I have about Golf.)

So far, everyone who engages me with these questions is aiming at the same basic goal: they just want to get a little exercise and feel like they’re in better shape. So, I always tell them they just need to know three things.

1.) It is worth it to buy a decent pair of running shoes – but they don’t need to go to their running store and pay a lot of money. Going to DSW (or some other discount shoe store) and buying any pair of name brand athletic shoes intended for running will serve the goal of basic fitness.

2.) For all intents and purposes, you burn just as many calories running a mile as you do walking a mile. So, it doesn’t matter at all how fast you go.

3.) To improve your fitness, you only need to complete at least 20 minutes of sustained aerobic activity, three or four times a week. What is aerobic activity? Just about anything that makes you breathe harder while you’re doing it.

More than anything, though, I think they really just need to have the whole endeavour demystified a little bit. So, I listen, and I never laugh, and I patiently answer whatever question they’ve saved up to ask. I decided a long time ago that I would never try to convert anyone, but once they’ve found a little spark on their own, I’m more than happy to help fan the flames.

The real truth is, it’s not their questions that are silly, it’s the fact that they think I know so much. If only they understood how much I don’t know. So help me out. Tell me what kind of advice you get asked for, and – please – tell me how you answer them!


Paige said...

I get such a kick out of people asking me to help them get started running. I also know that the average person begins with curiosity, makes one solid attempt at something akin to 'running' and once they realize it's work, they give up. So, I rarely invest any time or thought in that initial process. Everyone has to discover it on their own, and like you said, once they've found that spark I would love to jump in and turn it into a full on bonfire! But, running is unique in that you really, really have to want to do it in order to enjoy it. It takes time to find your peace in it and most people are too impatient these days to put in the time to find that. What ever happened to patience and delayed gratification? Great post, G :)

David Ray said...

I'm with Paige. I tell folks that they have to *like* running to do it. If they don't like it, find something else to do. I encourage them to do anything that gets them moving.