Running is often demonised or looked down upon by fitness professionals. Weight training, they say, is a far better way to change your body composition (a technical way of saying “less fat, more muscle”), not to mention that running increases risk of joint injuries in ankles, knees and hips. In general, that statement is true, but as all things in life, it’s never that simple. First, weight training is also not a risk-free enterprise when it comes to potential injuries. Second, weight training involves what for most people is a massive disadvantage – the gym. Running isn’t just technically different, but philosophically different. The same way a motorcycle is philosophically different from a car, the latter being most people’s vehicle of choice. Let’s explore what running offers that gym doesn’t, to see if it is for you.
Let’s say you’re looking to introduce fitness into your life, hoping to make it a long-term habit. The obvious move is to get a gym membership. On your first day you enter the hall of steel and sweat to find a plethora of contraptions that help you isolate muscles that you weren’t aware existed, various form factors of heavy things, and benches that bend in ways you certainly don’t. You’re faced with the obvious realization that you have no idea where to begin. That’s why so many people quit so quickly. That’s where running wins by a mile (excuse the pun). Running, while requires technique, is essentially very simple. In a world that is becoming increasingly complex, the last thing you need is another complicated enterprise to give you stress. You don’t need a sheet of carefully calibrated instructions every week. Just show up and run.
Ok, so you’ve realised the above problems and have decided to outsource complexity to a personal trainer. That’s a logical decision, but it now comes with the problem of finding a competent personal trainer, which is notoriously difficult in this scarcely-regulated industry. And if you do find one, it is likely that a toned torso will cost you an arm and a leg. Compare this to running, where all you need is a pair of good running shoes, clothes that don’t constrict movement and a FREE public space. You can hire someone to run behind you shouting profanity as a means to keep you going, but I doubt you’ll find that kind of service absolutely essential.
Long-term fitness goals depend on more than a membership pre-paid a year ahead. Practice shows that doesn’t work. Exercise as a whole doesn’t have a universal formula that fits all, all of the time. And it’s not even about finding something “perfect for you” because the number of factors that needs to be considered is incalculable and always changing. Exercise is about finding something that’s good enough that you can consistently do on a daily basis. The simpler it is to do an exercise, the more likely you’ll be consistent. Most times, weight training requires traveling to the gym, interacting with other gym-goes, even minimally, and sometimes while practically naked. Running, on the other hand, can begin the moment you step outside. So why not start achieving your fitness goals with a leisurely jog? Who knows, you might get addicted to it. Many are.