Running is one of the fitness industry’s most loved workouts. But it’s time Strong Women writer Chloe Gray admitted she hates it.
Picture me throwing my head back to the sky and opening my arms wide as I scream this sentence to the world: I hate running.
Maybe that admission doesn’t sound shocking to you. But as someone who loves exercise so much that I made writing about it my job, people are very surprised when I tell them that running is not part of my routine. By virtue of working in fitness, people always assume I’m into it, inviting me to run clubs (no, thank you) or asking me if I spent lockdown improving my 10k time (absolutely not).
Ask me about almost any other form of movement and I’ll burst with excitement about the fact that someone wants my advice or analysis. I’ll get up with the sun to go and lift weights, or pay through my teeth for one-on-one handstand coaching and I’ll convince my housemate to do yoga on a hungover Sunday. But ask me about running and I will, most likely, rant.
I’ve tried and tried to come up with a myriad of excuses to explain why I don’t like to run, all of which I know can be shot down by logic. “I’m too short,” I’ve wailed before, blaming my small stride length for making running harder than necessary. “I have a smaller-than-usual lung from scoliosis and it’s hard to breathe!” I’ve explained to others, when I know marathon record breaker Paula Radcliff suffers from asthma. “I’m just bad at it,” I conclude, knowing that the only way to get better is to stick with it.
Really, I hate how much people tell me I will learn to love it, or convince me that running will be the best thing I do for my body. The idea that I have to stick with the pain until I enjoy it just doesn’t sit right with me. It’s why I don’t watch Schitt’s Creek – I’m not sitting through two seasons of rubbish until I start to actually enjoy the episodes, and I’m not spending six months of my life training in a way I hate just to eventually, maybe, break through the running wall.
I know that many people think that discipline is what makes them more resilient and gives them the ‘runners’ high’ you never stop hearing about. Yet, I’ve built mental strength through my gym training without a single second of running. I don’t always like my workouts: lifting weights challenges my body and my mind by putting me in a state of discomfort, and there have been times when I’ve wanted to throw plates around the gym and scream. But I have never hated it, and I don’t think that you should ever hate the way you chose to move your body.
I also don’t enjoy how running is often deemed the easiest forms of movement. There are many people who can’t run, and many others who find the sport far too high impact and high intensity (myself included). If you have joints and a nervous system that thrive on that, I say go forth and run. But my knees and stress levels will constantly lag behind you, and I’m done with feeling embarrassed about it.
While the science would suggest walking can be just as effective as running for your physical and mental health, it doesn’t have the same reputation. Why? While many people genuinely love running, perhaps a lot of talk about its superiority comes from the fact that it leaves you red and sweaty and burns a lot of calories?
My only saving grace is running with a friend, Anna. She is a half marathon extraordinaire, which I’m totally in awe of. On occasion, she’s slowed her pace and metaphorically held my hand as we looped through central London after work. Maybe it was because she usually ends the run at a pub, me a cartoon rabbit chasing a carrot (gin and tonic). Perhaps I don’t hate it because she adopts my pace without patronising me about it. Something about her makes it a little more bearable – but even then, I tap out at half an hour at the most, my brain and body not ready to take anymore.
If you love running, I applaud you. But for those who don’t, remember that not enjoying one form of movement, no matter how popular, doesn’t make you a failure and doesn’t mean that you should write all types of exercise off. Rest assured that you won’t find me pounding the pavements anytime soon, but you’ll find me in the weights room if you need me.
Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).