Running Amuck: The Three Most Common Pitfalls of the Newbie Jogger

Remember: When it comes to pounding pavement, less is usually more.

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Remember: When it comes to pounding pavement, less is usually more.

Running Amuck: The Three Most Common Pitfalls of the Newbie Jogger

Running Snafus and How to Avoid Them

Remember: When it comes to pounding pavement, less is usually more.

By Ben Zhang, Duke University


When it comes to working out, perhaps no exercise elicits more groans than running.

In fact, just the thought of running often makes the most devout fitness buffs quake in their boots. This isn’t because they have qualms about the benefits of running—those, after all, are fairly welldocumented. No, it is because many people have a love-hate relationship with the sport; they know that it is good for them, yet they are still reluctant to participate.

So, seeing people taking time out of their day to go for a run and then talking about their experiences on social media should make one glad, right? Surely it would be silly to criticize these people?

Well, as usual, the situation is more complicated than one may think. Sure, there are almost always benefits to going for a run. There are, however, better ways to go about it than others.

1. Avoid the Indoors

For starters, many people struggle with the concept of running outside. They tend to stick to jogging inside their local gym or running on the infamous treadmill. People will give many reasons as to why they avoid the great outdoors: it is too hot, too cold, too inconvenient—the list goes on and on.

Running Amuck: The Three Most Common Pitfalls of the Newbie Jogger
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The most likely explanation, however, is that people are simply self-conscious. They have little faith in their running form or ability, and don’t want to be judged by passers-by. Of course, there is almost no reason to be afraid.

Most drivers or people on the street don’t care about random joggers they have never met (actually, it is even a little egotistical to think that they will), and even if they do judge, so what? At the end of the day, the runner, no matter the skill level, is still running, and the watcher is merely watching.

2. Dump the Treadmill

Regardless of the exact reasons, however, the fact remains that treadmills remain popular among many aspiring runners. The drawbacks of the machine, however, are not often discussed.

Treadmills provide little variation and fail to adequately represent real terrain. People have known for a long time that the Earth is not flat, but treadmills don’t do much to dispel that notion. Without changes in elevation or obstacles of any sort, one will get less of a challenge and, by extension, less of a workout.

Treadmill enthusiasts will claim that one can adjust the settings on the machine to more accurately represent outdoor situations, but why settle for a pale imitation when the real thing is just a few feet away? Sure, treadmills can help with things such as pacing, but they don’t provide anything that can’t also be found outside.

In the end, other than self-doubt, there is no real reason to stay cooped-up indoors. Overcome self-doubt and go for a run somewhere other than the gym. Perhaps it may take a while to adjust, but after that, you will likely be few regrets. Plus, getting more fresh air is always a plus.

3. Marathon Misuse

Nowadays, it is fairly common to log on to Facebook or similar sites and see posts about people running in or training for half-marathons and marathons. Again, the urge might be there to immediately throw one’s unwavering support behind said people. However, the message is the same—proceed with caution.

To begin with, the distance of marathon (and, by extension, the half-marathon) is extremely arbitrary. It began as a convenience for the British royal family at an Olympics over a century ago, and has since taken on an almost mystical quality. There is nothing special about 26 miles and 385 yards, yet it is a standard revered the world over.

In many people’s minds, the marathon has become synonymous with a very long distance, so they automatically assume that completing one must be a big accomplishment. And make no mistake, finishing a marathon, no matter how slowly, is a big deal. However, it is not all that it is cracked up to be.

It would be easy to bring up the potential problems with injuries and fatigue that can arise from running a marathon, but it is more useful to examine the problematic mindsets that often result.

A lot of people train for half-marathons and marathons merely for the sake of running a half-marathon or marathon. They spend weeks upon weeks getting ready and notifying as many people as they possibly can of what they will soon be doing. Finally, the big day arrives, and our heroes go out and finish the race to the roar of their six friends who showed up to cheer them to the finish line. And then…the rest is silence.

People go back to their lives and abandon running, never again taking the sport as seriously as they used to.

Of course, not every case ends up like this one. The issue is that many people who take up marathon-running only for the sake of checking something off their bucket list. One might wonder: Why is this a problem? Does it even matter if they don’t care as much about running once they have accomplished their goals? In short, the answer is yes.

As long as people continue to trumpet the marathon as the Holy Grail of running, it will continue to be promoted as such. As a result, many people who likely never would have been interested in running marathons will be pressured into doing so. Unfortunately, since marathon running is not for everyone, a lot of them will wear themselves out or get frustrated and quit the sport altogether. In addition, as long as people worship how far people run, instead of how well they run, we will continue to get not-so-subtle bragging on social media, and let’s face it, do we need more of that?

Running doesn’t have to be a chore. It can even be fun, if one is willing to put forth the effort. But we cannot be afraid to push others who are slipping toward unhealthy running practices. Gently nudge others to go run outside; talk about the benefits of dumping the treadmill or mention that experienced/competitive runners generally avoid the indoors (except maybe when it is raining).

Ask others who talk about running marathons what their times are; if they don’t know or are unwilling to tell you, then that could very well indicate that their priorities are misplaced. In the end, everyone who runs must have a certain amount of passion, and that passion should motivate them whether they’re finishing marathons or 10Ks. And, if such a passion could be instilled in everyone, well, then maybe going for a run wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all.

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