I try so hard not to be triggered by things I see online, particularly on social media. I’m a positive person who looks for the good in everyone and in every situation and I generally feel that ranting from behind a keyboard isn’t a useful or productive way to spend my time.
But, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t times when I feel angry and frustrated about things that I read or hear about and last week is an excellent example.
When I hear that someone has been told by a professional that running isn’t the best idea for them because they’re not ‘built like a runner’ it makes me angry but mostly it makes me incredibly sad.
My friend went to see a therapist about her sore neck. She is at the start of her running journey and was already seeing huge improvements in her physical fitness and her anxiety levels. She was told that since she’s not ‘built like a runner’ it might be best if she didn’t continue running. The therapist then went on to say that in an ideal world, nobody would run.
I’ve spent a lot of time researching this and, although there is some evidence that ‘extreme’ levels of running may lead to a higher incidence of osteoarthritis, there have been no good research trials to confirm this link. A study conducted by Dr Grace Hsiao-Wei Lo, Baylor College of Medicine, found that running at any stage of life does not increase the risk of osteoarthritis of the knee – indeed it may even help to prevent it.
This is further supported by a 20-year study conducted by Professor James Fries of Stanford University in California. Fries found that those who ran consistently could expect to have less arthritis than non-runners when they get older. It also showed that runners have a lower risk of osteoarthritis and hip replacements.
I started running three years ago. I had reduced my weight from about 19 stone to around 14.5 stone and a friend asked me if I’d like to join her for a run. According to the NHS I was still obese with a BMI of 30.7. I was inactive and, although the pain in my knees was greatly reduced because of the weight loss, I will still out of breath walking my little girls up the hill to school.
What if someone had told me not to run? That because I was overweight and not ‘gazelle like’ it was a bad idea and I should try swimming instead? If just one person had said that to me it would’ve been enough to make me give up. Running didn’t come naturally for me, I’ve blogged before about those early months and the sheer grit it took to stick at it – a less than encouraging comment would’ve been all I needed to give up.
The truth is, anyone can run. Provided there is no actual medical reason not to, if you want to run, then please please go for it. The only investment you need to make is in a decent pair of trainers, then, start slowly, listen to your body and build up slowly. If your shins hurt then consciously slow down and try running shorter distances more frequently. If your knees hurt some exercises to strengthen your quads will help. These aren’t reasons to give up, I promise you, your body wants to run.
And if you’re just getting started. If at the moment it feels like hard work and you’re wondering if all these idiots chirping away about loving running have lost the plot… keep going. I urge you, please don’t give up.
Some people are fortunate enough to be gifted with natural talent and for them, running might seem effortless and comfortable. For most of us, progress takes lots of work, lots of effort and lots of crap runs.
But one day you’ll be running and you’ll realise it doesn’t feel hard, that you’re not struggling to breathe or put one foot in front of the other – you’ll just be running and it’ll feel wonderful.
Running doesn’t care if you’ve got long legs. It doesn’t care if your thighs touch or your tummy wobbles. It only cares that you keep turning up. That you keep trying and that you don’t give up on it.
You were born to run. We all were.