running man

As long as you have strong knees and healthy joints, running can be very good for you. While admittedly it sends more shock through the body than bike riding, you can get your heart rate up to an invigorating levels a lot quicker than you can with a pedal through the park, or a Hatha yoga class.

While any exercise is better than being a lump on the sofa, running can be somewhat addictive, as evidenced by the common phrase “a runner’s high.” Get those endorphins pumping, and you’ll be running all of the time — as long as your body can take it.

My own relationship with running is a bit of a mixed bag. When I do it I feel better. I have more energy (not that I’m lacking pep in my everyday life) and seem to be just more “awake” as I go about the mundane tasks we all have to do in life in order to get by.

The problem is, I tend to run in bouts. I’ll run two or three times a week religiously for a few months, and then I’ll stop for a few months until I can get my butt into gear and start running again. Once I get going after some time away — and shrug off the aches and pains that come with the first few “starting up again” runs — I’m good to go. The trick is motivating myself to put my running shoes on and actually do it after I’ve been slack for so many weeks in a row.

I suspect I’m not the only person out there with this inner dialogue and debate about the pros and cons of going for a run (or whatever form of exercise you prefer). It’s great for the body and mind, but it does take time away from work, relaxation or anything else you may have planned for your life.

Right now, I’m starting up after some time off. It’s been raining where I live of late, and that has been a great mental excuse not to run. (Because as we all know, rain melts human flesh, right?) Regardless, the first few runs came with some general aches. Stopped for a bit after that, as a deluge really did fall from the sky for about a week (flooding some streets), but as of this writing, I’m planning to get out there again.

I’ll try for three times a week, but knowing myself, I’ll probably only manage two. Yeah, you’re probably thinking I should try for four times a week, and then only manage three. That’s not how it works. Four times a week would still mean I only manage two.

I guess the message here is that most of us — except for hardcore athletes who run marathons and bike hundreds of miles in one go — have this inner dialogue going on about when and how much we should do the exercises that make us feel good.

It’s like a slow train just starting out. It shoves along slowly and painfully for a while until it can barrel down the tracks. The initial push can be a pain in the ass, but once we (the train in this metaphor) get going, grace combined with the thrill of moving fast under our own power makes us never want to stop — at least until something breaks down (curse the ill-designed human knee and spine), forcing us to stop until we’re ready to try all over again.