Sunday, March 14, 2010

Running for Sport or Lifestyle

Okay, I guess it's time for me to fess up. Sorry for the lack of blog updates recently. Between difficult patients, people problems, and a torrential rainstorm that literally ruined my weekend, it has just been a rough week for me to say the least. Deadlines and other obligations kind of snug up on me and it was all I could do just to manage to stay afloat. I wish someone would grant me the superpower to freeze time or at the very least add a couple more hours to the day so I can attend to all the work and responsibilities that requires my attention in a given day. I want to be the Japanese character in Heroes who can manipulate the time space continuum with his mind, or Clark Kent who can use superman powers to work ten times faster than anyone else. Heck, I'll even settle for the super intelligent but super annoying House who always manages to break the first law of the Hippocratic Oath to do no wrong but somehow always finds out the right answer. I secretly admire and envy all these people.

But unlike any of these TV characters who have physical and/or mental attributes that far surpass my own, I am a runner. And as a runner, I can usually deal with work problems and deal with social stresses by finding purpose in my runs. Lately though this has not been the case. During this past week, I've been feeling very unmotivated and uninspired to train hard for my goal marathon. I don't know why. Don't get me wrong, I'm still running like a headless chicken through the streets and parks of Queens, frightening the neighbors who never ceases to stop and stare in amazement. In fact this week, I posted 57 miles, my highest mileage since the dog days of last summer. I completed a tempo 7 miler, a hill workout, a twenty miler, and a twelve miler in the rain at a ridiculous 7:03 min/mi pace. The trouble though is that it's becoming more of a hassle to run so fast and long, and I'm not even sure I see the point anymore. Is the point really to run a sub-3 and not run marathons anymore? Or is it a personal validation of my status as a good runner and nothing more? Does it really matter what I run in the marathon anyway, or is it more about an expression of my selfish pride? If the only person I'm inspiring is me, myself, and I, then I'm not sure I can justify all this effort I'm putting forth. I rather run fewer miles, have less lofty goals, and attend to all the other responsibilities that I'm neglecting because I'm out there training so much.

After all, what is the point of always thinking about running when I'm dealing with patients yet be constantly thinking about patients when I'm outside running? Am I right? I speak for myself when I say that running should remain a sport and not become a lifestyle, like it has for me for so long. It's just that sometimes it's hard for me to separate the forest from the trees. I guess I just have to be more vigilant about it now in order to find a happier medium between the extremes.

What about you guys? If you had to choose, would you designate running for yourself as a sport/hobby or a lifestyle? I'm curious to know.

36 comments:

lisa said...

I ran cross country in high school and I had a really competitive mindset. Running fast was definitely and obsession-I wouldn't do anything that would jeopardize my performance in the next race. I also ran two half-marathons that I trained a lot for, and I found that sometimes I would wish that I could finish up a run in 10 minutes so I that I could just go home and do other stuff. Now I'm in college and I've been running for pleasure for the past couple years. It's nice not stressing out about the next hard workout or the big race coming up on the weekend, and just running whatever I feel like. But looking back, I think the competitive running in high school was more rewarding because it gave me a goal for every day's run. Of course, I still enjoy running now, but it's more of a stress relief and a time for myself, not something that I put all my might into to set a new PR. Overall, I think it would be best for me to find a balance between the two: don't stress too much about running faster but also do some races here and there to keep things interesting. It boils down to how much of a priority running is in your life.

NY Wolve said...

Hobby for me. As I got older, more things drew on my time-- work, family, kids, friends, social obligations, etc. The trick is of course balance. But it's hard for me to overweight running because I am only really running for me. Yes, it makes me better and happier, but so does a Yankees game with my daughter or a beer with a college friend in town.

I also think this crazy winter, capped off with this crazy typhoon, has all of us scratching our head. Everyone I work with Is ready to move to California. Seriously.

So running is like salt in a recipe: makes everyhing else better, but hard to make it be something that is an end unto itself. But of course the PRs, the great runs, the marathons all give a sense of self satisfaction separate and apart from that, so maybe that isn't right either.

I'll just sick with hobby.

Scott Brown said...

I think that running is a bit a of a waste of time, I'm sure we all could be doing other more valuable things with our time.

But that is why a lot of people do it! And why I love it. You know we don't always have to have meaning or a productive purpose behind everything we do.

Still if you think you are going to break 3 hours by striking a "happy medium" then you are in for a rude shock! It's bloody hard Lam. But it will make you happy when you get it. As Dr.Sheehan also said "happiness" has "something to do with struggling and enduring and accomplishing".

I'd say it has a lot to do with it and you can get it anyway you want it not only from running. You decide how best to use your time.

Vava said...

Wouldn't it be amazing to just go for a run without a watch for a change? I am not a good runner, but find it absolutely impossible to enjoy running for its own sake. I need the metrics to tell me what type of run it was, and that ball and chain sometimes gets to me. Perhaps a commitment to running for the pleasure of it for a set period of time, no watch or goal race to train for, would help? Maybe a three or four month stint of just watch-free fun running whenever the mood should strike would be a good thing for all Garmin toting runners...

Morgan said...

Running is my escape. But yes it's easy to get too caught up in it, especially when training for a goal and it can burn you out and get to a point where it's not the escape it used to be... it becomes a job almost. That line is different for everyone so there's no knowing when it is we cross it. I've been trying to be proactive lately; run more races for fun or pace friends so I don't get to caught up in always chasing a PR. I'm throwing in a week of cross training just because so I can be proactive and hopefully not need to take a mandatory one further down the road. I think you need to sit down and figure out where/what your line is prioritize from there.

kevin f forde said...

Tough call,I love to run but to turn a "hobby" into a way of life,potentialy having to run every day,maybe twice a day....I'd hate to see my passion become a chore and even maybe resent it in the long run.
Can't say having to work for a living is my idea of fun...BUT in order to run,put a roof over my head,etc etc I have to,in running as in life there are no short cuts,you get out of it what you put into it,but also in running as in life there has to be a balance.

Jocelyn said...

I could go either way on this. Since I have started running my life style has changed. I am not competitive and I am a happy slower runner so I think that considering it a sport doesn't seem right for me. But I know it is for a lot of people

Brandon Wood said...

I feel like there should be a very fluid ebb and flow to how training (in my case for triathlon) affects life. For me, I feel as though rather than make the choice that my training/racing has to be one or the other, the two (life and sport) are inextricably linked. With that in mind, I also feel like each discipline benefits from the other.

When I am in the middle of a hard training block, my life and responsibilities keep me grounded and remind me that, even on the worst day of training, my family is more important. Likewise, when I am having a long day in "life" i general, whether it's stress from work or just getting worn by the grind of city living, I can always balance myself by getting on the bike or our the door for a long run.

In my life, I have been to the place where fitness was not a key player. I hated it. Since I have made the choice to be healthy and make fitness (racing/training, etc.) an integral part of my life, I have never been happier.

Renee said...

I would say I vacillate between the two. Running started as something I had to do to compete in triathlons, but became my main focus. The closer I get to races and goals, the more if becomes a lifestyle and I am planning the rest of my life around running. Whether I am running for sport or as part of my lifestyle I cannot imagine life without running at this point. It seems as though it has become part of my lifestyle.

JoeH said...

I think that you have to decide two things:

a) What you want to get out of running (both short-term and long term) and

b) How long you want to do this for?

I could see a very realistic scenario where you destroy yourself trying to break 3 hrs in the marathon, achieve that goal, and never run again. You have to assess you motivations, and strike a balance between the short term goals and the long term goals. Eventually, you will hit the other side of the bell curve, and start slowing down. What then?

For me, running is a lifestyle. I love the community of it, the friends that you make, and being able to identify with other runners. Let's face it, most of the population don't comprehend the idea of waking up early on a Sunday to run 20 miles in the rain - so you tend to gravitate toward other people that do.

Anne said...

I guess will never have to make that decision...I started running at age 50 and I have severe asthma. What I hope is that I will enjoy running for many years to come and that it will continue to enhance my quality of life.

Matt said...

This is exactly the kind of thing that scares me about running. At some point, my desire to improve might be so overwhelming that it takes away from the all of the good that running gives me. A very thought provoking post...in fact, I wrote a post on my blog because of it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Lisa said...

What an honest post. Thanks for letting us into your thoughts!

For me, running will always be a hobby/sport. Partially because I'm not good (ie: fast) enough for it to be more. I enjoy it and I enjoy setting goals and accomplishing them. I did let it occupy too much of my time while training for NYC last fall, but with shorter races in my future, I think I'll be more balanced and enjoy the training more. I'm running for fun not for a medal. But, that's just me and I've come to be happy with that decision.

X-Country2 said...

For me, it's a lifestyle. I've run all my life, and only in the last 18 months have I done races. I still don't keep track of distance or pace unless I have to. There's the sport of it, but it really is a part of my lifestyle.

DumpRunner Matt said...

Don’t take this the wrong way but the answer to your de-motivation is obvious. You are running too much too fast. The 12 miler the other day? It serves no purpose except to burn you out. Your log is littered with such runs. I mean, look at this week. A tempo, a hill workout, a long run AND a 12 mile at 7:03. You only “need” 2 or 3 of those.

And take the real rest ! Leave the watch and just run comfortable miles for a week.

I've been running for 20+ years. A key for me is dialing it back when I need to. I've seen so many newer runners get good, run a ton and burn out. I would hate for this to happen to you.

Marathon Maritza said...

For me, it's lifestyle, with a little bit to sport thrown in. I don't want to think that this is because I'm not a very fast runner, b/c I do see the 'competition' as only competing against myself and my best times. But because I love it so much as a part of my life, I enjoy giving it a challenge every now and again with race goals. That being said, I have run plenty of races 'for fun' and when I burnt out on racing last year, I took a break from running because it wasn't fun anymore. I'm back to running now with no training goal or race in mind and it's wonderful.

Have you ever run without an upcoming race scheduled? A nice long period of running just because you want to? Ultimately you know what's best for you, but maybe you need to just 'run' and not 'train' to remember what you love about it. Just a thought.

Also, maybe it's just the freaking cold, crappy weather! That gets anyone annoyed and down about outdoor activities!

M2Marathon said...

Wow, thought provoking and such good comments. For me, it's a lifestyle--not in the sense that it takes over my life, but in the sense that it is an unquestionable part of who I am and how I define my life. The racing I do lends the feel of a sport (when I want it), but I don't run only to train...I run to run, and I run for me. I haven't raced since last August, yet I've run consistently the whole time (well, after recovery from my stress fracture in October). Though I, too, am a middle of the pack runner so I don't have the pressure of being fast enough to chase a sub-3 hour marathon goal; I think that frees me up from the pressure because I don't have to be "good" I just have to enjoy it and finish.

marathonmaiden said...

i think that it's a lifestyle for me. at least now. i didn't grow up running but my day just doesn't seem natural if i don't run. that said, i'm able to keep it that way as a 23 year old college with less responsibilities than someone who is older and in the "real world"

and if you figure out how to get extra hours in the day please share with me? i'm on spring break now and there definitely still is never enough time!

baker said...

interesting comments.
i am going with lifestyle. my running days started in 08 with the NYCM and i havent looked back. i also like to bike and swim which keeps me in check. what excites me most is 'the race'. waking up and knowing i have to go full throttle into the masses, its so exhilarating. Im also on a quest for a sub3 and I think we will both achieve this goal. One of my main focuses is to try and not take it so seriously, especially if I run a bad race. there are good days and bad days. on a sidenote: i have met a ton of really interesting people (yourself included) by being an active runner.

runningcommentaries said...

An interesting question that I'm wrestling with too. For me, running is primarily a lifestyle. It's never "if" I'm going to run, but "when." Almost as routine as brushing my teeth-- I just do it no matter what it takes.

However, racing is a different thing. That, to me, is a sport. Right now, I run with a purpose in order to engage in racing but I ran way before I ever raced.

I think it's important to keep your priorities straight though (you being general, not you specifically). Work comes before running, people come before running and it's important not to let it come before those things.

Julie said...

Hi Lam,
Oh boy, you got me thinking again:) I am going to say running is both for me. When I started running last year it was to get back in shape and it was a hobby or a sport. I enjoyed escaping from my wife and mother roles and having some big time me time:) It was my time to be selfish! Running was when I could decompress, think random thoughts and honestly, just get my heart pumping:) The more races that I ran the more I got caught up in improving and trying to get faster. I won a few medals and gift certificates...some for placing in my age group and others for overall:) It keeps me motivated! I am certainly not Boston material but I am not the back of the pack runner either. It is also a lifestyle for me. I love running and the way that it makes me feel! It is so wonderful just to get out there everyday and say...I ran today...check! I went down a pant size and firmed up...big bonus:) My HDL cholesterol score improved, I am fit and my body is conditioned! What is not to like? Bottom line is that running makes me happy and it is one of the things that I feel passionately about:)

I hope that this week goes better for you!! I know how crazy life can get...it is okay to take a break if you need one:) Lam, take care of yourself and keep smiling!!

chris -pittsburgh pa said...

For me it is a combo deal. I find it hard to run, just to run...like to gave a goal in front of me. At the same time, running is a lifestyle b/c it is very important to me and I incorporate it into my life to make me feel fit. "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels". Love feeling fit

aron said...

i definitely feel like its a lifestyle for me, i cant imagine NOT doing it. its just part of who i am now. i want to run, i want to train and get better and race and all that.

i know last year i had a period of slight burn out. after not reaching my BQ a couple times and just being overwhelmed by it in general i questioned if it was worth it (http://www.runnersrambles.com/2010/02/drafts.html) and for me it SO was. i am so glad i pushed through those spots and got it done. although i still have goals and there will always be something else i want to do, its more fun now and i am so glad i went through that time to appreciate it now. i know we both are taking/took a few attempts to get to our goals (me my BQ, and you getting your sub-3) but i think that just makes it better.

maintain that focus, you are almost there, you will get that goal and it will be SO WORTH IT when you do.

jenna is awkward said...

It's funny you should post this, because it's something I've been thinking about lately. I'm nowhere near as fast as you, but I am competitive. I am realizing now that my goals for my next marathon might fall short (a medicine related issue)and I'm contemplating not running it. But why? I might not be where I want to be, but is there no fun unless a goal is met? I don't know. I like to think I have a balance, I have a bit more fun that I should to be considered "serious", but if I could, I would probably tip the scale in the direction of running (as long as I could still have some beers here and there)

matpedw said...

Dang! I'm late the party and now my post will be lost on the bottom.
I think making something from nothing is what I'm striving for with my running. It's kind of like painting, or writing, or building a house. You kind of want to create something that didn't exist before. Like a sub 3 marathon out of your body. Then you'll throw it away and start over on something else. I think it's just part of the human condition.

Or

We're all just really afraid we'll turn into the people we see at the Wal-Mart if we don't make running part of our lifestyle.

John said...

We all have weeks like yours, Lam, where life gets in the way. Running helps me deal with all that life throws at me. I wish you the best as you try to wrap your mind around how your running relates to the rest of your life.

I started first walking and then running to combat an obesity problem. Running is certainly a healthier response to stress than stuffing my face with so called comfort foods. I feel so much better that I don't want to give it up.

My goal now is to run a marathon with my son when he returns from his deployment in Iraq. We are encouraging and motivating one another with reports of our training. I also enjoy the support and encouragement of my local and online running communities.

Having shorter term goals (a 10K in May and a half marathon in Sept) makes the long term goal seem more possible. And I have learned to try and enjoy each run and to not over analyze things.

Vava said...

Thank you for your comment on my blog! Much appreciated. And, like you, I should really try to run without the "gizmos" as well, though it's going to be real hard. I think if I am successful in completing my first marathon this Fall I may be able to spend the rest of the year just running and not worrying about how far, how fast, how many...

Cheers!

lindsay said...

i think you and i are having a similar "mental game" towards running... or at least, i am struggling lately to 'figure out' where running is in my life/why i do it/why i want to do it, etc. i think my own struggle mostly comes from (ridiculously) high goals and being unable to let them go. if i were to let go (pull back and truly run for fun) then i wonder if x years from now i will look back and wonder how good i could've been had i not "given up". oh the trouble of my "perfectionist" mindset sometimes.

sorry to hear you had a rough week. though my work is not nearly as cool or meaningful as yours, i do find myself thinking about running at work and (sometimes) work while running. what IS up with that? also, i wish i had gone to med school so i could be a "house" - well, minus his attitude issues :) i think there should be more docs like him out there working to get to the root of the problem. stinks that he always screws up a few times first though ;)

anyway, hope this week goes more smoothly for you!

D10 said...

Loved this post Lam. For me it is a lifestyle. There are days where I push myself and want to be better, run faster, run farther, feel stronger, but in the end I run for me and run cause I like to. I spent enough years working hard and being very competitive (playing college soccer and getting a DI scholarship) that now I feel it is time to enjoy things a bit more and by laid back about sport.

Michelle said...

Hi Lam,
For me, running is a lifestyle. What better way to live than by aspiring to be healthy and what better way to be and stay healthy than to exercise (run).

It's a lifestyle because of all the awesome friends I have met and it's a lifestyle because I love running. I wouldn't have it any other way.

But, I am not as competitive as you are. Sure, I have goals but I don't overextend myself to reach them. I try as hard as I can in each race and hope for the best. But at the end of the day, I can say I ran, had fun and loved it!!!!

Jamie said...

I'm in the same place trying to figure it all out right now. I'd say my running is part hobby part lifestyle. I enjoy it most days and it's become a part of me but I also burn out/cut it out when other parts of my life need my focus. It gives me something to do but at the end of the day I think I do it because I like to and I like who I am when I run.
Thanks for another great post!

Adam said...

Anything that causes me to change my day to day life is a lifestyle. Since I'll often leave a social gathering early, have a few less drinks, and over hydrate before a long run - this is certainly a lifestyle.

Running and living said...

I think during stressful weeks it is hard to separate the different compartments of our lives. And that is OK. I also think that having fun should be the primary reason for running (at least for me). Running is a big part of me, and I want to get better. Heck, I want a sub 3 marathon someday, too! But I am OK if it does not happen. I think it is very easy to let running take over important parts of ones life. I've seen running/triathlon destroy relationship and careers. It's a powerful drug, and getting better in a sense is something that we feel we have control over (and we don;t control much of our life). I always have to keep things in check for myself. I am not sure if running is lifestyle for me. I love competing. I don;t think I would keep running marathons if I did not see improvements. I would do ultras, or triathlons, or other distances. I don't think that is selfish. In a world where competitiveness a women is frawned upon, still, running is a good outlet! Hope now that the sun is up, you'll feel better. This past weekend has played with my mood, too!

Joe Garland said...

Didn't we kind of have this debate a year ago? If you want to "race" a marathon, you have to put in the effort. (57 miles is not a lot.) There's nothing wrong with not racing a marathon.

Nobody cares whether you break 3 except you. It's just an arbitrary number, although I continue to think one readily reachable by you. If the effort it'll take to do it isn't worth it, don't. Nothing wrong with shorter stuff and you get more bang for your buck.

We're supposed to be enjoying this even as we feed the beast that is our passion. Don't let the mental and physical fatigue that set in in the final stretches of marathon-training color your perspective. Satisfaction in running comes not just from a race well-run but also from training well-done.

KBam said...

I'm a newer runner (I started just over a year ago), and definitely a relatively slow runner (aiming for a 4:45 marathon time), and I do have some of the same issues that you describe. I approach them differently though. I know that I can only guarantee 3 days a week of running. With my schedule (full time teacher, part-time grad student, supervisor for a student teacher, volleyball coach, in addition to working a couple random side jobs) I know it's just not feasible to plan for more. If I get 4 days in, great. It's rare though. But for me, the times when I *do* get to run are the release from the rest of my life. And yes, I do think about work when I run. All the time. But I think about it with a clarity that I don't have when I'm just sitting in my classroom or apartment trying to think about work. Sure I'd love more time to run, and I'd love more hours in the day, but I try to cherish the extra time I can find and not force myself to constantly be running during ALL of my free time. I think that's when it became too much for me - when I tried to do that for a while last fall. Despite all this, I do consider myself a Runner, capital R, and I think of running as a lifestyle and not a sport. I actually said that to a coworker just yesterday. Running defines my lifestyle, but not my LIFE. Running has changed the way I eat, sleep, walk, and think about myself and my life. But I do try to keep it as a positive use of my time, rather than, "Oh crap, I have to run today." Instead of thinking that, I try to consciously think, every single time I run: "I get to run today. What a blessing."

Long rambling comment. Hope you got something meaningful out of it. :)

J said...

This is a tough question because I have been on both sides. I love to run fast but I also love to enjoy my runs and enjoy the outdoors. After running track for only one year I dont think it burned me out but it did make me not want to race because I was afraid I would never be as fast as I was back in college. Its a hard line to walk but I think that finding your own niche is good. I know that not following a training plan works for me at least for now and that keeps me happy. just running when I want and running how far and fast i want.

 
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