We've all heard, "no pain, no gain." But is it true, and if so, for whom? I've always sort of operated with this in mind, at least with respect to running. But as I've discovered, sometimes things get in the way of lofty training goals, like life. So why, if for many people, running is supposed to be a form of recreation, do we still find it necessary to "push ourselves". Well for the record, I believe it IS true that people can get large gains from pushing themselves hard, enduring physical and mental anguish. But what is the benefit we get out of the effort? A new PR? Winning a race? Completing a longer distance? A brief period of elation due to an accomplishment followed by another long period of anguish building up to the next brief period of elation? So I thought to myself, why can't I have both "no pain" and "gain" or at the very least "no pain".
I was thinking about this on my run around campus and downtown this morning. My goal was to run whatever speed was comfortable, without chest pain or side cramps. At one point, I couldn't find a speed slow enough, so I walked for a while. After I began running again, I merged paths with another runner, a stocky 40-something woman. My ego told me, "Surely you should be able to outrun her. You're taller, skinnier, younger..." I told my ego to shut the hell up. For one thing, you can never judge a runner by appearances. I once got my butt kicked by a woman who must have been 4'7". And for another, I didn't wanna go messing with something that wasn't broken. I felt fine at the pace I was already maintaining.
So now the question is, will my running improve if I use this approach? I believe the answer is yes. As with anything, we improve with practice. I might not see the big gains I would get from pushing myself harder, but like I said in the last blog, I don't want running to be a job for me. It's gotta be fun. It's my hobby. Yes, I'll forgo the excitement of a big achievement to just be content if it means I also forgo the emotional and physical lows.