I hate running.

I am puttering around my home this morning, listening to podcasts. I am listening to one by a celebrity personal trainer who hates running. She is advocating playing games with yourself to make running more bearable, so you can run farther, faster, longer.

I hate running too. A lot. So I don’t do it. If you hate running, you don’t have to run either. You’re off the hook. Yay! Find another form of cardiovascular training (or even better, lots of different forms of cardio) you enjoy and do that instead. I use cardio machines, teaching Zumba, and, to a lesser extent, sports conditioning and group ex classes like BodyStep and BodyCombat as my main forms of cardio. By mixing up my cardio I avoid overuse injuries, keep my body from adapting, and stave off boredom.

Why do we feel so compelled to run? I can’t even count how many times people tell me they have added walking into their fitness routine and then look at me with a guilty expression, quickly adding, “but I’m going to start running soon.” Why? If the walking is working — and you’re walking fast enough to get a little breathless and work up a sweat — then why turn it into running?

I spent more than a year trying to be a runner. I did a triathlon. I got to the point where I regularly ran six miles, following all the expert advice (increase training by only 10 percent a week, take days off between running, only one long run a week, etc.). I also woke up countless times in the middle of the night with both legs asleep. My hips and back ached a good deal of the time. My body is not built to run. I’m OK with that.

Maybe your body IS built to run. That’s awesome! Maybe you’re not made to do Zumba or BodyCombat (although I could argue that you might be, you just don’t know it yet). That’s awesome too.

But you don’t *have* to run. Despite all those hardcore motivational pictures that splatter our social networking connections these days, fitness doesn’t have to be about constantly overcoming pain (although I will write a little more about that in the future). If an exercise constantly causes pain and isn’t furthering you toward an athletic goal, then why are you doing it? Fitness can — and should — include fun.

DISCLAIMER: Although I do not run, I do sprints. To me, sprinting is different — it’s a form of explosive strength training that I don’t count as cardio. It’s also a key part of my sports training.

Wendy Watkins

About Wendy Watkins

Wendy Watkins is a Bangor-based personal trainer, fitness coach, studio owner, and writer/editor. She is the author of The Complete Idiots Guide to Losing 20 Pounds in 2 Months. Visit her website at thrivebangor.com.