My dad was an incredible runner. Throughout the 70s he dominated Newfoundland races. He won the Tely 10 in 1975 with a time of 56:00, he finished the Boston Marathon in under three hours, and he’s probably started or organized more runs than anyone in the province.
However, I’ve never caught the running bug. I’ve had a few stabs at 10K races and had some decent success training. That’s about it.
Partly it’s genetics. I don’t have my dad’s wiry physique. I inherited my maternal grandfather’s bulkier build. Mostly, though, I just hate running. Like, pure distilled hatred. Every time, I’d have to pump myself up like I was heading into a battle. Granted, I usually felt happy for doing it afterwards, but in the same way you feel good about doing yard work or eating a salad. Occasionally, I’d have a good run and feel positive all the way through. Most times, the best I could hope for was indifference. And then there were those hellish times when I just felt like shit the whole way through.
With weight training, it’s totally different. I’m amped to get lifting. On the rare occasion that I’m tired and gotta drag my ass to the gym, I quickly get into the grove after a couple sets. It doesn’t feel like a chore. It’s fun.
And it’s not like I’m anti-cardio. I love swimming and I enjoy mixing up different cardio machines. I also love hiking and walking. It’s something about pushing my feet to go one after the other too fast for too long that rots me.
Thing is, I want to love running. Why won’t you let me love you, running? I wish I could run like my father did. Not even because I wanna win races. The way he talked about running was very zen. He took a very simplified approach. He didn’t give a shit about expensive shoes or those Batman belts you see now with high performance gels. Just two feet and a heartbeat. People would ask him, “How should I breath?” With your lungs. “What’s the proper stride?” One foot in front of the other.
Dad also despised headphones. He was big on the mind-body connection (something that’s also really important for weight training). He talked a lot about listening to what your body was telling you as the klicks rolled by. That’s what I would like to experience running. But I just can’t get past the pain.
I really enjoyed Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run. McDougall also champions a simplified approach to running. In the book, he tracks down an isolated Mexican tribe who run ultra marathons on the daily, which inspires him to do as the Romans do. McDougall’s ultimate thesis is that capitalism has obfuscated running and we need to get back to basics. Moreover, long distance running is a distinctly human activity. It is our ability to run for extended periods of time that allowed us to succeed as a species.
I love that kinda shit. Tapping into a primeval experience of being human. Running has a romanticism that bodybuilding just doesn’t have, which I envy.
However, running also has a kind of snobbery that I don’t care for. It seems like our culture considers running to be more sophisticated and distinguished than bodybuilding. Runners are generally thought to be middle-class professionals, whereas bodybuilders are blue collar meat heats. These are obviously stereotypes and nowadays bodybuilding has really breached the mainstream. But I still believe that lifters are generally deemed neanderthals compared to all those homo sapiens runners.
The fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger is the most famous bodybuilder of all time might have some hand in this. But what a lot of people underestimate about Arnold, and bodybuilding in general, is how cerebral the work is. It’s not as simple as popping some ‘roids and repping out bicep curls. In order to build a great physique, you have to change up your routines and think critically about how each exercise affects each muscle. There are tons of variables. Moreover, it takes a great deal of focus. If you go through your workout absent minded, you won’t get the same results. “You must get inside the muscle,” as Arnold always says.
Say you want to improve your back. You look in the mirror and decide that you’re happy with the size and mass of your lats, but you’d like it to be more defined. So, you expand your rep range or experiment with different grips on chin-ups, pull-downs, or rows. The you have to think about how your back is in proportion with the rest of your body, etc.
That’s what I love about bodybuilding. You get to be a scientist, artist, and athlete all at the same time. To you, that may sound tedious. Perhaps you find the repetitive motion of running meditative. The point is that you should find something you enjoy doing for your own reasons. Otherwise you’ll just bail.