Why I don’t stick to a running regime

Couch to 5K Screenshot
photo credit: DBarefoot

A quick flick through any running magazine will throw up countless running regimes:

– couch to 5k!

– run a marathon in 6 months!

– take on Usain Bolt at the 100m at the next Olympics!

etc etc.

A lot of runners swear by them.  When trying to arrange a night out on a Saturday, it is not unheard of for a runner to say with reverence: ‘Sunday is my long run day’, as if this was added as a footnote to the 10 commandments.

Such runners stick to their regimes religiously: Monday is intervals, Tuesday is hill running, Wednesday is “rest day” (but not a rest day involving burgers and re-runs of Grey’s Anatomy, but 100 laps of the pool or a quick 100km mountain biking session).  Thursday is tempo run, Friday is ‘core work’ (I’m still not quite sure what this is)… and so on.

I’m not meaning to mock the running regime.  They are structured like this for a reason, and runners who follow one will no doubt produce consistently faster times.

My problem is that, as soon as I feel like I have to do something, it becomes a chore.

I don’t know about you, but my life is full of chores.  I have to go to work, I have to clean the bathroom,  have to cook tea, I have to clip my bunny’s claws, and so on.  For those with children the whirlwind of chores must chew you up and spit you out.

For me, running is an escape from all that: I don’t want it to become an addition.

Sure, Tuesday could be tempo run day.  But what if Tuesday comes round and I don’t feel like doing a tempo run? What if I feel like doing some intervals? Or heaven forbid, kicking back with a box of Thorntons and channel hopping for five hours?

This sort of attitude goes against everything they tell you.  Many a motivational poster quote boils down to: run whether you feel like it or not. 

But the thing is – and I know this will come as a surprise to many – I am not an Olympic athlete.  Truly.  I know! Unbelieveable.  Anyway, I’m not.  So my times might not improve, I might never get rid of that roll of lard round my thighs, I might never scoop that alluring <50m 10k time.  But does it really matter?

I get up in the morning and think, do I feel like running today? And because it’s not a chore, because it’s not something I have to do, half the time the answer is: yes, I do.

Sometimes I’m out running and, after 2km, I’ve had enough: I go home.  Other times, I feel like I could run forever, Forest Gump-style, so I pull out an 18km from nowhere.  But if I had woken up that morning and thought: I have to run 18km today, because my running regime told me to.  Well, it becomes a chore.

You’ve probably guessed I don’t like being told what to do.

Anyway, this is how it works for me.  As a result, I run reasonably consistently and have done for 8 or 9 years.  I am relatively fit, but not stupidly so.  I love running.  But sometimes I love not running.  There’s a lot to feel guilty about in life.  Don’t let running be one of them.

What do you think? Do you worship at the alter of running programmes? Or do you prefer to take a free and easy approach? Let me know!

The misery of hill running


26 thoughts on “Why I don’t stick to a running regime

  1. Thank goodness, someone has finally given me permission to be “lazy” about my running!
    I want to run a marathon, at least once – and I’ve put it off for the past 2 years because the whole training schedule is extremely daunting and I feel horrible if I miss one run that I end up giving up on the whole thing – “next year”
    I’m trying to adopt the same attitude you have, but I’m running less and feeling rather guilty. Maybe I’m not a runner? Maybe it shouldn’t matter what label I give myself? Who knows! But thank you – very refreshing point of view!

    • I think you’re right that it doesn’t matter what label you give yourself. As long as you’re doing some exercise you’re already one up on most of the population! Don’t get me wrong – some people enjoy the pressure and the striving etc – but I find that it generally puts me off. Good luck with whatever running you choose to do! 🙂

  2. Wow, what a great perspective, I’m just learning to run and I want it to be a lifelong thing but it feels like a chore some days! I feel like I can relax a bit and not feel that guilt if I don’t go up to my next running program level when I “should”. Thanks!

    • Thanks for your kind words! I sometimes think runners get too hung up on times and structure and rules… it’s not a crime to just run for the sake of it! It all depends what works for you 🙂

  3. I like to try to take a mixed approach. I make a ‘general’ plan, but never feel bad if it doesn’t quite work out! I agree with you that it’s all about flexibility and making sure you are always enjoying what you are doing. It sounds like you’ve got the perfect balance for you 🙂

    • that sounds like a great plan. I guess it depends on what works for your personality – I know some people feel much happier working to a plan, and others (like you) prefer a mixed approach. I just like the ‘suck it and see’ approach! 🙂 Thanks for commenting 🙂

  4. I follow a program when I am preparing for an important race, but i make the program myself to make sure it addresses my weaknesses and does not completely kill me 😀 And I don’t freak out if I miss a scheduled run – life happens.

  5. Well, I used to run with friends. They upped my distance (against my logical mind at times) from 5km to 10km in a couple of weeks. They just talked (which came fairly naturally to a group of girls) and I listened (because I was incapable of talking) and I got distracted… despite my intention to give up at the 8km mark, next thing I knew we would have done 10km! I say ‘used to run with friends’ not because I have lost my friends but because I got an achilles tendinopathy 8 months ago that I have not been able to shake. Running is even more appealing when you can’t! We used to have brekky in a cafe each Saturday morning after the run (that was another incentive) so to keep my mindset up there, I used to just join them for brekky. A recent trip to the scales told me quite clearly that if I couldn’t run, I needed to find another exercise routine! I’ve now set my self a target of 10 000 steps per day and about to take off a trip to Europe where I hope to prove that I can lose weight while travelling!

    • Hi Janine, thanks for commenting! Running with friends is an excellent tactic to stay on top of things (although I’m actually very antisocial with running and prefer to do it by myself!) Sorry to hear about your injury problems – although good luck with the travelling/weight loss challenge! 10,000 steps per day sounds v challenging but I’m sure it’ll be worth it!

  6. I need it to be “free and easy”. When I was training for my half marathon it was such a chore. I dreaded having to put my running shoes on.

  7. *claps* Hear, hear! I’m very very new to this running lark. I’m not “in training” for anything (although I am doing the Race for Life in July so I want to be able to run 5k), however I’m not planning on doing any marathons. I don’t want to be tied to any schedule. RIght now I’d be pleased if I could run a mile without stopping! The idea of having to adhere to a schedule just horrifies me. My husband does it, but then he’s the sort of runner that does half marathons!

    • I think the whole ‘running schedule’ malarky puts off a lot of new runners! I think as a bunch us runners have forgotten why we started running in the first place… cos it’s fun! It’s good to get outside and have some exercise. it doesn’t matter how long or what speed or what day of the week… just enjoy it! 🙂 Good luck!

  8. I’ve never run to a training programme – never even considered it. The most I’ll do is tag on some extra ascent for the equivalent of hill reps. I do run certain distances on certain days – short ones a couple of lunchtimes a week, longer to and from work one day a week, just because that fits in with my routine. If the weathers nice and I’m feeling energetic, it’s time for an uber long run on a saturday or after work wednesday or both. If it’s raining or I’m feeling tired I’ll do less.

    It’s more important to enjoy it and keep running than to stick religiously to your training until you’ve bagged the half marathon/marathon/whatever, then decide you hate it and give up altogether.

  9. I run when I want to run, I exercise(structured) when I want to also. I do enough running around in my job as a nurse to make up for the days when I stay home and sleep 🙂 There is nothing wrong with a regime and if that works for some, more power to them. I relate to your way of exercising and running because I want to do it, not have to do it. Keep up the great blogs!

  10. I can totally relate to what you are saying. I haven’t run for a while due to back problems but used to do triathlons. I am sure I could have been a faster runner if I’d followed a plan, but my enjoyment of running for the fun of it was greater than my desire for glory!
    Still the same now, I use the gym a lot and walk in thinking ‘right, what do I feel like doing?’

    • I totally get that! It’s like: ‘I could run faster if I stuck to a plan, but would I run at all if I didn’t enjoy it?’ Surely it’s better to do something rather than nothing…. Thanks for commenting 🙂

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