PUMPING IRONY: Why Run Until You Have To?

With six weeks until my Commitment Day 5K, I’ve done no running to prepare, but maybe I don’t have to.

It’s now about six weeks until the Commitment Day 5K, and I haven’t done any running to prepare for the event. You could call this an indication of sublime confidence or a disaster waiting to happen.

I don’t know that a 62-year-old guy has any business getting out of bed on New Year’s Day for anything but a hot cup of coffee and the morning paper, but I’ve got it into my head that clomping atop the frozen asphalt of downtown Minneapolis with a few thousand other ravaged souls on the calendar’s most grievous Morning After is kind of a test of my manhood. Especially when it’s my son, Mr. Parkour, who’s grading the test.

I’m not that competitive, but when MP stops by for dinner and mentions that he’s now cranking out 100 pushups every morning before breakfast as part of some obscure martial arts training regimen, you’ll find me soaked in sweat on the mat the next morning  trying to hit triple digits myself. It’s the principle of the thing.

Last year, we bundled up against the 4-below morning chill and set out from the Metrodome with the huddled masses, fully intent on strolling along with my EL colleagues. That lasted for about a minute, until MP broke into a trot and motioned for me to follow. A half-hour or so later, I was channeling my inner Usain Bolt, sprinting toward the finish line in my jeans and workboots.

I have completed exactly the number of training runs leading up to this year’s race as I did last year — that would be zero. I did spend 30 minutes on the Elliptical Death Machine at the gym a couple of weeks ago, just to show myself that I could. And I have thought once or twice about lacing up my sneakers and taking to the trail along the river a few blocks away from my house. Just for fun, mind you. And I do recall jogging across the street in front of my office on my way to lunch a couple of times last week, with no ill effects.

So, I figure I’m good to go.

In other words, I’ve been thinking about what it might take to get ready to run the race. I just haven’t done it, because most runners train for races by running, which I’d rather avoid. It’s hard on the knees, for one thing, and it might be the most boring form of exercise ever developed. Every time I see a jogger, I want to hand them a basketball, so they could dribble it ahead of them. Work a little on their hand-eye coordination while they’re plodding along. Even a soccer ball would do. Give it a kick and run after it. Just seems more purposeful to me.

Besides, running is all about cardio, right? And there are all sorts of ways to build your cardio capacity without running. In fact, it’s becoming something of a trend among high-level runners, according to Olympic running coach Pete Rea. “From North Africa to Japan, many of the world’s best distance runners are now adding a variety of non-running, aerobically based exercise to improve their running performance,” Rea writes in a recent blog.

Among the most popular are stationary biking, our old friend the EDM, cross-country skiing, lap swimming, and walking. There’s also pool running (which doesn’t count as running because it sounds like fun) and a session or two on an anti-gravity treadmill (which just sounds scary).

This all make sense to me (except the anti-gravity thing), because I’ve always been of the opinion that any high-intensity exercise that gets you breathing hard — including strength training — is going to help you if, by chance, you someday have to break into a jog for some reason. So, I guess I’ll stay the course with my morning kettlebell workouts. Why run until you really have to?

, an Experience Life deputy editor, explores the joys and challenges of aging well.

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