Running for pleasure, or running to train

IMG_0751I have been traveling a lot lately, and Philadelphia has been rainy. This has been a problem because I need to do another long run or two before my scheduled half-marathon in mid-June. I looked at my schedule for today, while I have been in New York, and I realized I had an open slot in the afternoon. I could go to Central Park and run.

It was a beautiful day, and so I did. But I quickly realized it was not going to be a focused long run. First, I had to get to Central Park from mid-town, so I was dodging crowds on the sidewalk. Then in the park, there was still a lot of weaving around people, and unlike on weekends, there were still cars on the main route around the park. So eventually, I decided that I was just going to need to relax and enjoy running in a beautiful place on a nice day. I stopped and took pictures. I wove around wherever seemed relatively open.

I go back and forth on running. I love running, but of course part of loving running is that I don’t want it to be unpleasant. Sometimes training is unpleasant. This winter I decided to accept some unpleasantness and do intense speed work on the treadmill. I did indeed get faster. But it wasn’t fun, and as soon as I could be back outside, and not caring about my pace, that’s what I did. I know this is a trade-off, as I could definitely be faster than I am. But I also want to stick with running long term, and sometimes that means accepting that I am running for pleasure, and not to train.

Are you in the pleasure or the training camp?

18 thoughts on “Running for pleasure, or running to train

  1. Have you read Matt Fitzgerald’s 80/20 Plan? He argues for a high-volume, low-intensity approach to training, because he says it allows your body to optimize form while reducing injury risk. Most people, he says, hang out in the moderate intensity zone, where it’s harder to make progress. Counterintuitively, he says you’ll get better faster if you spend 80% of your running time at low intensity, and the remaining 20% doing moderate- or high-intensity workouts.

    It is actually a little painful mentally to run as slowly as he says I ought to for the low-intensity portion of training (Dear self, the neighbors will not actually notice if you are running 8% slower, so chill out already), but I find that it brings me more enjoyment and fewer injuries vs. a high-intensity plan like Run Less, Run Faster.

    1. @Jamie- I have not read that, but I will check it out (and what do you mean? Of course your neighbors are monitoring your speed with police-caliber radar…)
      I have been fortunate not to deal with injuries much, and maybe it is because I’m doing precisely what he advocates. Most of my running is slow. It is definitely slower than I know I could go. I now know from running with Jane that I can do 10 miles at under 10 min/mile but my normal long run pace is closer to 11 min mile. I like to look at the trees, hear the birds, etc.

      1. I heard about this 80/20 thing a few weeks ago and it renewed my interest in running. I used to love running- like 15 years ago. But since then I have been doing the moderate intensity running, which makes me dread it, which makes for bad associations (and more injuries) with running.

        A few weeks ago I decided to give running another try, but at a comfortable pace. It means I am barely shuffling along, and trying not to feel too embarrassed in our running city (Charlottesville, VA) but I am enjoying it again.

        Short answer- pleasure, all the way.

  2. A little of both. I actually feel best and most happy about my running when I am training, even if it gets a little tedious sometimes. Alas, I am post-marathon, with a cranky IT band; here in FL we have entered the hot, humid summer season and soon it will be dangerous to run between 9:30am and 5:30 pm or so, and then there is afternoon rain-shower avoidance. It will be like this until late September. I like to stay in half-marathon-finishing shape year-round, but I’m already dreading choosing between boiling temperatures, oppressive humidity, and the treadmill. Maybe I’ll take up your treadmill speed challenge in order to make it thru. 🙂 Or maybe I’ll finally start watching a TV series again on the iPad for the treadmill. (Taking suggestions!)

    1. @Sara B- we are the exact opposite around here. It is finally nice to run outside! There will be some 90 degree days in August, but it’s almost never too bad for a 6:30 run outside. I guess we pick our poison on location. Maybe we should all move to San Diego.
      I have generally felt if I’m going to be on the treadmill, speed work is the only way to go. It keeps it mildly interesting and I feel like I’m doing something even though I’ve gone…nowhere.

  3. Well. I don’t particularly like to run (though that’s gotten a bit better now that I’ve been doing it for ~3 years), but have settled on it as a way to get regular exercise that fits in my schedule. So I can’t really say I run for pleasure, I run to train. But what I’m training for is not being a couch potato, so my training runs are shorter and slower than your pleasure runs — I’d be willing to bet. I use a version of Dr. Mama’s “Listen up, Maggots!” (google-able) protocol, mildly adapted in ways that make it work better for me. I also take considerable heart from the knowledge that the incremental value of running slowly for a little bit on a regular basis is huge, whereas the additional incremental value from running more quickly and/or more frequently would be (relatively) less.

  4. I’ve been running for almost 40 years and found many runners follow a familiar arc. They start doing it purely for fitness (mental and physical), then they decide to enter a race and soon running becomes a competitive thing (“Let’s get faster and run farther!” “Let’s set a new PR on this course!”). This continues until the racing bug subsides and more soulful running returns, whether by choice or by relentless or delibitating injuries and the aging process.

  5. Laura,
    Would you mind sharing what program you used for your speed training?
    I am training for a corporate challenge track events, and looking for ideas on how to get faster

  6. I am in the pleasure camp but it means I am very slow. I am very envious of people who can do a half marathon in under 2 hrs but I know it would not be realistic for myself and it would make me miserable. So for now I run for the fun of it and to clear my head. At some point I hope to improve my times so I am not too ashamed to share them. Recently did a half marathon and refused to share my times. It took me forever but I had lots of fun

    1. Nadia, a 1/2 marathon is such an accomplishment, no matter your time! I’m very new to running and trying to ‘train’ for races, I am very slow, and I stop to walk frequently, although I suspect I stop more for mental reasons (the voice in my head insists that I must take a walk break, or that I am crazy to try and run 5 miles, or that my legs are too tired I need to slow down). I beat myself up about being slow but I am trying to be kinder to myself and treat myself as I would a friend, setting goals and being active is plenty of reason to encourage ourselves. And as my husband has told me – no matter how slow I run, I am still faster than I would be if I was just laying on the couch (watching tv). Even if you keep those times to yourself, be proud of yourself for your accomplishment- and on to the next!

  7. Definitely pleasure. I rarely run more than three miles – very slowly – and have no desire to do a half marathon or marathon. But I’m fine with that and run to get exercise and relax and be outdoors.

  8. I’m training to run for pleasure, I think! Races don’t particularly motivate me, but I want to get a little faster (and gain endurance so I don’t need walk breaks on longer runs) so that I can more often do some of my favorite runs at nearby ponds and nature trails in the amount of time I usually have available.

  9. For me it is rather simple – I sign up for races so that I will train. As a cyclist the nature of the ride (hills, wind) often determines the level of effort. I only train because I race… I only race so that I’ll train…

  10. I love having a long race to train for so that I’m motivated to get out there consistently – and I especially love the feeling of accomplishment each week as I add distance and re-conceive what I consider myself possible of achieving. That being said: I don’t think I knew how to run for pleasure until I got about halfway through my first marathon training plan – it took that long for my brain to switch over from experiencing running as an exhausting chore, to knowing how good I’d feel afterwards and actually craving getting out there. Now I see it as a treat when I can sneak away from work for a 3 mile run over lunch, or get out early before the kids wake up on a weekday morning.

    1. @Becca- I agree that it feels like a treat for me. I’m training for a half marathon in June, and today I finally got out for a 10-miler (the upside of self-employment! I just carved out 2 hours to do it…) It felt great. Seriously.

  11. I completed “couch to 5K” from January-April. I was up to running for 30 minutes, but my pace made me only complete about 2 miles. I tried to up my pace to make it to an actual 5k in 30 minutes. However, it became not fun, like it did when I was trying to increase my endurance. So I also decided to just run for fun and stress release… 20-30 minutes 2-3 times per week. I enjoy it and feel stronger, without the stress of “training”.

    1. @Mary Beth – doing a whole 5K in 30 minutes is pretty swift if you’re coming from the “couch” start. (Like 9:40 min/miles) – Probably aiming to run 37-38 minutes and do a 5K is a good goal from there? Personally I think that running 20-30 minutes 2-3 times per week is great. There are many reasons to run, and stress relief and overall fitness are both great ones.

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