By Cool J in Minneapolis
(Forewarning- Cool J does not keep her cool in this post. I apologize in advance if I offend anyone!)
The other day I was explaining to an acquaintance that I was doing some physical therapy for my IT band, which is an overuse injury from running. I was venting a little bit to her about the frustrations of a running injury, to which I received a blank stare.
Then, this person bluntly stated, “You really shouldn’t run. It’s so bad for you. You’re going to ruin your knees.”
What? Bad for me? Worse than the pack a day that you smoke? What about that extra 20 pounds you’re carrying- think that might be hard on your knees?
Okay. Those thoughts were a little harsh (what can I say? My inner self is not always the nicest). So even as my blood boiled, I used every ounce of my willpower to be polite, and I resisted expressing my mean thoughts out loud.
Yet even though I didn’t react at the time, I couldn’t stop thinking about that comment. It wasn’t just this one person; so many other people in my life seem to suddenly become experts in healthcare overnight. They unabashedly share their point of view on running, informing me that running is terrible for me. They ever so kindly tell me that by the time I’m 60, I’ll be crippled from all the running.
So what is behind these types of comments? Why do people say these things to runners? Here are my thoughts:
1. Maybe it’s coming from a good place.
This is the hardest one to believe sometimes, but it could be true. Perhaps these remarks are not actually meant to be hurtful. It’s possible that these people actually have good intentions. They might be saying this out of genuine concern for my well-being. They probably really do know a person who experienced a serious injury from running, and they want to warn me against the same. I am not here to say running is risk-free, it’s not. I have had my fair share of injuries. I often deal with an assortment of aches and pains. In the end though, exercise is not bad for you and running is exercise. The majority of the runners I know are some of the healthiest people I know. Sure, running in extreme heat or extreme cold might be dangerous, but running in itself is not dangerous.
And let’s think about this…does this commenter have other acquaintances who are obese? Does she tell them how bad it is for them when they grab the extra large fries? Or does she know anyone died from preventable heart disease due to a sedentary lifestyle? Does she have any friends plagued by diabetes due to an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise? Those are real issues that I think should be a bigger concern than convincing me that running is bad.
“But what about that story of that guy who died right after the marathon?” Sure, I heard that story too. These deaths are publicized precisely because they’re a rare occurrence. How many millions of people are finishing marathons every year, and you’re focused on that ONE story about that ONE person who died (who, most of the time, did indeed have a pre-existing condition. It wasn’t the running that killed him.)
So maybe the person is genuinely concerned for me, but her worry could best be redirected towards reducing the record high obesity rates in this country.
I think the second reason for these negative comments stems from a little bit of jealousy. After all, we runners are a passionate group. We have drive. We have goals. We are relentless in our training. We also form amazing friendships and bonds around our passion, through our running clubs, our running blogs, and other parts of the running community. We take amazing trips to fun places, where we get to see 26.2 miles of the best a city has to offer. We experience the thrill of the finish line again and again. We gain self confidence and pride in our accomplishments and improvements. Who wouldn’t be jealous? The bitter outsider can only rain on our parade.
And maybe, just maybe, they’re a little jealous because we fit into those skinny jeans. Maybe they are a tidbit annoyed that we’re not the ones counting calories.
You go ahead with your diet of Greek yogurt and raw veggies; I’m going to grab a slice of that birthday cake because I already burned 1200 calories this morning on my tempo run while you were still in bed. Burned.
3. Lack of understanding.
The third reason for these comments could possibly be considered an extension of #1, but I’ll call it the lack of understanding. It’s not necessarily up to you to educate your acquaintances of the joys of running, but you might be able to open their eyes just a tiny bit so they could at least respect this part of your life. If it’s coworkers that are bringing you down, could you organize a weekly walk during the lunch hour? Could that walk turn into a run/walk? My family hosts a Thanksgiving 5k for all the different runners, non-runners, and naysayers, and I think it has helped the whole family learn to understand those of us with the crazy passion for running…at least a little bit.
This is a little harsh, but truthfully sometimes those Negative Nancies are just lazy. I mean, running looks like hard work because it is hard work! And hard work scares people. People don’t like admitting they’re scared of hard work so they come up with other reasons. “I’d love to run but it’s so bad for the knees” is an easy cop out. If you can’t run because you already have knee issues, that’s different. But it’s easier for people to come up with an excuse than admit they’re just lazy. Your knees, like everything else in your body, are going to get stronger from running and exercise. Spending the whole weekend with your snuggie and a pint of ice cream? Probably not going to help your knees.
I suggest you direct these Debby Downers to this article from NPR about how running actually is NOT bad for your knees:
The next time I get a comment like that, I think I know my response.
“Thanks for your concern, but I think I’ll continue to get my healthcare advice from a doctor.”
I’ll look to doctors like Dr. Jenna Boren who has run multiple 2:40 marathons, and has been running very hard for many years with no injuries. I’ll read advice books by Jeff Galloway, who is in his 70’s and is still running strong, with a marathon nearly every weekend. All these amazing stories of healthy people running well into their elder years…tell me again that story about the couch potato who lived a longer and a healthier life by not running?
|Dusters and me with Jeff Galloway at Big Sur 2009|
And if you’re still feeling stressed out by the people and their comments, I have one suggestion for you.
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Ha, AMEN! Someone told me one time, “how dare you” run in the winter because it’s bad for my lungs. To them I said, I’m from Minnesota, bitch.