Give Me The Fish (GMTF): Running is as basic of a human function as you can get. But, it’s also a skill. A skill, that as a human, should be practiced and trained, which is why we need to run.
Not just because of its practical use in daily life, but because whether you are involved in strength training, biking, hiking, or anything else, running has something to offer.
We need to quit falling for the latest fad and do what actually works and what is actually functional fitness. Most notably, moving heavy things and going from A to B. In this case, we are talking about the A to B part and why you need to run.
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Stop The Hate
It’s almost disheartening that I feel the need to write this article, but with the onslaught of fitness “professionals” telling people they don’t need to run, it’s become a thing.
From Crossfit to strength sports, to personal trainers and weight loss coaches, there is this really weird hate on running that has developed over the last few years.
While I’m glad to see that strength is taking a more central role in a healthy person’s training plan, let’s stop throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
I’m not going to get into all of the normal reasons why you need to run. You know, like how it improves heart health and your aerobic system, how it causes additional blood vessel growth and eases inflammation, its effects on better energy transfer, better mood, etc.
Most of you know all of that, but what I’m going to cover is a much more important reason for why you need to run.
Running is an essential part of being human.
I don’t care what you do. If you have two functioning legs, you are going to run at some point in your life.
And, if you are part of the functional fitness crowd, it’s almost impossible to find something more functional than running.
So, why the hate?
Then again, I guess that’s the driving factor for most things. But, we are going to dispel all of that here and get you back to being a better athlete. And, yes, we may even get you to like running.
Dispelling Ignorance: Running Is The Most Functional
As humans, we have been running since we could walk and our species has been running since we popped into existence.
Running has been and still is an essential component of being human.
Humans have run for thousands of years, they still run, and will continue to need to run for the foreseeable future.
While we live in this soft and cuddly modern world, all it takes is a few excursions into the unknown on less traveled adventures for you to quickly find the benefits of running.
Even more so when you realize that a vast majority of the land is not trafficable by mechanized means.
But, even if you don’t care about that, running is still something that you do, likely on the regular.
Whether it’s soccer, Crossfit, football, biking, hiking, and much more, cardio is going to be part of what you’re doing. And, in most sports that cardio is going to take its form in some kind of running, whether that be sprinting, or knocking out 100 miles.
And, even if it’s not part of your sport, by you picking up running, its benefits will transfer over, often in a more effective way than your current non-running sport conditioning.
Running is arguably as transferrable to other sports as barbell work is to strength.
But, most sports do involve running.
Sports would be relatively boring if the players slowly walked up to move the ball. Just like how we would be pretty crappy animals if we couldn’t run from danger… or run to it.
Having the confidence in your ability to run long distances is not only eye-opening, but it opens up whole avenues of the world to explore.
Out hiking and realize you won’t have time to reach that peak you came out for?
Just drop your pack and run it out.
Nervous about exploring a new area and having the stamina to make it back?
Not a problem.
All of these things no longer become an issue if you learn to run.
While you don’t need to go to the extreme of Ultramarathons (though I recommend it at least once), there is nothing more self-reassuring than knowing that if push came to shove I could run tens of miles to find help or get to where I need to be.
Also, few things transfer well to running. A certain level of cardio fitness will, but have you ever seen a Crossfitter, strength athlete, or cyclist try to run?
If you haven’t, you’re missing out on a hilariously abysmal performance.
But, if you throw a runner on a bike, typically they fair pretty well. And when they do lack, it’s always because of strength. Something that should be taken care of by time spent in the gym.
So, why do cardio-type activities not transfer well to running…
Because running is a skill.
But My Knees Hurt
If you have knee pain, it’s probably not because you’re special (no, I don’t care what your mom told you). It could be your shoes, but more often than not…
Your knee pain is actually why you need to run.
Running improves knee pain.
I see it all the time with my athletes, they start running again and due to imbalances and lack of adaptation they have pain, but sure enough, two weeks later, it’s gone.
And if it doesn’t improve it has without fail, always been corrected one of two ways.
Better shoes or better form.
Running has a specific form, just like when performing a squat or deadlift. The better your form, the less pain you experience, the faster you go, and the more you enjoy it.
Some of us naturally learn the correct way to run as kids by how we watched our parents, or how we played, or something, but many of us did not.
Even those of us that did learn correctly, lost it over time by failing to practice running in our modern sedentary lives.
Now, instead of looking like a graceful Kenyan running across the plains, you look like the Hulk making his way across a traffic jam in New York.
We have to train this to get better.
You can get a coach to help fix this… or, you can use your handy google device.
Or, you can even improve 90% of your form with two simple concepts.
- Don’t slouch
- Don’t let your foot land in front of your body.
While everyone has slightly different running forms, the principles are the same.
On top of this, pain, when you start running, is NORMAL.
Just like with my athletes, it will likely go away after a matter of weeks.
If you haven’t been running, your body has adapted to not running and now needs to start the painful process of reversing the damage.
There are even studies on this. Anything you do for the first few times is going to cause discomfort… get over it.
While the study found “worsening patella cartilage”, it was asymptomatic (no pain) and they agreed that overall knee health remarkably improved.
I’m willing to bet that if they kept the study going, the cartilage would have stopped getting worse. Sometimes the body has to make “adjustments” to a new stimulus, which is why overall there was no pain felt with this condition, and overall knee health had still improved.
But, that’s just a hunch combined with the thousands of years of human history with people running about, and the litany of lifelong runners out there (including me).
Side Note: Strong hamstrings protect patellas. If you squat and deadlift correctly, this probably isn’t an issue.
The bottom line, chances are, your pain is from not running enough and that is the exact reason why you need to run.
How To Stop Hating Running
First, we have to admit, that running is just hard.
Unlike strength training, you have to willingly commit to just hard effort.
It’s hard to keep your guts inside while keeping the pedal on the gas in all-out runs exceeding 20 minutes.
Even harder when you start talking about over 3 miles.
Once we can admit that running is hard, we can get to actual solutions to solving this hate-on-running problem.
The second step is to stop listening to coaches that are not involved in running.
Just like with all things, if you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
And, a lot of strength coaches, weight loss coaches, personal trainers, and YouTube Gurus do not have a lot of experience with running.
Because of this, they and now you, may not know, that running is a skill.
In fact, there are lots of running coaches that specialize in teaching proper form and running techniques. If there is one around you, I highly recommend them.
Fortunately, our form also tends to naturally improve over time as we subconsciously realize “owe that hurts, maybe I shouldn’t run that way”.
The next part is realizing that you have to push through the pain of the first couple of weeks.
A lot of people start running with really bad technique resulting in a lot of pain and discomfort. But, I have yet to see a case where it hasn’t disappeared in a few weeks.
Once you get through this uncomfortable phase (by training at least two days a week), running can become smooth and enjoyable.
The final piece is getting over how boring running is to some people.
I would argue they are wrong.
But, that’s because they have never been shown how to train for running.
Running can be tackled just like strength training, with intervals, rest periods, and progressive overload. Along with easy active recovery days if desired.
Running can also be used to explore new places and have new adventures.
Running has a million and one ways to get better, with some ways worse than others, but optimal isn’t always optimal for you.
But, regardless of how you’re going to do this, running is something you should be doing.
Why You Need To Run
Stop falling for the fads, stop complaining about what you need and don’t need, don’t get involved in the “This burns more calories than that debate”, and let’s just use some common sense.
We will probably always need to run, and we will keep running.
Which is also a pretty good indicator of why you need to run.
And, if you want to consider yourself a “fit” human, you should probably hit the pavement.
There is some exception for competitive athletes. If you are already running as part of your sport, you probably already hit the minimum needed.
The problem is, for the majority of people out there, they are just gym-time athletes.
Because of that, we need to bring the conditioning back to strength work. And that conditioning should probably have something to do with actual functional fitness… moving on your own two feet.
You can dominate in almost any sport if you get freaking strong and you have the ability to just keep moving.
Both of which you get by lifting weights and running, separately.
So, the moral of the story, you need to run.
Until Next Time,