Friday, December 6, 2013

Acquired Taste or Love at First Try?

Tyrone Flyer, Magilligan
image by Chris Sharp

A good friend of mine here is a runner. He cycles as well, but it’s running that’s his passion. He runs mostly off road - on wooded paths, through forests and up mountain trails, along rugged shorelines. And when he talks about running, he makes it sound wonderfully appealing. So much so that, willfully suppressing awful memories of my own tortured attempts at running in the past, I began to ask questions and to consider giving it another try. 

So we had a chat about it, at the end of which I said that I'd like to try running again - making a comment to the effect of “I think I'm going to enjoy it this time.” To this he quickly replied “Oh no, you’ll hate it at first for sure!"

"Oh?"

"But stick with it," he added brightly. "Once you pass the tipping point, you'll not be able to live without it." 

Okay, not exactly what I had in mind. But I remained optimistic. "So how long did it take until you began to enjoy running?" 

 "About three months." 

"Three months?!" Okay, definitely not what I had in mind. But the idea of willingly doing something that feels awful until that point where it begins to feel good intrigued me. What motivates people to run for 3 months if they don't enjoy it? And how does the experience transition from an unpleasant to a pleasant one? 

When I started asking these questions, my friend turned the subject to cycling. "Well didn't you feel the same way on the bike? Is the pain not terrible until you get used to it?" 

It never occurred to me to think of cycling in that way. Because no, it never felt terrible. It felt good from the get go - wonderful even - which is why I wanted to do it again and again. Sure I was sore and out of breath after my first few bike rides when just starting out. And even now I feel plenty of pain whenever I push my limits. But I would compare this to the experience of dancing all night: While I don't get to do this as often as I'd like nowadays, in my 20s I used to love going to clubs and dancing until near-collapse. I'd feel the physical stress toward the end, and definitely the day after. But while I'm dancing, the fun of it and the getting lost in the moment overshadow the pain. On a bike - whether toodling along a river path or  taking part in the most grueling of training rides - I feel something akin to this. But at no point had I ever felt it while running; at no point during any of my attempts to run did it feel "fun," and at no point had I been able to lose myself in the act of running to the extent that the pain and discomfort of it would get tuned out. I had always thought this to be a sign that running was simply wrong for me, and assumed that dedicated runners got that way because they did enjoy it from the start. But now here was a runner telling me that he too was miserable in the beginning. I have since questioned a few other friends who run and got similar feedback. Their description of running as initially unappealing, but habit-forming, reminded me of the stories people tell of how they began smoking or drinking: "I hated the taste at first..." When it comes to stories of how people got into cycling, there is instead a theme of love at first try. 

So, does running tend to be an acquired taste, whereas cycling is innately pleasurable? Or is it more about the person, the intensity, and other factors? I've stuck with cycling for 5 years because I loved it from the get-go, so the idea of running "until I grow to like it" is hard to wrap my head around - but I am not closed to the idea. There is considerable overlap between cyclists and runners, and I am curious how those who've done both feel about these activities.

74 comments:

  1. Both the discoveries of running and cycling were things of my teens. Cycling was a means to get to school, 17 km away. Running was what I did for sports; and it gave me a minor career even, because I was seen as talented.

    I quit running at age 21, because of chronic Achilles tendonitis. A quarter of a century later I still dream I am busy running, without having run for all those years.

    I never dream about cycling, despite the tens of thousands kilometres I have ridden since.

    Maybe this is because no cyclist uses their arms, except to lean on -- whereas running is the more complete body experience.

    Perhaps this is because I never took part in a cycle race, as I had raced enough in my life, and thus link a far narrower spectrum of emotions to cycling.

    All in all, long slow distance running was never that different to long slow distance cycling to me. When one became impossible, the other was a good enough surrogate almost immedtaitely. But, perhaps this is because I never needed to teach myself how to run; as I learned just now.

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  2. Will be interested to read what others say.

    For me, it is simple: Tried running. Many times. Hated it. Still do.

    Loved cycling from the beginning even when I pushed myself on training rides to pain and exhaustion.

    I've felt a cycling "high". Never did get a "runner high".

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    1. +1

      Have always loved cycling, swimming. Have always hated running. Tried very hard to like running b/c triathlon seemed 2/3 appealing -- nope.

      I've trained for and run several 10ks, and loathed every minute of it.

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  3. I used to run but stopped when my knee started giving me problems. Running is not an activity that is easy to keep up with.
    But, oh, biking. The other day I had my bike loaded down with a garment back pannier and a shopping bag full of soft pretzels bungied on top, and when I pushed off, I was free. Floating over the ground, in complete control of my movements, able to make precise movements, around this pebble, over this speed bump just so. How liberating, how wonderful.

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  4. Interesting blog. I classify myself as a cycling enthusiast (as opposed to a hardcore bicyclist) and fitness runner - I run about 5 km twice each week for exercise, not for competition. I cycled recreationally as a kid, even did most of my own maintenance, but took up running (err, more like "jogging") at the insistence of my parents to lose weight in my early teens - I was pretty chubby as a youngster. I do not consider myself a natural runner: I don't have that slim, graceful build you associate with elite runners. I work out a lot and look more like... a truck.

    Despite this physical mismatch, to this day, I still run "more" on the balance than I bike. I find that on a time pro-rated basis, running gives me a more intense and dynamically varying workout. I am less concerned about traffic; less worried about snow, changing topography, etc.; worry less about the gear I have to carry; can change the run to suit my energy level or training objective (sprint, slow down, randomly pick a hill) more easily; worry less about headwind; and can stay relatively close to home in case I can't afford the time to be far away (deadlines looming). I love a long ride too, but given work and family pressures, I can get in a very intense run in 30 minutes, as opposed to a 40 km ride taking me at least 90 minutes.

    The first 5 minutes of running are brutal though, especially now that the weather has turned cold. It takes longer to warm up, the cold air bites, and everything - joints included - is just stiff. After about 10 minutes though, I'm inevitably glad I went. So yes, I can appreciate what your friend means about "pushing through".

    Finally, running (even walking) is a weight bearing exercise, whereas a number of studies suggest (perhaps not conclusively) that cycling exclusively does not promote bone density or health. So, I try to mix things up: weights, running, cycling, etc.

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  5. This is coming from someone who dreaded the mile run in gym class growing up. Ironically now I'm considered a fast runner by family and friends but here is my advise:

    1. Find a pair of shoes you find comfortable, or lack thereof if you prefer (my preference is barefoot, or minimalist shoes). But much like on a bike comfort is key.

    2. Start slow, probably slower than you think you should be running, enjoy the scenery.

    3. Stretch...a lot.

    4.Repeat.

    5. Enjoy.

    -Mark

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  6. Ran daily for more than 20 years (6 to 8 miles daily), getting started because of my brother's encouragement and propelled in part probably because of life flux and challenges in focusing & obtaining meaningful job prospects. May get back into it again as I miss it like cigarettes and motorcycles (albeit healthier).

    Running is the ultimate selfie maybe! Transforming to be sure, not unlike perhaps what you've experienced with cycling. There is a real "aha" moment when you realize you can really pull your own weight as it were despite physical/mental challenges that you thought were beyond you. This was especially true for me as I had no background in athletics and had a poor self image in that regard. How was I able to do this and even be good at it (beating 20-year-olds when I was in my fifties)?

    Initially, starting running should be in small bits, folded in with walking; ease in so that you give your body an opportunity to get its sense of what you're asking it to do. I wouldn't characterize my nascent running though as mostly pain at all although there was that. It was also illumination and insight into self and the dimensions of my physical being I was not acquainted with, expanding my world in a manner I had never experienced. It was a found thing, wondrous; I was nine again!

    Like cycling & many other satisfying physical and intellectual pursuits, running has legs that will rock your world!

    Thanks again for always sharing fun and rewarding ideas/ideals, drawing your community of readers closer together and inspiring them! Jim Duncan

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  7. I loved running. For years it was a winter activity I could accomplish in 30 minutes - until injuries forced me to reconsider its long term stress on my body as I grew older. But, I loved running from the start. I question a grueling 3 month orientation. It doesn't have to be that way. Get off your bike and jog a bit on your commutes to and from town. No one says you have to immediately run 10 miles.

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  8. Watch their faces. Runners almost always look like they're hurting. Cyclists, on the other hand, are usually smiling.

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  9. I have some relevant experience with this. Cycling was a "love at first sight" for me, and I've been doing it in some form or other since I was a small child-- touring, racing, utility riding, etc. The only times it's ever come close to feeling like a chore is in training for race season, but even then it's pretty fun.

    Comparatively, running was definitely an acquired taste. I didn't run at all as a kid or teenager; I was heavy and running was awkward and painful. It took a decent amount of intentionality to build the fitness and running form to really enjoy running.

    But that doesn't mean it's really miserable when you start out, just that it's not as immediately gratifying as riding a bike. The first few weeks are boring as you take short (<20min) runs in familiar territory, just to build the basic strength and form. As with cycling, some pain is expected as you build up, but if you're in serious distress, something's wrong.

    Running has some distinct logistical advantages over cycling, too. It requires very little equipment-- just shoes, really-- which makes it cheap and logistically simple. No maintenance; no worries about mechanical trouble leaving you stranded. That makes it good for travel, too. Throwing a pair of running shoes in a bag is much easier than schlepping even the most compact folding bike. And most (urban and suburban) places you go, at least in the US, you're much more likely to find good places to run than to ride.

    And there's less time overhead to running as well, in my experience. Living in a city, I'm looking at 15-30 minutes of riding to get out to where my "real" ride starts, and from there I don't feel like I've gotten a serious ride in unless I've been out for over an hour. By contrast, a 30-40 minute run is very satisfying, and starts as soon as I hit the pavement outside my door. I find myself stepping out for a run during my 45-minute lunch break, where a ride would be possible but unrewarding.

    Characterizing running as simply becoming an addiction as you get used to it is, to my mind, incorrect. There's an addictive quality to be sure, but even without that aspect running can be really rewarding. It lets you explore places that would be disallowed, or impractical, or uninteresting on a bike.
    All of the ways cycling helps a person engage with a place and experience it in a fresh way are as true or more for a person on foot. When you get to a point where you can run 5-10 miles reliably, you're surprised at how much area there is to explore that you wouldn't even have considered on a bike.

    So while cycling remains my first and greatest love, I've become a bit of a runner in recent years because it's so convenient and cheap, and I've come to really appreciate the uniique rewards it offers.

    If you're curious about getting into running, especially about the "not being miserable" aspect, a great book to read is "Born To Run," by Christopher McDougall. It's gotten a reputation recently as "that barefoot running book," but that's really not its focus.

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  10. Hello Velouria,


    As I read over the net, walking should be healthier than running. So, cycling which allows us a better effort control, especially on flat landscape, is close to walking.
    To put one’s two cent in: It’s my own explanation.
    Some people believe we are not born to run as efficiently like a kangaroo.

    Laurent

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  11. I used to run as a kid, and I would win races, but never went into track and field and at some point as I got older, running became uncomfortable! I can run when I have to, like catching the bus, or ferry for example, but otherwise I get terrible pains in my side, I am clumsy, and get the itchies because the histamines in my skin get all jiggled. My sister took up running and loves it, prefers running to cycling, so while I was envious, I was certain I would just hurt myself, trip etc..
    However, recently I thought I would try some running as I was alone on a long trail and felt a bit spooked. I was doing fine, was cheered that I was doing it without pain and then I tripped on a branch and fell hard on some rocks, hit my face, really bruised up my leg. Luckily I did not break my nose, teeth or my jaw(that I can tell), and my face didn't bruise up, but that was a shock! So, while I know we are born to run, some of us are also born to trip! Walking is better...

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  12. Just getting back into running myself. After a year of cycling, running once a week on trails in Lincoln has been an absolute pleasure. In the past running was a chore. Starting back up with better base fitness from cycling coupled with running on trails instead of pavement has transformed the experience. As others have said, start slowly and take time to enjoy your surroundings!

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  13. For those who enjoy a written perspective on ultra running, check out "Jill Outside", especially her PTL blogging. Oh, and her books are worth the read.

    arcticglass.blogspot.com

    P.S. She's a runner, hiker, cyclist, etc.



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  14. I don't enjoy running until I can go at least 2 miles at at least a 13MPH pace. (I'm a slow runner who tops out at 11.5MPH for runs.) When I can run for at least 20 minutes at a decent (for me) pace, it feels good, and becomes zen-like, because my mind can wander. It's a form of therapy on those runs.

    That said, I don't enjoy the first mile of any run, and I am frustrated if my pace is so slow (>13MPH) that I feel like I'm essentially jogging in place.

    I find running SLIGHTLY more accessible because I don't wear a helmet and no one expects me to run on an aterial road in busy traffic. I also like that I can more safely listen to music or a podcast. But I completely agree that biking is enjoyable from the get-go, whereas I hated nearly every minute of the Couch-to-5K program until I could sustain running for 20 minutes.

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    1. HEAVENS, yes. 11.5 -13 MINUTE MILES. Lord. No, I chug along at 4.5-5.5 *MPH*.

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    2. Phew okay, that makes more sense : )

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    3. The best marathoners keep up a near 13mph pace for over 2 hours. My personal best is 10 mph for 30 minutes.

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  15. Why are you considering running now, if you ve never enjoyed it in the past? Also, winter may not be the best time to start!

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    1. Put simply, it's the landscape here. I love being in it so much, that I'd like to find ways to connect with it beyond cycling and walking.

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    2. Remember, never say never. Things can change and so can she.

      That said, I assume Velouria won't be changing the name of her blog to Lovely Running Shoes.

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  16. Taking up running in my early 30s was transformative; in nine months I lost 60 pounds, and the following year ran my first 26 mile marathon. Knee problems forced an end to it in my mid-40s, replaced by cycling. Now 67, I must say the two activities have kept me healthy and my weight stable.
    There are many similarities between distance running and distance cycling; both create a mental state that is medative and also the feeling that one's body is a machine, a machine that can just go on and on.
    When I started, weighing over 200 pounds, the will to keep at it was difficult, but only a few weeks were adequate for it to become addictive.

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  17. Running, to me, was always attractive, beautiful even. Watching children run, watching athletes run, beautiful. I ran, too. It was as natural as breathing. In college I'd stand by the edge of the track during meets (which included world class runners) just to see those muscles and legs in action, beautiful. Also, in college I decided to run for distance instead of joy....it was hard, it took work before it felt natural. It was eventually addictive. The day was not right if I did not run. I also started doing triathlons because, did i mention, I also rode a bike for transportation. The cycling community was a different breed, as a loner I preferred to run, but also testing my limits in competitions was, at the time, fun. Eventually, partly because of the intensity with which took it on, I developed running specific injuries and had to quit entirely. I had never experienced depression at that level before. My identity had been rapped up in the joy of running for so long it was devastating. Many decades later it's still hard to look at runners and know I can't participate. Cycling has somewhat filled that void. Not owning a car means my bike is mostly transportation, and it's enjoyable, but not the same. I felt much healthier as a runner, much more in tune with my body, nutrition, the outdoors....beautiful. Running was pure, simple, available, and even social....beautiful. Your question about was it hard work initially, well, I guess so I mean most things are difficult to pick up...there are barriers....Easing into things is always good advice. Plus running is SO much easier on the pocket book....Beautiful!!

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  18. I use running mostly as a winter thing, it's much easier to do during the dark cold winter (safer to run on slick streets, easier to dress, etc). I found that both had their painful moments, both required gaining form, educating my body in how to do this "thing" for miles at a time.

    They wondrously each have their moments where everything clicks, where you feel like you're flying. Then it's a good day.

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  19. I absolutely hated running my entire life until a few years ago when I read "Born to Run". Great book and it inspired me to actually try to run. Running always hurt my joints and I never had muscle soreness after running. After switching to "barefoot" shoes I really enjoyed it and it just felt right. Before I always felt like I was injuring myself.

    If this is similar to your experience, I would recommend trying some barefoot type running shoes, and reading the book. I use the Vibram Five Finger Bikila's right now but there are many choices available now compared to a few years ago. I've also used Merrell and Vivo Barefoot shoes which were very good. Definitely start out slowly and enjoy it. Just like a bicycle, it's unlikely that a beginner would enjoy riding a skinny tired track bike immediately.

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  20. You won't know until you do it, same as with cycling.

    Overthinking a simple athletic activity and asking others about theirs doesn't make you better or do it.

    Having said that of course activities are individual-specific. I'd thought you'd have gotten than from cycling.

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    1. Wait you mean I can just like walk out the door and run instead of writing about it here first? That feels so wrong!

      No. I did try it again. Twice, briefly. It still feels horrible. I get out of breath ridiculously quickly and my head start pounding. But the landscape is so nice here, I could see myself giving the whole "do it until it starts to feel good" thing a try. Maybe...

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  21. I started running when I was 17 years old and have been a runner for almost 37 years. I have run races 5ks and 10ks) and also run for the pure joy of it. I will concur, that for some people, running is not fun at the beginning. In fact, if I were starting out today, I would view running as an act of breaking in a new bicycle seat. It is not fun the first few rides on that new seat but gets better with each ride. Eventually running will get better with each run.

    In my experience of watching and listening to new runners, there are few things that potentially cause failure. First, running too fast or too far the first few times will make for a miserable experience. There will be body parts that will be sore from the first few runs because you will probably use muscles that you didn’t know existed. The second issue is not purchasing a good pair of running shoes. Spend some money on a good pair of shoes purchased from a store that focuses on runners. Usually the personnel at a running store are experienced runners. They can help you with proper shoe fit.

    If you do decide to run on a regular basis make sure you stretch your legs, back, abdomen, etc. More running injuries occur during running from the lack of proper stretching. I can attest to that (Plantar fasciitis)!!!

    I also have been a bicyclist for about 10 years riding two to three times a week. Running is more enjoyable for me but I am not entirely sure why. I know I have solved more work problems (and also let my mind run free) while running than I have when riding a bicycle. Bicycling causes me to spend too much time watching traffic, shifting gears, preparing to stop, preparing to go, etc. These concerns are minimized or non-existent when I go for a run.

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  22. The analogy is flawed because cycling is often more akin to walking than running.

    Cycling for fitness/competition is more like running. And cycling for fitness/competition is not toodling about on the "city bike", it is intense physical activity that requires specific gear (just like running) and a tolerance for *PAIN*.

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  23. I ran cross country throughout high school in a town overabundant in trails. I was never outstanding at it (my best 5k was ~19:30), but I found the effect of the woods to be bewitching. In contrast, I only became interested in cycling after college. To this day, I ride mainly for transport and for rambling around nearby towns. I do not have much interest in racing, though I could see a brevet or too in my future.

    Given that, I think that the amount of enjoyment derived from either depends on how they're approached. I have always approached running from a racing perspective which makes most of my runs sweaty and strenuous. I do reach a sort of zen state where my mind switches off as I check my mile times, but this is not by itself pleasurable. My favorite runs are those where I'm going fast enough to be challenged, but slow enough that I can enjoy my surroundings without tuning them out. When just starting to run, this may mean 10+ minute miles, and only a few miles at a time. As one's endurance increases, the miles go a little bit faster and the distances grow a bit longer.

    My more recent fondness for cycling started in much the same way. I began on slow rides to and from work. Since then, my rides have begun to involve more varied terrain, longer trips, and higher average speeds. Perhaps the largest difference between the two is the perceived reward. Running for the first time, one may be lucky to get 2 miles before exhaustion sets in. By comparison, a novice bicyclist may make it 10 miles, provided they have a comfortable bike and don't try their Lance Armstrong impression. You can experience a lot more in those 10 miles. Not only that, but the use of gearing means that, while you may be sore from the saddle, you need not be out of breathe by the end of the ride.

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  24. Well, this should be interesting. You've suggested many fears (if that's the right word) associated with learning to cycle which required overcoming. Running, especially on trails is not so easy to do and injuries, falling, etc are quite common. Enjoy.

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    1. I am not generally a fearful person and don't have any running-related fears. With cycling it was a unique situation of having balance problems which made operating a bike utterly alien.The idea of tripping on a root while running in the woods doesn't really bother me. Not sure how to explain that, except that my body would "understand" how to handle that situation, whereas it would not understand how to handle, say, a wipe-out on a bike.

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    2. Have you had a wipe-out on a bike yet? I'm asking because I've had them both on bikes and running and it seems my body knew exactly how to handle both....the mind just shut off and the pain didn't present itself till hours later. Tripping over things is not the issue so much as unstable footing and uneven surfaces.

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  25. I loved running. Past tense. I still dream of running. There's no question the runner's high is real and much more acute than what you get on a bicycle.

    There's a simple mechanical reason it is difficult to mix the two sports. Cycling makes your legs tight. Stretching helps but cannot entirely cancel the millions of reps done with the pedals. Runners are always prone to injuries and cyclists trying to be runners are very prone to injuries.

    It is possible. I ran for winter workouts and for pleasure for many years. Get good shoes. Get style coaching if it is available. Run on soft ground whenever possible. Rough terrain is good too. Build very gradually. Never overdo it. Back off at the first hint of pain. Endorphins mask pain and by the time you feel anything some damage is already done. Running injuries can be sudden and severe.

    Then there's the one that will keep me from being a runner again. When I was good I was 6'1" and 135 pounds. That's how a runner is built. At 5'11-3/4" and 180 there's just too much load on my knees ankles and feet. If you want to run stay thin. Youth will fend off a lot of injuries, youth and being featherweight is even better.

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    1. Yes, age is another element in the equation. Cycling is far more age friendly. Even my brother, a former So Cal regional-class middle distance runner in his 20s is far more plodding and short distance and slower in his early 50s. He's gone from ~150 to over 200; me, 5 years older, I've gone from ~165 to ~175, but still, getting back into running, as I did very briefly circa 2006 (prepping for the local Police Academy entrance exam), is far, far more awkward and requires far, far more work than getting back into cycling.

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  26. O, come on, don't make a production out if it, just do it. Do it quietly, do it carefully, do it consistently.

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  27. My own experience with both the activities is that running (a) has a higher minimum participation level than cycling does to stay comfortable with it, (b), is less friendly to aging bodies than cycling, (c) requires even more strict attention to warmup, but (d), if done sufficiently regularly with sufficiently good technique and adequate warmup, yes, it does become pleasant and feel not only normal but good.

    Me, I gave up running 20 years ago when I decided I'd rather not split put my energy and time between running and cycling.

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  28. When you started cycling you probably started doing one mile at a time. The equivalent with running would be four hundred metres. Then a few weeks later probably two or three miles which corresponds to eight to twelve hundred metres running. The first time on a bike would be horrendous if you tried to do even four miles at a good pace, yet somebody new to running thinks they can run a mile at a good pace, which they can't. Dividing the distance by four is a good measure.

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    1. Interesting. When I first started cycling it was more like 12-20 miles straight away, at 12mph or so. But shorter rides are probably the more typical experience.

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    2. Clearly, you've got an athletic capacity. Twelve to twenty miles at a 12 mph pace is outstanding, especially on those heavy loop things you rode!

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  29. I started running in my early twenties. In the beginning, I was motivated by the physical challenge. When I had enough form that I could sustain a reasonable running pace for several hours (I ran a few half marathons) the experience become "satisfying" but I would not really call it "enjoyable". Eventually, my knees started complaining and I turned to cycling for aerobic excercise. I truly enjoy cycling, experiencing the thrill of the increased speed, and of the way scenary changes on longer rides. Plus my aging joints just seem to keep getting stronger the more I ride. Perhaps running and cycling are most similar when cycling up hill. Sometimes when I am riding up a steep hill I encounter a runner on the sidewalk and often we climb at just about the same speed. But when I reach the top of the hill I can coast and recover whereas the runner has to keep running. So bicycling for me, thank you!

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  30. ""Three months?!" Okay, definitely not what I had in mind. But the idea of willingly doing something that feels awful until that point where it begins to feel good intrigued me. What motivates people to run for 3 months if they don't enjoy it? And how does the experience transition from an unpleasant to a pleasant one?"

    Couldn't this question be asked of any new activity? Why do anything for three months if it's initially unpleasant? There must be some hope or goal which drives us forward even if the rewards are absent in the beginning. Aren't you a scientist who researches this stuff?

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  31. You are a much smaller (referring specifically to weight) individual than myself, and I cannot help but think it plays a part in running. Most of the people I know who "like" to run are lighter. It works both ways though because there are activities that I enjoy (such as pulling or heavy lifting) that lighter weight individuals sometimes don't find as pleasant. I think that they experience the same misery starting out with running, but for me, I don't know that the discomfort (& sometimes pain) will ever go away. The reality is, I am not athletic, and try as I might to participate in different avenues of fitness, exercise, or simply just enjoying the outdoors, I have come to the realization that running (though I continue to do it for some unknown reason) will never be easy or particularly pleasant for me.

    I do notice that things improve though. Distances get easier the more I run; speed, however, never seems to improve much - or at least it's a much slower progress than I'd prefer. Personally, I don't run with others because it's difficult to find a good pace match (I think this is true for a lot of people though) and I enjoy the thinking time by myself, but I believe the thing that keeps me continuing on is that I do see mild improvements... and it makes me sweat like nothing else I do. :O)

    I suppose in some ways, running is like a lot of endurance activities. Why would anyone ride 100 or 200 (or more) miles in a single ride? Why would a person participate in an Ironman? Sometimes, there's just that unidentifiable trait in a person that makes him/her want more, to try something else, or to see what s/he is capable of achieving.

    Of course, that said, not everything has to be for every person either. Some people run multiple days a week, and some do so only when absolutely required. I think if you want to give it a try, why not go for it? If you end up not wanting to continue on, that decision can be made at a later time. A sort of nothing ventured, nothing gained thought, I suppose.

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  32. Eee Gads. I have always, HATED running with a passion. The pain... it's just so painful! Still can't figure out how anyone finds joy in destroying their knees and shins.

    I tried and tried over the years - I even joined the track team in Jr. High - whereupon someone noticed that I was holding my breath when I ran. Correcting that made running possible, but certainly not enjoyable. It's the bouncing that I can't stand - It's like getting slugged in the face with every step.

    I think I'll stick with my bike...

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  33. If you do it right, running doesn't "ruin" your knees, nor is it painful, and it can be fun. It just takes a lot of maintenance, and this after a lengthy adaptation to get started -- particularly when you are old.

    Back in HS I never ran if I could help it, through I was (he said modestly) a rather talented cyclist (ie, in strength; not in technique -- "small rings and hoods or flats are for sissies") and put in far more miles than I do now 40 years later. The PE instructor made us run a couple of miles around a dirt track. I'd do a few yards in the workboots I habitually wore, then stop, take them off, and run the remaining 1 4/5 mile in my socks. I always came in among the top 3 without really trying.

    I can think of one thing worse than running (if you don't like running): riding a stationary bike *hard* for at least 60 minutes. I used to do that, too -- intervals and heart rate and everything. Horrible -- talk about making time slow to a crawl. If I couldn't cycle, I'd walk (I mean, a lot more.)

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  34. Some people have bodies better suited to running than others. A person with a relatively smooth running motion may be more likely to enjoy it. This tends to get downplayed. When I see a true runner with good form, I stop and admire them.

    Bikes tend to be more forgiving, and one of many reasons I ride is because a bike allows me to exert myself in ways I cannot by running without injuring myself. The nature of riding is such that one can compensate for one's physical limitations through the choice of equipment and type of riding. There is a larger margin for compensation.

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  35. Running in Northern Ireland...sounds magical. I started running in my 20s and am now a 60 year old woman still running and biking too. It is running that allows me to get to a meditative and creative place in my mind that I can't find any other way. I started to love it when I found my "stride". Start slow and steady- slow enough to have a conversation and then build up distances. Run for 10 minutes and walk for a minute..run 10 minutes and walk for a minute. In a month you will be a runner.

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    1. I was told to never run at a pace where you can't maintain a conversation. Good advice.

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  36. I took up running this year, and I love it! I found it easier to start than cycling, but to be fair cycling was something I took up when I had no fitness at all (I would gasp half way up a single flight of stairs) whereas I've started running already fit from all the cycling. Cycling took me months of effort to reach a stage where my 16km hilly work commute was something other than a brutal grind. It's easy peasy now, but that's after several years and some bike touring.

    Running on the other hand was only really difficult for the first handful of runs. At first I had to intersperse walking and running, and it was very very hard and dispiriting. But after only a couple weeks I found a running pace I could sustain (think *slower* - like, just above walking speed) and then it became weirdly entertaining. Everyone is faster than me, but I'm running 5km several times a week now, and I really love the way it makes me feel. I was not an athletic child. I couldn't really run at all, lost all races, and was overweight. I really stopped engaging in sport as soon as I could. So being able to go out and just run is amazing and fantastic and wonderful. There's a joy in propelling yourself with your body that gets better and better the faster and more smoothly you learn to run.

    So anyway - I think cycling prepared me for running. It taught me I can get through the initial learning period where everything is hard, and gave me a base level of fitness. I love to go on cycling adventures, and it's still my main way of getting around, but for a short, easy, grab-your-shoes-and-go exercise running has become one of my go to activities.

    My main advice is go and buy good shoes before you even start. I bought proper running shoes before my very first run and I've had no foot or joint problems so far (and I say this as someone who a few years ago had plantar fasciitis just from walking).

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  37. Last winter, I tried to start running but It was no pleasure at all. Biking is so comfortable compared to running, that I cannot understand why people do it. Walking or hiking can be fun if the wheather is nice but running feels so unnatural for me. I will prefer my bike.

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  38. Pacing and meditation: run slow enough and it becomes a rhythmic (borderline masochistic) dance

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  39. I see in a blog in the future -- "Lovely Running Shoes". By the way, a heart rate monitor was the key to my learning to love running. I went from 45 minutes of pain, to four hours of pleasure, by learning what my heart rate was, and reducing it.

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  40. the sad thing about running is that it's not available to all in the sense that some bodies cannot handle the demands whereas cycling can accommodate a wider population.

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  41. Just recently several of my cycling friends took up running and I honestly don't get it, and I can't really, due to hypermobility in my ankles. Running doesn't hurt me, but the falling down when a foot is suddenly the wrong way sure does! I also have this haunting memory of my middle school gym teacher making us all run a mile around the track. That was torture! I'll just stick with cycling. Only happy memories there. :)

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  42. I love running as much as cycling but getting to the point of running 6 miles at a 7:30-8:00 minute mile pace (sufficient to build a significant stock of endorphins) does take some effort. But ramping up to ride 60-70 miles at 17-18 mph might take one 3 months as well.

    I had a funny experience on the US Thanksgiving this year, running 5 miles with no training whatsoever. I did it at a decent pace (~7 mph) and was definitely sore in the way anyone running that far and fast (fast being relative to walking) would be sore. I suspect it was the same kind of sore that you have written about enjoying at least once.

    The pleasure of running in part comes from where you run. Running in the forest, as your friend does, is great fun, running on busy Cambridge streets at commuting hour is about as much fun as riding on those same streets at the same time.

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  43. Running is kind of a time sink. I pretty much only ride for transportation (along with some social riding) and I have a 45-minute commute, plus I have a lot of other interests that don't involve bodily movement. Running would cut into those interests big time. It seems like all the runners I know spend at least an hour running (I am including showering and changing clothes in this) three or four times a week. That's a JOB! At least you can combine cycling with your commute.

    Also, uh, boobs. If you have certain endowments as a woman, running just isn't going to be comfortable no matter what you do. Binding hurts. Not binding also hurts. This is not a problem on the bike.

    Plus, you can't coast while running and that's one of the great joys of cycling IMO, just letting gravity have its way with you. I'd probably never buy a fixie either.

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    1. As a very large breasted woman I have no trouble at all running. I wear a decent bra, but it's not an unusually hardcore bra. Not saying it isn't an issue for you, just that large breasted women shouldn't think they can't try - because for some of us it's no problem at all.

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  44. Tried running in my mid-forties and ended up with TWO hernias ! Took up cycling a few years ago at age 52 and fell in love. Through trial and error it has taken me several years to learn what works and what doesn't. Much of my experience as a newbie has been learning how to minimize discomfort (sometimes pain) while maximizing the pleasure ( and sometimes the thrill). It has been worth all the effort. Had some of the more expensive and fancy bikes in the beginning but finally decided that less was more so I took the minimalist approach. Now I ride only single-speed with coaster brakes and I couldn't be happier. No more worries about when to shift or what gear I should be in. And no more cable clutter or worn out or squeaky brakes. Everything is focused on the sheer joy of riding. Believe it or not, I can actually climb hills faster and easier on a single-speed bike than on an expensive geared bike. I still ride the same 20 & 30 mile routes and I'm in better shape because I can't use a derailleur to CHEAT ! Put that in your pipe and smoke it !

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  45. Might as well join the fray. I've migrated between running and riding for almost sixty years. I would side with those who say that the bike is kinder to the body (excluding falls), but running tolerates throwing on a few clothes and going out the door day or night, hot or cold, with limited time.

    For me, I find that racing is the reward for running, but training is the reward for cycling. Racing the bike brings a little too much risk, tactics, travel for comfort,
    but you can actually go somewhere.

    So, over the years I've done more of what I'm best at..running, but deprive myself of the joy of cycling. Its a curse...or a blessing.

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  46. I read with great interest this blog entry of yours on running. I have been cycling for years too and never liked running; always leaving my knees hurting for ages but unlike you, I do not cycle much, if at all in the winter, so this winter I decided to try running again to keep my fitness level up and was amazed. I did 2.6 miles straight off in 25 minutes. I then read about Runner's Knee, caused by weak quad muscles and ham strings so with these being strong nowadays, I haven't suffered yet and did a 4.5 miler the other day. I am now hooked on running and I await with interest how you get on. You may be pleasantly surprised.

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  47. I've straddled both worlds for a long time and have had friends struggle with both, initially, before committing one or both to ritual. Seems an individual thing. For me bike racing is an acquired taste -- or one thing I've never developed a taste for -- whereas running is quite easy to either run for pleasure or race.

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  48. I started running in grad school after swimming became too complicated to fit into my schedule. I don't remember it being terribly difficult, but I did a run/walk combination for 20-30 minutes at the start, slowly lengthening the running bit and shortening the walk. I was never very fast, but I did work up to a 25K race at an 8:00 pace. I found running very relaxing and enjoyable. I stopped and switched to cycling as I gained weight and the strain on my knees got to be too much (in part because of too much running on concrete, I suspect).

    Every time I try to get back to running, something happens. Most recently, about 2 years ago, I worked up to a good 20-minute run, then had a bike crash on my way to the dirt running paths I was using. Ironically, the knee injury I sustained made walking painful and running impossible, but it didn't affect my cycling at all. I think the velo gods were trying to tell me something.

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  49. Smells like a new passion to replace an old.

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  50. I started both biking to and from work and running around the same time, around the age of 28. Had you told me I'd be doing either I'd have told you that you were crazy. Actually, your blog was one of a couple which got me thinking I should try commuting to work (a 30-40 min trip) by bike. I did it year-round and found I loved it. I don't recall why I started running and at first it was hard on my knees and I had terrible shin splints at the start, but now I run 8k almost daily and am addicted to it. It's helped me to lose 20 pounds (something I was never able to do the entire year I spent going to the gym). In fact, I'm thinking of training to run my first half marathon next year. I tell everyone I meet to try it and stick with it. A solo runner all these years, I never really had the desire to race or run with others but this year that's changed as I've seen a bunch of running crews start up in my city. I'm trying to work up the courage to turn up at one of their events to meet people who love running as much as I do. Lastly, I don't consider myself athletic and I have never expressed any interest in team sports. I enjoy the physical and mental challenges running presents. It's a great stress reliever and like cycling, I'm embarking on my second year of winter running.

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  51. The joy of running is that you get a more intense workout with less worry and hassle with equipment, as many have said above. I used to like running much more than riding, but I can't do it anymore. I think you'll also find that once you do a bit of running and boost your aerobic fitness, that your cycling will also improve, it sounds like you are a natural athlete from some of the things you have achieved in recent years and running will probably prove it. Enjoy the running!

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  52. I had a fellow come into the store hunched over with what looked like a "Life Long Limp"
    I said, Hi can I help you? He said, yes, If I can get my leg over one of your bikes, Im going to buy one today! I said, Thats easy! I brought him over to a "low, low" model and lay it down on its side. I said, "Step over and pick it up" He smiled and sat on the seat and said "I actually find it easier to ride a bike then it is to walk." I reminded him thats why they invented them. He bought the bike.

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  53. For most of my life, it never occurred to me that cycling was exercise. It was always just a way to get around or explore a new trail or see the sights.

    When I finished college (and therefore competitive sports) and started a desk job, I took up running as a way to get exercise "with a purpose" - the gym has always bored me, but I figured with running I could enter races and set goals and that would keep things interesting. I had never enjoyed running before - I had done it as part of the sports I had played (in cleats, on grass), but I seldom went running just for running's sake, and when I did, it was always very painful, and not in an "I'm working hard and it hurts" way, but in an "ow ow something is physically wrong" way. But when I decided to take up running, I actually did a bunch of reading into how to "train" - get started, build distance, build fitness. In doing so, I learned the importance of getting fitted for proper running shoes to address any biomechanical issues you may have (overpronation, etc.). So for the first time in my life, I got fitted for running shoes, and it made a world of difference (I really can't emphasize the importance of doing this enough). The pain from exertion remained, but the biomechanical pains went away. This, coupled with actually ramping up mileage gradually and having real training plans, made running much easier.

    That said, I don't know if I would ever have described running as "fun". Some of the race events I did were definitely fun. But for me, I would describe running more as "satisfying". Running is hard, and you can get very tired in a very short period of time. You can throw on your shoes and go run for 30 minutes and still get a very hard workout. It is simpler than cycling in that sense. The actual act of running was never very fun for me, but it felt very good to finish a run.

    Since I started road cycling for fitness, I have barely looked at my running shoes. The main thing that struck me when I went on my first real road ride was how FUN it was. Even when it hurt. I remember the first "big" hill that I climbed (which now hardly rates as a bump in the road), I was panting and straining and thought I would die, but I still somehow had a huge smile plastered on my face. When I got to the top I felt like I could do anything. I can't say I've ever smiled like that when running, so I guess that's the difference for me. The act of cycling itself is fun to me, while the act of running is more a means to an end.

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  54. I've never been able to cotton onto running for any length of time. Not when there's a bicycle close at hand. I see it as cats vs. dogs. Cats are cyclists... dogs are runners.

    Cats do not go from point A to point B in a timed competition. If cats could ride bikes they'd probably do a lot of gliding. I love to ski, because of the illusion of flying. But riding a bicycle is the closest I can get to that feeling.

    Running never ever gets anywhere near that kind of mental therapy for me. I know, I know... it feels great once the torture is done. But I also get exercise cycling. And I've read that long and gentler exercise is better than short intense workouts.

    Bicycles have an extra dimension of magic that running shoes just don't (for me).

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  55. I can truly speak to this:
    I love bicycling and do so every chance I get. It's usually around town (my commute of 20 miles doesn't admit of it) but short of hauling lumber from the hardware store there's little I couldn't do on my bike; and if it ever came to pass that I could either work from home or commute here in town, I'd be perfectly happy never driving anywhere except when pure necessity required it.

    Conversely, I *despise* running. However, since competence in it is a condition of my employment in the Army Reserves, I must do it frequently enough to pass a Physical Fitness test every few months. I've been doing this since 1987 and it's still not fun; so much so, in fact, that never having to run again is one of the few things I'm truly looking forward to when I retire from the Army.

    I have a young friend, whose acquaintance I made while she worked for a spell at an indoor dog park in My Fair City. She is now in the police academy and is a runner. She is quite addicted to it, to the point where she will pass up opportunities to train on firearms (after having failed to qualify at the academy) to go run half-marathons.

    I gather there is an addictive quality to it but that only makes it darker, creepier. The ability to run is one which is based in species survival - one either had to run down game or run from predators. One of the benefits of civilized life is that of seldom, if ever, having to run to or from anything, and I happen to like civilization right well.

    gvi

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  56. I ran CC and Track in College, I wasn't very good but I finally started to learn some of the things that require lots of effort and a different metric for measuring success than "Winning", stuff that I was probably a couple of years behind on.

    I really liked the racing part but I never liked the actual running. I still do a little of it now and then, usually in the middle of winter or if I want to spend a little time with friends who can't be cornered any other way. I still don't enjoy it except for trail running and then really only on certain mountain hikes I like to do. I like to climb Old Ragg Mountain about once a year by myself and I usually run some of the easier stuff on the way up and about half of the way down. Oh yeah, It's also fun to get up early early anytime I find myself at the beach and run/jog/plod for an hour or so then turn around and see if I can make it back in the same time or less. In an average week in June I'll ride my bike more than I'll run for the entire year.

    Running has a satisfying rhythm and physicality to it that nothing else I know has, Cycling is WAY BETTER but has none of that specific thing that running does. If you find yourself wanting it there isn't anywhere else to get it...

    Spindizzy

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  57. Running, regardless for what reason, will ALWAYS remind me of some nazi-with-a-whistle gym teacher screaming at all of us to run faster. Proud to say that I got through three years of US high school whilst ditching gym for more than two of those.

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  58. Running can be as wondrously delightful as cycling with a non-racer attitude and without running specific gear (starting with the shoes). Lose the shoes and run free! You will love it and grow into just as you did cycling.

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  59. I love them both. Cycling I love mainly for the freedom and independence. Running I love for the feeling of accomplishment and constant improvements you can achieve, whether that's running for 30 mins non-stop for the first time, or cracking a time goal at a race. I also love that running's cheap!
    Everyone to their own though :-)

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