How Not to Train

Now that I’ve embedded myself within the heart of Runner’s World HQ (working undercover as a Bicycling intern), I have access to a deep store of knowledge about running.

There are certain perks that come with the gig—an amazing organic cafeteria, access to something called the “energy center,” freedom to use the Oxford comma, and best of all, a bookstore of health books for only $1. Thus, my personal library of running books has grown from zero to eight overnight.

I have pronation guides. I have long-form track essays. I have marathon charts, nutrition journals and memoirs. And even better, I have the chance to soak up expert knowledge from some of running’s biggest names—to sit at the thickly cushioned feet of masters—to glean everything I can from considerable years of effort and experience—to apply that knowledge toward improving my own strength training and mile splits. To “set and reach goals, make time for myself and make peace with myself,” to paraphrase the Complete Book of Women’s Running.

But… I probably won’t.

Because, well, I don’t feel like it.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t want to make time or peace with myself, and it’s not that I don’t think these are excellent books filled with excellent advice. I love poring through them. In fact, I’ll probably buy more and start accumulating them with the cat-hoarding tenacity of an elderly shut-in.

But I know my limits. A couple weeks ago, I signed up for my third marathon with the knowledge that I’ll once again bumble my way through the training process. I hate training. It’s not the getting-out-the-door-early-every-morning part that’s tough for me. But invoking any other sort of self-discipline is where I fall short.

So with all due respect to conventional RW wisdom, here’s the solid running advice I will not be following in my summer training efforts. It’s certainly advice I would encourage any reasonable athlete to consider. But I’m just not that reasonable.


1. I will not stretch

I’ve spoken at length about my personal vendetta against stretching, so I won’t go on and on about it here. Please see my 5 Reasons Not to Stretch, though, and note the lack of compelling evidence disputing my Fivefold Path of Inflexibility. Don’t fight it. You know I’m right, Larissa.

2. I will not eat healthy

I’ve been trying to eat healthy since the first day I laid eyes on a food pyramid. There comes a time in your life when you have to cut your losses and recognize your own inability to change, though, and for me that time was when I realized half my meals were accruing reward points on slurpee.com.

When it comes to eating, I’m more like a lone 8-year-old apocalypse survivor than a grown-up. Vending machine snacks are both my kryptonite and my muse. Breakfast and lunch might be as healthy as eating gets, but by the time dinner rolls around, I either forego food entirely or go on a wild kettle-corn binge that would bring the utility popper at the Missouri County Fair to its knees. I don’t intend to change this diet while training for the KC marathon. I will Coors-Light-through-a-Twizzlers-straw my way to another personal record!

3. I will not follow a schedule

Every time I look at one of those marathon-training charts, I get bummed about how awful I am at marathon training. Apparently you’re supposed to run eight miles on some days, three miles on others, and then switch it up with some weird move like “hill repeats.” You’re also supposed to do something called “cross training,” which I’ve interpreted to mean “cross-stitching inspirational cat pillows.” And believe me, I’ve cross-trained. I’ve also ran eight miles for five straight days this week (at a glacial pace) with only the odd 14-miler in there to spice things up. I find this repetition as comforting as a beleaguered ginger tabby imploring me to “Hang in there.”

Oh, hai

So is there a guide for people like me? Those of us who are bad at following directions? Those of us who like to read about running without the pressure of having to get better at it? Those of us who are willing to “risk injury through repetitive training” because passing the same sights every morning— a porch of surly old ladies grumpily needlepointing flag pillows, sheepish rollerbladers taking the 7 a.m. skatepark shift, downtown sidewalk squares that pitch at 45-degree angles like they’ve collided through plate tectonics—holds the familiarity and comfort of ordering the same drink every night at a bar?

Because, seriously, I’d like to just read and ignore that one too.

But maybe the great thing about running is that you don’t have to follow the guidelines or the rules because technically there aren’t any. There are certainly “best practices” and ways to improve. But 99% of us are just looking for a couple hours of freedomor a way to compete with ourselvesor a way to keep moving forward, stay motivated and clear our heads of all the vexing existential questions raised by the popularity of Coconut M&Ms and dubstep music.

Or, you know, in my case just the motivation to eat an entire pizza all at once.