Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A footnote to my road race adventure

It occurred to me after posting my report yesterday about participating in the Run 4 Kerri that perhaps some readers might be thinking, "I can't believe this woman who wants to be a personal trainer can't jog four miles!"

So in my defense, I just wanted to mention the "principle of specificity," a principle of exercise science that says physiological adaptations to exercise are specific to the system or part of the body being worked. Or, in simpler terms, if you want to get better at an activity, you have to actually do it.

I've never liked to run. This puts me at odds with many of my friends and acquaintances, who daily log the kinds of mileage that would kill me. They run through the rain and snow, through heat and bitter cold, through injury, and sometimes right out of the lives of their significant others. They are, in a word, addicted.

In my younger days I tried running, but it never did much for me. All that pounding on the joints wasn't pleasant, and I found it kind of boring. For a while I switched to trail running, which was more interesting, but as a solo activity was also unnerving. I would find myself running from imagined dangers lurking in the woods and I would emerge with a heart rate elevated from anxiety more than anything else.

So I eventually abandoned running altogether and turned to kinder, gentler forms of cardio exercise, such as fast walking, hiking and biking. Those things I can do well, and do for hours and long distances without fatigue. And more importantly, I enjoy them. It's hard to stay motivated when you're forcing yourself to do an activity you don't like simply because you think it'll be good for you.

I consider myself to have a relatively good level of cardiovascular fitness, but all those things I've done to achieve it did not translate to the road race on Sunday. Our bodies are funny that way.

For instance, although I regularly do biceps curls with 20-pound dumbbells, I know that when my fall bowling league begins next month, I'll be feeling sore the day after picking my 14-pound ball up for the first time in months. It doesn't seem like it should be that different, but it is.

As I mentioned yesterday, in spite of my limitations, the Run 4 Kerri was a fun experience and inspired me to consider participating in some more races, if for no other reason than I like a challenge. Clearly, running is a sport in which I have a lot of room for improvement.

I'll be running in the future with the principle of specificity in mind: I'm planning to further train my sense of humor.


  1. This is so true! Whenever I try a new activity, I am shocked and depressed at how little "general" fitness seems to translate to specific activities.

    Good for you for mixing it up!

  2. I get horrible shin splints when I run, so that has long been out of the question when it comes to exercise.