Charlie's Blog: August 2022


Walking Is Better Than Running

An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.

I am not a doctor or any sort of exercise expert. This essay is merely my opinion as a nobody in the medical and physical fitness worlds. Finally, you should consult a physician before beginning any exercise program. I have to put that there because idiots will go out and have a coronary event while exercising and want to sue someone over it. You've been warned.

There are many forms of cardiovascular exercise. You can ride a bike either on the road or a stationary version in a gym. There are the rowing machines and the stair climber machines. There is the pool for the swimmers. There is cross country skiing if you can find the snow. But the most popular form of cardiovascular exercise in our time has to be long distance running.

The reason running is popular is obvious. It is free. You put on shoes and running clothes and go outside. That's it. From there, you can run to modest goals like losing weight or bigger goals like completing a marathon or an ultramarathon. Running has a lot to offer. Unfortunately, it has one gigantic drawback. Running is an activity filled with various and chronic injuries.

Runners reading this may jump on the defensive, but this is an argument they are going to lose. Pick up a copy of a running magazine, and you are guaranteed to have an article about an injury, preventing an injury, treating an injury, or buying a particular shoe or other product that may help you with an injury. Additionally, you will read some heartbreaking article about some professional runner who had to pull out of a race because of an injury or is trying heroically to come back from an injury.

Injuries are common to runners. You get the clue when you see so many podiatry and orthopedic clinics sponsoring road races. They know their customer base. For a free sport, it sure ends up costing a lot of dough in medical expenses and equipment to deal with all of those injuries. I recall one ultrarunner who lost a year in dealing with Haglund's deformities on both heels that required surgery and rehab. He is a professional ultrarunner, so I assume he has good health insurance. I just know that most people don't.

That is the irony of running. It improves your cardiovascular health at the expense of your knees, hips, back, and on and on. There are studies that suggest that runners can run a lifetime without serious injury, but I think those studies suffer from survivorship bias. This is because seriously injured people wise up and quit running. There are 90-year-old smokers, so it is no surprise that there are 90-year-old runners.

The reality is that running is an activity of the chronically injured. Running is what you do between lying on the couch for days or weeks recovering from running injuries. Many have tried to cure this injury problem. For awhile, running barefoot or in minimalist footwear was offered as a solution, but this fad suffered a mortal wound when the biggest proponent of barefoot running was revealed to be hiding his own injuries. The minimalist argument is that running barefoot or in minimalist footwear requires an adjustment period. I can't speak on that except anecdotally. I just recall another ultrarunner who ran in minimalist shoes who now runs in conventional shoes after a long time away from the sport battling injuries.

There are those who take the opposite extreme who run in maximalist footwear that resemble marshmallows that you put on your feet. These cushy shoes promise a sweet ride that is injury free. The reality is that the injuries move up the leg to the knees and the hips.

With all of the frustration over running injuries, the advice for injuries is some variation of the same formula--stop running. This may be cutting back, taking a rest, or doing cross training. Regardless, the one sure cure for running injuries is to stop running.

Fortunately, there is a cardiovascular exercise that offers most of the same benefits of running but without the high injury rate. This exercise is walking.

Walking is better than running. The injury rate is much lower. It is more pleasant. It gives greater peace of mind. You don't need special clothes to walk. You can do it anytime almost anywhere. And almost anyone can do it. The only thing running has on walking is that running burns more calories in a shorter time period. I think this is an acceptable trade off to avoid the injuries of running.

Walking is an underrated exercise. It doesn't get promoted because there's not much money to be made from walking. Walking shoes last longer than running shoes, so there's not a huge market there. The ones who do promote walking are health insurance companies wanting to save on healthcare expenses. That should be a big clue about the value of walking.

Speaking from personal experience, I used to run when I was younger, but I ended up hurting myself. I have had sciatica, plantar fasciitis, ITB syndrome, shin splints, knee issues, and Achilles tendonitis resulting in a lump on the back of my right heel which is there to the present day. That lump is why I threw in the towel on running as exercise.

I walk now. I have experienced no injuries from walking since I started doing it a year ago as rehab in my physical therapy. Walking has helped me tremendously. I can't recommend it enough. Conversely, I see running as utterly stupid, and I don't recommend it.

Sometime in the seventies, running was sold as good exercise. It was a fad for the time, but it has persisted for some odd reason. I think its persistence comes from the combination of two factors. The first is the low barrier of entry to running which entices beginners, and the second is the money that is made from those beginners as they start getting injured. Running gets promoted while walking doesn't. So, this is how you get thousands running marathons each year, but they fight for the closest parking space at the grocery store.

There is also no vanity in being a walker. Walking is something old folks do at the mall. Runners take pride in running as evidenced by all of those races and finisher's medals. Walking is humble. That humility has inspired a saying I tell myself each day. The gentle path is the certain path.

I enjoy walking. I can't say the same for running. I hated running and still hate it. Running is more about masochism than health and fitness. And I find that the most enthusiastic promoters of walking are ex-runners who got tired of the injuries.

Walking is better than running. If you are one of those rare types who can run without pain and injury, continue running. Just don't sell me on it anymore because I'm not buying it.



Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

The Gentle Reader will be forgiven for thinking that I have abandoned this blog because of the long hiatus since my last post. I have not abandoned the blog, but I did take time away to work on things in my personal life that needed my full attention. One of those things was a 9 year project that has come to a satisfying end. I thank God for helping me on that.

I have been rethinking my life for the past year and trying to decide where to go from here. My projects are the same, but I have made some adjustments to those projects as my situation has changed. It's like picking a destination but changing the route on the way because of road construction or what have you. I call these adjustments "pivots." They are not major changes but minor changes.

My first pivot has been to abandon fiction writing completely. The biggest reason I did not write more fiction was because I lacked the time to write short stories and novels. Now that I have time for that stuff, I have a better reason for not writing fiction. I'm not good at it. I am good at writing non-fiction stuff. It comes easy for me, and people say good things to me about my non-fiction pieces. The same is not true for my fiction. I also hate writing fiction. It takes too much out of me, and I never feel satisfaction about the results.

I am not a perfectionist, but I do believe in not wasting time on things you're not good at doing. I am not good at fiction. I think most fiction writers are not good at writing fiction.

I am also not good at writing poems. I've written a few, but I just don't care to write poems. My problem is that I have imagined myself as some kind of full spectrum writer, but I am mostly good at writing essays and journalism. And let's admit something to ourselves. We always prefer a true story to a fake story.

My second pivot has been taking up walking as my cardio exercise. I used to run in my younger days, but I see running as stupid now because of the high injury rate. I like walking, and it fits my writer's lifestyle and mind. A lot of my writer heroes were walkers. Walking gives you time to think. I'll have more to say on this topic in a future post.

My third pivot has been embracing what I call "strategic rest." For the last two decades, I have been concerned with time, money, and energy. I figured out the time problem and the money problem. But I never figured out the energy problem until now. Then, I had an epiphany while out for a walk.

I used to sleep six hours each night. I admired people who bragged about getting by on four hours. One of those people was Arianna Huffington. Then, Huffington fainted from exhaustion and smashed her head on a desk cutting her cheek. She woke up in a pool of her own blood and decided she needed a saner lifestyle.

I don't believe people sleep four hours per night. I think they deprive themselves during the week and catch up on the weekend. They lie. When someone like Huffington does it, it doesn't go well.

I could never get by on four hours of sleep. On six hours, I functioned normally but never at what I consider an optimal level. The result has been lethargy and a lack of energy. My answer was to drink large quantities of coffee and Mountain Dew. I now see this as stupid. I still drink coffee, but I believe in getting eight hours or more each night. And if you need a nap, take it.

I don't believe in being lazy, but I also know that you don't get more done when you burn the candle at both ends. The reason people don't have energy and feel bad all the time is because they are sleep deprived. When you sleep, you recharge the battery. When the battery is charged, you can get more done.

Life has limits. Because of this, I now have a rest strategy. I also believe in taking a day of rest on the Lord's Day. I don't care for vacations or leisure. I just think eight hours of sleep each night, a daily nap, and a day of rest are what helps you recharge. If you schedule your work around your rest, you will have more energy and get the same amount done.

I have a lot of challenges in my life right now, and those challenges are the primary reasons for these pivots. I have less to give now which means I have to be wiser in what I spend the rest of my life doing. I am old and beat up. I'm just not dead. So, I am going to do what I can with what I have where I am at. That's all any of us can do.