Why I Run and How I Keep My Motivation

by Phil Ross on September 3, 2014

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Master RKC Phil Ross Running
Technically, I’m on my one week vacation, but I had some thoughts coursing through my head as I was on a 4 mile jaunt this morning. For those of you who have been following my Dirty Dozen exercise blog posts, don’t worry, the installments for the final two movements, #11 The Kettlebell Snatch and #12 The Push-Up are forthcoming. They happen to be my two favorite exercises, so I’m really looking forward to getting the information out.

Why should I run? I do kettlebells, bodyweight and a significant amount of Martial Arts–do I really need to run? Can’t I simply move my bodyweight around, do a weight training circuit, swing some bells or maybe do a little yoga? Ever since the 1970’s I’ve observed a running regimen. I have many reasons not to, there are a vast amount of alternative cardio training methods that I could employ, but yet, I still run.

I run because I hate it.

That statement sounds silly on the onset, but there is a method to my madness. I hate to run, but I love the results and the euphoria when I am done. Years ago, when I was around 18 or so, my instructor and I were discussing running. Despite the fact that I was reasonably fast and had good form, I hated to run. He proceeded to explain to me that it was very important to do something that you hated to do, especially if you were a fighter. It was part of the sacrifice that forged the mettle of your soul. When you are fighting, a lot of things go through your head. You see, if you are in a tough bout and this guy has you in the corner and is pounding away on you, you start to think. You think about the miles that you ran, how much it hurt and how hard you pushed, all of the sacrifices you made and then you start firing back. You didn’t make all of those sacrifices and go through all of that pain to lose to this clown! NO WAY!

If people see me, they think that I have no issue keeping my weight down. WRONG. I can easily put on 10 pounds in one weekend. My grandfather on my mother’s side’s nickname was “The Whale”, my paternal grandfather had 7 strokes and 2 heart attacks and the third one finished him at the age of 72. My father passed away due to congestive heart failure at the ripe old age of 66. Walking around at 5’8” and being 285 lbs is not the best way to achieve a long, healthy life. I am of Italian-American Heritage and love to eat. Therefore, I’m in a constant battle. Running helps me win the life-long war. I want to do everything in my power to avoid the pitfall of succumbing to my natural genetic disposition. Look at it this way, if I want to eat something that is not super healthy, I think about how much I have to work to get rid of it, I then choose a healthier option. However, if I put in a good run and have some hard training sessions, I reward myself. I don’t really do “Cheat Days”, I prefer to partake in “Reward Meals”. It’s a good thing to reward yourself for the sacrifices that you make.

If you don’t make sacrifices, you don’t have discipline. If you have no discipline, you are soft. If you allow yourself to become soft, you will not have what it takes to deal with real adversity and emerge triumphant. Adding running to my training regimen is one of the easiest ways for me to keep my weight down.

Running clears my head. When I first start my run, the toughest part is to “get my feet to hit the floor”. Once I get out there, the rest is easy. Although runs can be difficult at times in the beginning, the first 1/2 mile of a run stinks. Everything hurts, I feel slow and tired. However, I push. Before you know it, I’m cranking away! I do a great deal of thinking when I’m running, but my clarity only comes after I’ve gotten into my zone. I come up with ideas, release frustration and get lost in my thoughts. I do not run with any music, I practice Zen Running. I count my breaths, give myself little goals like, “run to that telephone pole” or “make it to that corner.” By focusing on minor goals, the run does not seem as overwhelming. The task, like most, is better handled by conquering the smaller pieces. I am in-tune with my environment and I listen to sounds, pay attention to sights and am aware to what is happening in my body. Once I have this going for me, the rest of the run is awesome! I’m “In the Zone” and thoughts flow freely. Now I can begin to push my body. The blood fills my quads, my lungs burn and my breath becomes more labored as I pump my arms harder and pick up speed. Yeah, this is the fun part.

You never know when you’ll have to run. I’ve seen those shirts that say, “Running Promotes Cowardice.” Cute. What if you have to catch someone? You have to run then. I may have to run after someone or run to the aid of one of my family or friends. In the face of a catastrophic event you will need to exit the area in an expeditious manner. There are plenty of other occasions that will require you to get from Point A to Point B and quickly. So, you will need be able to run. As with any other skill, if you are not practiced at it, you will not be able to accomplish it. The mechanics of your stride will not be smooth nor will they be efficient.

Running is a basic human movement. As humans, we are supposed to be able to run. Human beings were designed as one of the world’s best long distance, warm weather runners as referenced in this article from Popular Mechanics. We are basically hairless, stand upright and have an endocrine system suited to producing sweat to keep our skin cool and dissipate heat. We can out run a horse or a deer. If you want to consider “Paleo”, we used to track our prey down relentlessly in prehistoric times. So if you have a body or training regimen that does not facilitate running, you are not doing what your body was designed to do.

Running is a very inexpensive activity, especially if you look at the ridiculous amount of money people spend on fitness gadgets, unused gym memberships and expensive machines that wind up collecting dust. Depending upon how much you run, you will need to buy a new pair of shoes once or twice a year. You can get a great pair of shoes for under $100.00. I run outside, so I don’t have to spend money on a treadmill. If I were meant to be a hamster, I’d live in a cage and have a penchant for seeds and grain. Running on a treadmill is not the same as road, beach or trail running. Get outside! Compare the costs of a good pair of running shoes to what a road bike costs–entry level competition grade road bikes are around $7,000.00! I know others who have bikes that cost more than my car. No offense directed toward my cyclist friends, but with three kids, two of which are in college, spending a years worth of tuition on a bicycle is not in the cards for me!

Running is time efficient. In about a half an hour, I can get a great run in. I don’t want you to think I’m picking on the cyclists again but how long does it take to get a meaningful bike ride in? To be fair to my cyclist buddies, let’s consider swimming. Unless you live in a warm weather zone or have an indoor pool, look at the time that it takes to get in the car, head to the pool, change, swim, shower and then drive either back home or head to work. It’s a great deal of time compared to throwing your shorts, t-shirt and running shoes on then heading out the door.

This blog is primarily dedicated to what I consider distance running. Generally, I don’t run less than three or more than five miles. Sprints and more often intervals, were a large part of my running training when I was competing. However, I don’t feel the need to do a lot of sprinting, because I do a great deal of other explosive training work and use my running as more of a restorative training session. Plus, I generally end my runs at a pretty good clip.

There are many more compelling reasons to run. The aforementioned are the main ones for me. I’m certain that you’ll come up with your own. Good luck with your roadwork. Running is one of the basic human movements, and should be worked into your training regimen.

Strength & Honor

Coach Phil

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About Master RKC Phil Ross: Master RKC, 8th Degree Black Belt, Specialist in Bodyweight Strength, PCC and CK-FMS Certified. His name is synonymous with Martial Arts and Fitness. He is known as the area’s Kettlebell King and has successfully competed on the National Level in…  Read more here.

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  • Deb

    So glad to hear this from you. I get tired of the weights people saying running is stupid and the running people saying they don’t need weights. I do Kettlebells, martial arts and running. It’s great. training for my first half this weekend, and testing for my 2nd black belt in October, turning 49 in 2 weeks!

  • Andy Cohen

    Great article Phil. I started running when I realized that, despite all my “hardstyle” and bodyweight training, I couldn’t run comfortably for any distance or outsprint my 8 year old son – because I never ran! I felt like I had a massive gap in my ability to function as a human! Like you, I now regularly run for 2-5 miles, and it has helped a lot. I like the Zen aspects like you do as well. The running has actually helped calm down a crank knee as well (I use a forefoot strike, no more heel-toe for me).

    • Absolutely! Aim for the middle of your foot when you run. Humans were meant to MOVE!

  • Rodolfo Oliveira

    Great post coach Phil! I believe that your advice applies not only to running or weight training or fitness as a whole but to everything we aim to do in life. If you hate doing something that brings you a nice reward you gotta do it to make your spirit stronger every day.

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