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Digital Running Club » Columns, Fitting it In » Too Much Information

Too Much Information

As a “new” runner, I’ve taken it upon myself to get informed. It seems like a responsible thing to do – check out a few websites, trade some tips and tricks – but the problem that I’ve run into (if you’ll pardon the pun) is the fact that any person with computer access is granted a free and highly public opinion on the interwebs.

This wouldn’t be a cause for concern in most cases. Normally, I am a conscientious consumer; but when it comes to running advice, it seems like every person who’s made it around the block without passing out has a secret system that will ensure you better race times, less pain and thousands of adoring fans. Or something like that.

However, it seems that some (alright, most) of these advice sites are bent on either selling you something or making you feel like an idiot. Either way, it has become something of a challenge sifting through the differences in opinion to know what’s right, what’s wrong and what is just plain crazy.

The problem is that with great power comes responsibility – and many running bloggers are drunk with the power to influence other, less experienced runners. Sometimes, this is a good thing. I’ve learned some nifty tricks to better my breathing and to fix my posture, but in other cases, advising beginning runners to eat nothing but potatoes for a week so as to cleanse their chi remains in the somewhat dubious category.

The astounding amount of conflicting opinions on everything from the proper shoe to the proper underwear for running in chilly weather is daunting, and it’s hard to know who’s got the right idea and who’s full of… potatoes. There’s a hundred different types of every conceivable piece of running gear, all promising to aid you in your athletic endeavors, but as a new runner, I’m left wondering what I really need and what’s just an over-hyped fad.

As a beginning runner, it can be daunting to suddenly realize that you’re going to have to stick your toes in the water and make your way in the world. It’s a little bit like graduating college, but instead of people asking you “what’s next?” in an overly enthusiastic manner, you’re greeted by overly enthusiastic sales people who will try to convince you that everything you’ve selected is absolutely wrong. What do you actually need to start running? There’s the obvious– shoes, socks, legs— but after the basics, it starts to get a little murky. Do you really need the wrist GPS and matching visor?

I spent five hours looking for running shoes, and after the fifth pair everything started to look the same – but the guy selling me the shoes insisted that every pair had a set of specific pros and cons that I needed to be aware of before I made my purchase. He insisted that it was imperative that I consider what I really wanted to achieve with my running, what kind of runner I was, what I was hoping to become, how my foot hit the ground, my “tortional stablity”… After 15 pairs of shoes that felt nearly identical on my (large) feet, I finally gave up and chose the ones that matched my hair. At least I’ll look good, even if my tortional stability is off.

It’s fantastic that there is such a deep appreciation for the sport and that so many companies recognize a need for each individual consumer to get what they need– but as a newbie runner, most of the time I don’t even know what I need because I haven’t worked up to a point where I need new workout clothes or socks that balance and align my toes with Saturn in the house of Venus on the fifth Monday after the winter solstice. I just want to have fun, get in shape and beat my upstairs neighbor in a 5K so I can finally wipe the smarmy grin off of his face when he comes down with another trophy.

...a world internet summit in which everyone sits and agrees on what, exactly, it is that's best...

What is the most frustrating is the massive amount of conflicting opinions that exist in the running world. I’ve been advised that I should run barefoot and told that I should wear three pairs of socks. I’ve been given speeches about the dangers of running on concrete and told to never set foot on grass. I’ve heard that nature trails are the only way to go and that planned city routes are the best for new runners…and the list goes on. I want to propose that there be a world internet summit in which everyone sits and agrees on what, exactly, it is that’s best, after which time a small informational pamphlet will be distributed to new runners in order to save them the time and hassle of trying to find out everything for themselves.

This is probably my downfall – I’m a nerd, so I insist on being well-informed and up-to-date on the latest and greatest running information. The problem is that it’s also an excuse to procrastinate on actually going to the gym. It wouldn’t be so much of an issue, but the existence of communities of running enthusiasts with penchants for discussing Every. Single. Detail. of their newest super-duper, specially made water bottle and arguing between themselves on message boards about heart rate monitors and glasses bands makes it a tempting place to linger when the weather is just a little too chill for me to bound outside willingly at 7AM to go for a jog.

The trip I made to the sporting goods store to purchase winter running gear was an incredibly disconcerting moment for me. I was buying clothes to work out in. Outside. In the cold. And not just work out— but actually run. From a girl who wouldn’t even run if I was going to miss my flight to a girl who actively volunteers to go outside in below-freezing temperatures to prance about in Lycra, this is a lifestyle change that has been slow in the making but seems to be taking off. And who knows – I just might get in shape!

This is a fantastically alien thought for me– being “in shape”. I’ve never considered myself “in shape” or even really that fit. There was a brief summer where I lost a lot of weight, but I am the first to admit that I didn’t do it healthily– I had been overweight for so long that I wanted a short, easy was to get rid of the weight (like everyone does), but in the long run, (I know you’ll pardon the pun this time) I discovered that this only slowed my fitness goals, as I am now still dealing with the repercussions on my health– and trying to get rid of all the weight that I gained right back as soon as I started eating properly.

Ultimately, I’m discovering that the best way to be a successful runner is to simply take it slowly and carefully. I’m slow— I know this about myself, so I’m working towards faster mile times and running longer distances at a steady pace. It’s not about the shoes or the socks or those weird magnet energy bracelets– it’s about building up confidence in myself and my ability to run, one day at a time. It’s a slow, frustrating process… but as the treadmill starts getting a little easier every day, it also gets easier to sort through the good, bad and ugly of running advice.

Written by

Catie Osborn is a recent graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, where she received her BA in Theatre Arts and spent a year abroad in England studying Shakespeare and what life is like with a credit card. She is a jack of all trades, including (but not limited to) play and comic book writing, sandwich making, wedding planning, slam poetry, musical theatre and excessive video gaming. She has a number of cold blooded pets, her favorite being a chameleon named Yoshi, but she's holding out for a puppy.

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