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Thoughts on the Run: What's the best exercise?

Andy Shearer
Middletown Transcript

Happy 2020! Barbara Walters waited all these years to finally be right. May the coming 366 days bring you happiness, peace and a solid aerobic base.

Recently I was strolling through one of the local membership shopping facilities and was approached (nearly accosted) by a roaming salesperson: “If you had to pick, which home upgrade project would you likely undertake first, windows, siding or …”

I replied, “I’m sorry but I don’t own my residence.” Two things; first this is not a total lie, since the bank owns far more of it that I do and two, nothing shuts down that sales approach faster than this statement. Sorry, roaming salesperson.

The conversation didn’t end there, however. At the time, I was wearing a shirt from the 2010 Delaware Marathon and a hat from the 2010 Reach the Beach Relay. Nothing screams “RUNNER” more than showing off our swag whilst out in public. The salesperson asked, “So are you a runner?” And, they’re off! “Why yes. Yes I am.”

The salesperson, probably somewhere in her mid-20s, had been a “pretty good high school track and cross-country runner” (her words) but had gotten away from running in the past few years, and away from any sort of exercise. I also offered up a bit of my coaching background to her as well. She’d been asking friends how to start back up again and, although she was “pretty good” at running, it wasn’t her favorite activity. She felt “compelled” to run.

Then, I asked the magic question, “Well what other activities do you like to do?” The responses included hiking (a lot) and swimming (better than running). Then I asked her why she felt compelled to run if she liked hiking more? I swear at that very moment she was going to hug me. She had been looking for permission to do something, anything other than running. And apparently, I was the permission granter.

New Year’s resolutions about exercise stink. Please don’t make one, and if you have, stop immediately. Give it up. Not one more step, stroke, lift or pedal. And here’s why… you’ll eventually hate it unless you WANT to do it! And therein lies the answer to the question, “What’s the best exercise?” It’s the one you’ll do!

Before you undertake any program (provided you’ve had that obligatory medical check) or make any substantial changes to your exercise program, stop and ask yourself if it’s something that is sustainable and beneficial.

After 41+ years of running, I have decided that I’m a runner. Many of my peers have branched out to biking, swimming, lifting and the like. And while I completely understand why it’s beneficial to my overall life as a runner, I REALLY don’t want to bike, swim, lift or the like. Unless I have to, I just won’t do it as a part of my regular exercise.

Now, I do lift weights a couple days a week and I pool run like a fiend, but I can honestly tell you it’s precisely because those will help my racing in 2020 and not because I like pumping iron or bobbing up and down. All things being equal, I hate it. Really.

So please, I really do hope to see you on the roads, tracks and trails in 2020, because it’s a pursuit I love (and most in my extended family love as well). But I also know life is too short to be miserable. Find a weekly yoga class or take karate lessons or any number of other aerobic (and anaerobic) activities that add to your life, not detract.

Remember, this year has 366 days and that’s one more day you don’t want to be miserable – you have my permission.

Former standout Lock Haven University runner Andy Shearer is a member of the Middletown Athletic Club, the Greater Philadelphia Track Club and USA Track and Field.