running for fitness

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I ran in the Duke City 10K last Sunday with a few thousand other folks and it was surprisingly, fun.

running for fitness
Krystal, Alanna and The Kid at the Duke City Run

Fun, even though my calf cramped up at the 2 mile mark.

It was cool to be part of a pretty big event here in Albuquerque. There were walks and runs from 5K to 10K to the half marathon and of course the full monty (or marathon).

And it was a beautiful day.

Nothing like fresh air, sunshine and movement to change your attitude.

Hat’s off to my #1 daughter Alanna and her friend Krystal for kicking ass in the half marathon. 13.1 miles is really getting it done.

I am not a runner

Except for my youngest sister Patti, who has run full marathons and triathlons, we are not generally considered runners in the Fickler family.

We do better pumping iron. Or hiking in the woods carrying backpacks. Or doing weird stuff like wheeling rocks around the yard in a wheel barrow. I am good at this stuff.

But I certainly am not a runner however I enjoyed my painful 10K run none the less.

Here is what I learned running my race and watching others run theirs.

Anybody can and should run

You see all kinds of people at these events. The elite runners are obvious from the pace of their run to their distinct body style. They look like runners.

And then there are the rest of us.

Tall, short, fat, skinny, muscular, flabby, men, women, old and young. Some look like every step is painful and forced while others are breezing along chatting with their friends.

It’s true, anybody can run. And apparently they do.

I watched the many half marathoners coming in after finishing my 10K and it was remarkable to see the wide variety of body types, bio mechanics and pained facial expression.

You’d see the walking wounded with a stooped posture, drooping left shoulder and a mechanically incorrect sliding foot stride followed a few minutes later by a guy with a balanced, perky gait, breathing normally and looking fairly relaxed.

And then there’d come a heavy girl moving right along at a good clip and well ahead of what you’d consider to be “a runner”.

It didn’t make sense.

How can you look so bad physically and be in obvious pain running but be well ahead of someone “who looks like” he should be crushing you?

A good question

My first conclusion is you can be “fit and fat”. Carrying extra fat on your body does not prevent you from getting fit for a particular activity like running.

So stop mentally labeling people when you see them. It’s very possible they’ll kick your ass.

Fat does not mean unfit.

And my second conclusion is that certainly anybody can run who puts their mind to it. There is no excuse not to exercise, certainly not to run. You are not too out of shape or too fat or too old or too anything.

Accountability works

My training plan wasn’t the best. I didn’t run at all the last two weeks prior to the race. I had developed a minor tweak in my right hip and knew it had to heal if I had any chance to get through the run.

So I didn’t run at all the last two weeks and really just stretched out and did mobility work for those final days before the race.

The result?

I felt pretty good at the start of the run and was cruising along pretty comfortably until about 2 miles in.

Then disaster. My right calf cramped rather suddenly. I got that sinking feeling. Dang, this ain’t good.

But I didn’t stop. I was gimping rather obviously for over a mile.

It was worse at 3.1 miles when I turned at the halfway mark but feeling better by about 3.5 miles.

Then I just got used to it and kept going.

I know, without a doubt, that I would have stopped running if I was just doing a training run. No question. I would have stopped and walked back home.

What kept me going?


I was accountable first and foremost to my daughter. She was, after all, doing 13.1 miles. There was no way I was going to sheepishly tell her I wimped out at 2 freaking miles.

And the other runners affected me too. I was running with a large group of people and 2 miles from the starting line. My first though was (after oh shit ) “I am finishing this thing”. I am not going to walk back along the course among hundreds of competitors.

You know I really didn’t care about my time or place in the race. I am fine with other people running faster than me. But I could not just give up.

Group accountability works.

So this is a lesson. If you are trying to make a positive change in your life and having trouble sticking to it, get a partner to help you through.

You help them and they help you.

It works.

Running doesn’t assure fat loss

No it does not. Think about this.

I saw some pretty heavy runners completing 13.1 miles. Guys and gals with big bellies and their legs rubbing together yet running continuously for 2 1/2 hours and more!

That’s hard to do. You don’t just get up on race day and go run for 13 miles. There is a lot of training involved.

A lot of miles had been run getting ready for this day. And there were still a lot of what appeared to be “out of shape” people running.

There is no way you would ever peg some of these people as being capable of running this distance if you saw them in another setting.

But they did. Which is really impressive on one hand.

But on the other hand, if you think a running program alone will get you shredded, you may be in for a surprise.

In a nutshell, here’s the deal.

Your health and fitness can be measured using a variety of metrics.

    • You can track your body weight
    • or your body fat percentage
    • Use a cardiovascular stress test
    • Look at chemical markers in your blood work
    • or even tout your half marathon time as a relevant measure

Some metrics are certainly more diagnostic than others.

But there are only two things that affect the outcome of these measurements.

    • Your genetics
    • The modern lifestyle and more specifically, how you live within the constraints of?the modern life.

Your genetic code is fixed.

So it is kinda good news and bad news. The bad news is you can’t do anything about if you wanted to. So the good news is that you have one less thing to worry about it.

Just forget about it because you can’t change it anyway.

So focus on #2.

Something that you can affect the outcome.

How is your lifestyle (lived within the constraints of modern life) either helping you or hurting you?

Well it appears exercise alone isn’t enough. That much was observed on race day.

What about your overall activity level?

The modern life allows you to be pretty lazy if you want.

Work is often done sitting down in front of a computer.

Hunting for food doesn’t take a huge effort either.

  • Drive to the store and circle the parking lot several times so you can park really close to the door
  • Get a handy wheeled cart so you can carry your stuff with minimal effort
  • Walk casually up and down the aisles picking out your pre-packaged, pre-washed, ready to eat stuff.
  • Lean on your cart for support when you get tired
  • Have the store boy load your “kill” into your car for you.

Wow. Don’t hurt yourself!

Food can be delivered to your door for Christ sake. This is modern hunting.

If you need help building a nutrition plan to optimize your health & fitness, check it out here.

Convenience is killing you

Stress is rampant in your modern life. You are constantly on.

The technology demands your attention. You relax with a phone and an ipad in your lap.

You are not wired for this

Your body wants to sleep when the sun goes down. And sleep in total darkness. No phone or alarm clock LED’s lighting up your room.

You want quiet and solitude for total relaxation. No humming of dishwashers, washing machines or computers in the background.

White noise is supposed to be chirping crickets, a babbling brook or the wind in the tress. Not electronic noise.

And of course the food you eat in a modern world can leave a lot to be desired.

Eating out of boxes and bags. This can’t be good.

Microwave zapping for instant gratification.

No the modern lifestyle ain’t all it is cracked up to be.

If you want fast and convenient, your new world is just fine.

If you’d rather have healthy, nutritious, relaxing and rejuvenating, you are going to have to take control of your eating.

If you want to look like a fast runner and your genetics aren’t cooperating, take control of your lifestyle.

Make positive changes where you can impact your results.

It’s all you have to work with.

Old people should lift weights

I saw some pretty old runners completing the half marathon. They were easily in their mid-seventies and maybe even older.

Gotta give them credit. They are active and really making an effort to stay fit.

But to a person, the old runners looked a bit gaunt. They were skinny, too skinny. Bony looking.

So while their cardiovascular fitness was undoubtedly good, their physical strength appeared lacking.

Personally, I think it is a mistake to be a one-dimensional athlete. You really need to maintain your muscle mass and stay strong as you age.

It may be the single biggest anti aging factor you have control of.

So in my humble opinion, if you’re an older runner, you will do yourself a bit of good by trading one or two running days a week for a strength building workout.

You’ll look a lot better to start. You need a set of shoulders for your shirt to hang on.

And I’ll bet it will help your running. Strength solves all problems you know.

So don’t be a gaunt, skinny armed runner who looks like a stiff breeze will knock you off balance.

Add a strength training regimen to your fitness program and run faster, look fitter and gain a healthier overall you.

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Old Spartan

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About the author 

Mark Fickler

Mark aka The Old Spartan and Over-50 Fitness Savior is a 64 year old coffee guzzling father of five wandering the outdoors around Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mark helps Active Boomers get lean, healthy and strong so they live rewarding, fun lives using his signature 2 Rule Easy Fat Loss training program.

  • Truer words were never spoken. It’s really a must now to get off your lazy ass and exercise. You have to will yourself to do it. Otherwise it ain’t happening.

  • The hardest part about losing weight is the commitment to lifestyle change. Fortunately running is one of the easier way on keeping yourself healthy. All you need is motivation a pair of running shoes and you’re good to go. The trick is to have doable and incremental goals.With the help of modern tracking devices you can carefully monitor your weight and your progress. Knowing that you are getting better and healthier is a boost to your confidence and motivation. Great post!

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