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I Like Exercise — So Why Am I So Bad at Running?

When it comes to my terrible running, it’s genetics, but it’s also kind of my own fault

I can’t run for shit, as I’ve proven before. But I’m not terrible at yoga, and I still hold some remnants of the abilities I developed over 13 years of dance training as a kid. I even have some vague definition to my ab muscles. Meanwhile, my boyfriend can happily run for miles, but can’t manage a simple downward dog. We chalk these differences up to the basic fact that some people are better at things than others, but what’s actually behind this? 

For the most part, it’s just oxygen and habits. Generally, people’s exercise strengths tend to fall into the two camps — aerobic or anaerobic. The former essentially means “with oxygen,” while the latter means “without.” People who are good at aerobic exercises like running or other forms of steady, moderate cardio are better able to regulate their oxygen intake and distribute it to their muscles. Anaerobic exercise, on the other hand, utilizes short bursts of energy and is less intensive on our lungs. This is essential for people with asthma, like me, and those just genetically predisposed to having problems distributing oxygen. So I might be bad at running a marathon (or even a 5k), but it’s possible that I could be better at short-distance sprints. Similarly, the dance classes of my youth often required periods of intense activity, followed by periods of rest. 

People without asthma may have a similar allegiance toward anaerobic exercise, simply because it’s what they’re used to. While asthma and our genetic strengths play a huge role, much of our physical abilities are developed with time and dedication. According to Runners World, our body’s power to distribute oxygen to the muscles — and therefore run for longer distances — can be gradually increased, so long as you put in the effort. Part of the reason why some people are good at running, then, is just because they’re committed to it. 

Of course, our lungs aren’t the only things working when we exercise. Activities like yoga often require flexibility and core strength, while weightlifting may focus on the strength of the arms and legs. Body strength and flexibility are both attributes that are largely determined by routine practice. Some people may be genetically inclined toward muscle building or doing the splits, but both are mostly the result of habit. 

Destiny does have something to do with it — after all, my asthma is genetic. But the real reason why I’m bad at running is that I just don’t do it enough. If I actually devoted myself to regularly running, I’d probably be less terrible at it. It is, though, much easier to view it as the will of God.