Why I Run: My Love/Hate Relationship With Pounding the Pavement

Lauren Bongiorno, health coach and founder of Keep Healthy Protein Bars, on running when she feels like it—and not when she doesn’t.

Some people are runners at heart. The rest of us suffer through it for physical fitness, vanity, or FOMO (we can’t be the only one without a marathon medal around our neck!). Our “Why I Run” series is an attempt at changing the conversation round running. The stories behind why some influencers, fitness experts and entrepreneurs hit the pavement may just inspire you to make running a part of your own routine. 

EVERUP: Can you remember your first experience with running? What was it like?

BONGIORNO: My earliest memories of running are on the soccer field. I played Division 1 soccer in college and always played on competitive travel teams growing up. We would run around the perimeter of the field for warm ups and do full field sprinting for punishment. It was definitely a love-hate relationship!

What is your running routine like now?

I’d call myself a seasonal runner … if that’s a thing haha. I absolutely love running outdoors when the sun is shining and the weather is warm. In the warm New York months or when I travel, I’ll run on the beach or boardwalk usually 3 times a week for 40 minutes. Other than that, I usually get my cardio in on the Stairmaster or by doing 15-minute HIIT sprints on the treadmill three times a week.

What is the biggest improvement in your life that you attribute to running?

As a social media influencer and health coach, I am constantly on my computer, whether it’s on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, reading blog articles, answering emails, or typing up client notes. One thing that running allows me to do is decompress. On days where my head is pounding from too much technology stimulation, running always rejuvenates me and gets me connected back to the earth’s vibrations.

Do you think everyone can experience this benefit by giving a running a shot?

If you take a step back away from, “OMG it’s only been 4 minutes and I still have 36 minutes to go,” you can really reap the benefits running has to offer. I don’t believe you can see the positivity in anything if you’re not open to the possibility of it first.

Some people claim to just “hate” running, it’s not for them—how do you respond? Do you think some people are just innately runners while others aren’t? Or is it more of a learned enjoyment that develops over time?

That’s me some days haha. And on those days, guess what I do? I don’t run! All that matters to me is that I’m moving my body in some way that day. So if you don’t like running, find another form of exercise you love, but definitely give running a chance.

What is a common misconception about running that you think needs to be addressed?

One common misconception, that I actually thought was true for a while, was that you can get in the best shape ever—toned abs, strong core, ect.—if you just run. I really think that when I paired running with strength training and yoga, my fitness level completely exploded upwards.

Was there ever a time that running stopped serving you and you removed it from your routine for a period of time? What was the reason and how did you get back into again?

After I stopped playing college soccer I was in the gym 6 days a week focusing mostly on cardio for weight loss. I took it over board just a little bit and ended up losing around 30 pounds (pounds I did not need to lose) in under 6 months. This was a combination of excess calorie burn and under nourishing my body. When I realized what I was doing to my body, I spent 7 months only doing yoga and weight training. I only started up again when I felt my mindset and relationship with working out was in a healthy place—a place where I was working out not to burn calories or as punishment for eating pizza the night before, but to strengthen my mind and body because I loved it, not hated it.

What are your tips for those who are just starting to add running to their exercise routine?

Focus on doing “one more” than you did the week before. That is, one more minute, one more sprint, one more incline level. You don’t need to go from beginner to marathoner in one week. Be patient, trust the journey, and challenge yourself a little each week. Because all the small wins add up to big changes.

Any insider tips for runners that you find especially helpful?

Get yourself a killer playlist!! I personally like to jam out to Motown music when I run. The Jackson 5 gets me feeling all pumped up! Also, eat to nourish and fuel your body! Before my runs I’ll either have an apple with peanut butter or one of my Keep Healthy Low Glycemic Protein Bars. I’m all about long-lasting energy and a combination of protein, fat and carbs for pre workout. After my workout I usually have a Vega Sport protein shake with one banana and a handful of spinach to help my muscles recover!

There is a huge race culture, and it’s easy to experience FOMO when seeing all the pictures on social media of people carb loading and holding medals. Do you think it’s worthwhile for everyone to train for a race at some point? On the flipside, are there reasons not to or types of people who may not enjoy it?

I think we live in a society where it’s easy to feel pressure to do what everyone else is doing because they’ve gotten praise from it. But at the end of the day all that matters is that YOU want to do it and it’s making YOU happy. So sign up for that half marathon to see what YOU are made of. To challenge yourself outside your comfort zone. And most of all, on your time, when you are ready to make it your top priority.

After receiving her health coaching certification through the Institute for Integrative NutritionLauren Bongiorno started working with type 1, type 2 and pre-diabetics to take back control of their lives through creating healthy diet and exercise habits that best fit their lifestyle. In addition to working as a Diabetic Health Coach, she is a yoga/bootcamp instructor, and creator of the Keep Healthy Low-Glycemic Protein Bars. Follow lauren on instagram @lauren_bongiorno for daily health and wellness inspiration.

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