The “Couch Potato Gene” vs. The Courage to Start

On my jog this morning, I listened to the Competitor Radio podcast interview with David Epstein.  David is a senior writer at Sports Illustrated whose latest book release is titled “The Sports Gene”.  During the interview, he surmises that some gifted athlete’s have a natural talent that no amount of training, dedication or willpower can ever equal.  And then he jokingly discusses the “couch potato gene”.  It’s not that couch potatoes can not be athletes; it’s just that, because of the way they are genetically programmed, they will need to work harder than everyone else to be in shape.

As a back-of-the-packer, this makes so much sense!  No matter how good I feel after I work out, no matter how I desire to be in shape, no matter how much I can quote the benefits of exercise…getting out the door remains a constant struggle.  If I don’t have a half-marathon that I’m training for, life intervenes and exercise is shoved down on the priority list.  It is a constant, frustrating battle.

Exercise has not been, nor will it ever be, easy for me. I find it immensely frustrating when new runners and non-runners leave me in the dust in spite of my being fairly dedicated to training for several years now.  And… I won’t even mention my reaction to the young business man in the suit, tie and dress shoes that passed me by in a blur, not even breaking a sweat, while I huffed and puffed at a turtle’s pace.

One of the tricks that keeps me going is keeping the John Bingham quote handy: “The miracle is not that I finished.  The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”  Three years ago, months before I actually took the first physical step, I had been reading about running, wanting to run, preparing myself to run – but too self-conscious to jog out the door.  I discovered John Bingham through his Penguin Chronicles in Runner’s World Magazine.  Then I received his book, The Courage to Start”, as a Christmas present.  The John Bingham quote was one of the things that got me started on my journey.  For us couch potatoes, this book is truly inspirational and should be required reading for every new, recreational and slow runner.

I still rely on the Penguin’s quote when I am feeling overwhelmed and tired, when I’m feeling as if I’m a running fraud (“well, I’m really slow” or “I take a lot of walk breaks”), If I’m feeling that my slow pace should exempt me from belonging to the running community, or if I’m feeling as if I’m starting to come up with too many excuses as to why I can’t run (“darn, too busy”).  

The quote got this non-athlete out the door.  It pushed me to download the Couch to 5K app.  It gave me the courage to press the “proceed to check out” button as my finger hovered uncertainly while I was registering for my first half-marathon.

Keep looking for me at the back-of-the-pack! I’ll be the one doing battle with the “couch potato gene”.   But watch out!  It may get ugly.  

Keep (slow) running! – Marji


About Hand Therapy Blog

I am an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist with more than 20 years experience specializing in the treatment of hand and upper extremity injuries.
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