Very short, slow runs can lead to better health. But that doesn’t lessen the timeless allure of being a “real runner.”
Why run? I ask myself this question as I lace up my shoes, as I confront an approaching hill, as I coax one more lap out of my aching calves. The obvious answer is that we run to be healthy, to improve our cardiovascular systems and our moods, to become fitter and stronger. But sometimes it feels like the real reason that I run is to get better at running. I run so that I can run more.
That’s why it knocked me for a loop when I read about recent studies showing that you don’t have to run very much, or very fast, in order to get major health benefits. “Running, even 5 to 10 min/day and at slow speeds <6 miles/h, is associated with markedly reduced risks of death from all causes and cardiovascular disease,” one study, in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, concluded.
I shouldn’t be surprised at this. In August, a study found that walking fairly short distances was associated with reduced mortality risk. We’ve been talking for a long time about six-minute workouts and 11-minute workouts and how to do the shortest workout humanly possible and still reap benefits. But running in particular seems intricately linked to questions of endurance, of grit and commitment and even moral rectitude. “Running is more than a sport or a form of exercise, a passion or a pastime. It’s about identity,” one runner declared in an essay in Runner’s World, a sentiment expressed in nearly each of the one million essays I read while mulling this topic.
I run pretty regularly, but it’s certainly not central to my identity. This isn’t, I hasten to add, for lack of trying. I started running because I wanted to reclaim the practice from my elementary school days, when the Presidential Fitness Test — and its crowning glory, the mile run — was accepted as a meaningful measure of a child’s worth. I kept running because I wanted to access the enlightenment that runners seem to achieve, to cultivate a low-tech solo activity that would improve every aspect of my being and, perhaps, entitle me to some of the smugness so many runners radiate.
The necessity of running faster and longer has always seemed a given if one wanted to assume all of the activity’s attendant advantages. After learning of the virtues of the short run, I set out this week to run short and slow. It felt silly to kit up in “performance” attire for a performance that was unlikely to elicit a sweat.
I trotted around the park for a cool 20 minutes, my gait so languid that I nearly tripped over a root. I progressed so slowly that I was able to make prolonged eye contact with a woman sitting on a bench holding a baby. “Why are you running at this undistinguished pace?” her gaze seemed to ask. “Why can’t she see that I’m effectively reducing my mortality risk?” I asked myself, inanely.
I didn’t feel particularly accomplished after my slog (a slow jog). I did, however, see how meaningful these studies’ findings could be for those who might be avoiding all running because they’re not able to sustain it for long periods. Beginner running programs like Couch to 5K and None to Run assume a 5K, or running for 25 minutes, are sensible, achievable goals. But a Couch to 5 Minutes program would be even more achievable, a salutary way point, or even a goal unto itself. And for those who already run regularly, who might still berate themselves for not being fast enough or strong enough or committed enough, these studies’ conclusions could lessen some of that psychic freight.
Carry your groceries, and take the stairs: Even two-minute exercise bursts can have benefits.
How painful should your workout be?
“That he is not made for the workaday world, that his essential nature and the law of his being are different from the ordinary and usual is difficult for everyone, including the runner, to comprehend.” From 1976, “Why a Runner Runs: He Must.”
THE WEEK IN CULTURE
In her new memoir, “The Woman in Me,” scheduled for release on Tuesday, Britney Spears shares plenty about life in the spotlight. It’s nearly impossible to emerge from it without feeling outrage on her behalf, our critic writes.
Here’s what the memoir reveals about her rise to fame, her past relationships and the conservatorship that controlled her life for over a decade.
A Times writer seeking a dose of nostalgia wanted to rewatch the 2002 movie “Crossroads,” the first feature film Spears starred in. Her challenge: How does one watch a DVD nowadays?
Ann Philbin will step down as director of the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles next year. Over 25 years, she transformed it into a destination for contemporary art.
The Herbie Hancock Competition, a prestigious showcase for young jazz musicians, crowned Jahari Stampley, an electrifying new talent from Chicago.
The actress Suzanne Somers died this week at 76. She was an influencer long before that term was coined, pushing her fans toward supplements, exercise fads and sexual wellness.
The brain-twisting architecture of Joshua Ramos is finally lifting off, with groundbreaking new buildings in New York City and Providence, R.I.
It’s a big weekend for video games. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, out now on PlayStation 5, is “easily the most fun superhero game ever made,” The Washington Post writes.
And Nintendo has released Super Mario Bros. Wonder for its Switch system. NPR calls it “a pristine extravaganza designed to appeal to nostalgic players and newcomers.”
THE LATEST NEWS
Trucks carrying food, water and medicine entered the besieged Gaza Strip from Egypt.
Hamas released two American hostages — a mother and teenage daughter — who were among the 200 people abducted during the Oct. 7 attack. Ten Americans are still missing, the U.S. said.
Biden asked Congress to pass $105 billion in aid, mostly for Ukraine and Israel, plus humanitarian assistance for Gaza.
U.S. officials have been working behind the scenes to dissuade Israel’s leaders from attacking Hezbollah, the powerful militia in Lebanon.
Other Big Stories
After Representative Jim Jordan lost a third vote for House speaker, Republicans dropped him as their nominee. They plan to pick a new nominee next week.
Kenneth Chesebro, a lawyer accused of helping Donald Trump try to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results, pleaded guilty to a felony charge and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
A New York judge fined Trump $5,000 for breaking a gag order in his civil fraud trial and threatened to jail him for future infractions.
🎬 “Five Nights at Freddy’s” (Friday): Based on a popular indie horror video game, this movie, which will be released simultaneously in theaters and on Peacock, arrives with a lot of hype among younger viewers. (Gameplay videos posted on YouTube have amassed millions of views.) The plot follows Mike Schmidt (Josh Hutcherson), who begins working as a nighttime security guard at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, a restaurant reminiscent of Chuck E. Cheese. The complication? The establishment is home to homicidal animatronic animals.
📺 “Fellow Travelers” (Friday): Another adaptation out next week is this Showtime limited series based on a 2007 novel by Thomas Mallon. The show charts a four-decade romance between two men, Hawkins Fuller (Matt Bomer) and Tim Laughlin (Jonathan Bailey). They first meet in 1950s Washington as political staffers during the McCarthy era’s vilification of homosexuality. The series illustrates “how basic human needs can be undone by political expediency,” Noel Murray wrote for The Times.
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Swathed in sour cream and Cheddar cheese, Ali Slagle’s twice-baked potatoes are a classic, like eating cheesy mashed potatoes spooned into a salty, crisp skin. Perfect as it is, her recipe is also easy to tweak to your liking. Add bacon, scallions, other cheeses or spices like cumin to the potatoes to round them out. Or top with a scoop of chili or roasted vegetables to make them more of a meal. You can even make these vegan by skipping the dairy and mashing the potato with olive oil, black pepper and a dash of nutritional yeast. Twice-baked potatoes is the kind of dish everyone can get behind.
What you get for $2 million: An 1867 house in Doylestown, Pa.; an Edwardian home in Livingston, Mont.; and a Tudor Revival house in San Francisco.
The hunt: An American expatriate in London bought a Manhattan home for less than $400,000 — sight unseen. How did she do it? Play our game.
Ask Real Estate: He lives in a subdivided apartment and a roommate refuses to pay rent. Can the landlord be made to evict him?
Stone Age to Silk Road: Sanliurfa, in southeastern Turkey, resounds with music, food and culture — and echoes with 11,000 years of human history.
Spilling over: War in the Middle East has led to demonstrations in Paris, Rome and beyond. Here’s what to expect amid the disruptions.
Getting a grip: The muscles in the wrist and hands have been tied to longevity and quality of life. Here’s how you can strengthen yours.
Bad for you: Four additives, found in foods like candy corn, sodas and tortillas, have been banned in California. Here’s what to know.
ADVICE FROM WIRECUTTER
Alternative Halloween treats
Trick-or-treating can be extra tricky for kids with food allergies. To help them enjoy a happier Halloween, make sure your candy stash has brands that are known to be free of many, or even all, major allergens. Examples include Smarties, Skittles and Dum Dums. Offer up chocolate goodies, too, which are more palatable for kids with braces and (in some cases) diabetes. It’s also a good idea to keep allergen-free treats in a separate container, and to keep the bags they come in, in case kids or parents want to verify ingredients. — Rose Lorre
GAME OF THE WEEKEND
Texas Rangers vs. Houston Astros, American League Championship Series: Despite the long-simmering feud between Dallas and Houston, their local baseball teams have never had much reason to care about one another. They played in different leagues until 2013, and since then they generally haven’t been competitive at the same time. The Astros have been baseball’s best team, reaching the World Series four times, while the Rangers have mostly languished. Now, finally, the two are meeting in the playoffs, giving Texas its first great baseball rivalry. “I’ve been in San Antonio, Austin and Houston, and everywhere I’m going, that’s all people are talking about right now,” Reid Ryan, the former Astros president, told The Athletic. 8 p.m. Eastern tomorrow on FS1.
The series has been tight: Texas jumped out to a two-game lead, and Houston won the next two to draw even. Last night, the Astros won Game 5 with a thrilling ninth-inning home run. (See the highlight.)
In the N.L.C.S., the Philadelphia Phillies and the Arizona Diamondbacks are tied, two games apiece, after Arizona came back to win Game 4.
NOW TIME TO PLAY
Here is today’s Spelling Bee. Yesterday’s pangram was unlatch.
See the hardest Spelling Bee words from this week.
Take the news quiz to see how well you followed this week’s headlines.
And here are today’s Mini Crossword, Wordle, Sudoku and Connections.
Thanks for spending part of your weekend with The Times. — Melissa
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