Debate: Red Light Rest or Run in Place

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Hello. My name is Rachel, and I run in place at stoplights.

Yes, I’m that runner. And before you roll your eyes too far back into your head or start making assumptions about my running experience (or lack thereof), you should know that I’ve taken a careful look at both sides of the grand debate, and I am prepared to offer up both arguments as equal points of view.

For those of us who run in urban settings, an element of timing and pure luck are both involved in making it through intersections without waiting for the light to change. Chances are, you might make it through with a few happy green lights, but more often than not you’ll probably find yourself trapped at more than your fair share of red lights.

I’ve interviewed coworkers who have passionately expressed their opinion on this hot topic, and I also have my own running experience to thank for the following breakdown.

Arguments for running in place

  • I like to keep my rhythm. If I take a break, it is usually hard for me to find that stride again. Even though I’m just running in place, it helps me keep that rhythm that was working so well before the light went red on me.
  • I like to keep my heart rate up. A break in running causes my heart to go into recovery mode, normalizing towards my resting rate. Keeping my heart rate up allows me to continue my run with no interruption in heart-pumping benefits.
  • It’s hard to stop and start again. It physically hurts. My knees, my legs, my hips… it is an unnecessary strain.
  • It keeps my head in the game. Even a small break in my focus can really throw me mentally. I like to stay in it and keep focused on killing my run until I finish.
  • I don’t know what else to do. I’m awkward. What am I supposed to do at the stoplight while I awkwardly stand here, panting and sweating like a crazy person? I’d rather just keep moving. Less thinking is involved in just keeping my legs going.
  • Who cares what other people think? Oh, you think it’s silly that I run in place? Well I think you’re silly. The only thing that matters to me is how great my run feels, and running in place makes me feel better. I don’t need your approval. You do you, I got me.

little-green-man-393594_1280Arguments for stopping

  • A small break won’t drastically affect your workout. Unless you’re standing there doing nothing for an extended period of time, your heart rate should not significantly dip. Don’t sweat the small stuff, man!
  • Stretching is good. Take this time at the red light to stretch any tight spots. Listen to your body and key in on anything that may be hurting or in need of some extra stretching.
  • Enjoy the running experience and savor resting moments. As one of my coworkers so eloquently stated, “A runner gets to experience more in life than a non-runner because he or she fills the mornings with the fisherman hauling in their catch for the day, the fraternity pledge that somehow lost one shoe the night before, and the cute fellow runner on the opposite side of the street. But even our daily montage needs to slow down if we are to savor life, and that bright red bulb beaming down on you seems a perfect pause. Also, you never know when you might find that cute fellow runner at the grocery store and running at the stoplight is sure to ruin that.”
  • You look like you’re trying too hard. Rookie move. A lot of well seasoned runners argue against running at stoplights. Take a chill pill and run like the pros run – occasional breaks don’t make you a lesser runner.
  • You look ridiculous. Seriously. Bouncing up and down like a fool. I hope the song that you are clearly grooving is equally as ridiculous… something along the lines of Hit Me Baby, One More Time or Call Me Maybe. (Sorry Brittney and Carly.)
  • If you want to keep your heart rate up, then keep running. Who says you have to cross here? If you are worried about losing your rhythm or breaking your workout, then run around the block again. Or cross on a different street. Or jay run (is that a thing?) when it’s safe.
  • Run when traffic is low to nonexistent. If there are no cars on the road at 5am, you can cross anywhere you want, no problem, and not have to worry about pesky red lights.

How do you feel? What side of this debate do you fall on, and why?

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