Running isn’t cheap, but is it worth it?

Some runners like to joke that running is “cheap,” all you need is a pair of ($100+) shoes. First of all, not if you’re a woman. Second of all, running is not cheap if you have to deal with an injury and/or pain. This year has really made me think hard about how important running really is to me. Every month when I get the bill from my PT, I ask myself, was this worth it? I’ll be honest, right now money is really tight as I funnel more pre-tax dollars to my health savings account to pay off the bill. Part of me wonders if I should have gone to PT at all.

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But what are the other options?

Running is a really effective workout for me, and a lot of folks, because it has a good ROI on time. I can spend 3 hours per week running, which would yield 20 miles per week. All I have to do is get dressed and head out the door. (When I’m “healthy” and don’t have to do various stretches and exercises before and after every run.) I know from past experience, 20 miles per week is enough to help me maintain my weight.

It’s hard for me to maintain my weight in 3 hours per week with other workouts. Dance, yoga, Pilates, spinning and swimming all require travel for me, so spending 3 hours per week doing those things would likely mean an additional hour or more per week traveling to/from a studio or pool. Plus, they all require relying on schedules I can’t control. (Class schedules or the Chicago Park District’s very limited lap swim hours.)

Running also has a good ROI on money. (If you don’t experience injury and/or pain.) I run in Brooks Adrenalines, and I can get 500 miles out of  a pair. At $120/pair, that’s roughly 24 cents per mile. At 20 miles/week, that’s just under $5/week. Three hours of anything class-based is easily $45/week or more. If I want to be able to swim whenever I want, a gym with a pool would be $90/month plus $200 enrollment.

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Pic on the right from Erica

And running is enjoyable for me. Between the fitness centers at home and at the office, I have access to ellipticals, stationary bikes and stair masters. Similar to the treadmill, I can stick it out on one of those once in awhile. Relying on any of them for my regular cardio in the long run would not last.

So, if I hadn’t gone to PT, I would have likely spent the same amount of money on other ways of working out in order to maintain the same level of fitness and enjoyment for me. Or, I would have fallen into lazy habits due to logistics and/or boredom.

Basically, my health is an investment, and it’s going to require spending some money to be able to do the workouts I enjoy enough to stick with in order to see actual returns on my physcial health (and to a degree, my mental health). I think all of us who workout regularly have accepted that. The older I get, the more I see the reality of “you get what you pay for.” (Most of the time.)

So, as much as PT came with a bit of sticker shock, I’m hopeful that in the long run, it was a good decision. Not only do I think it can keep me running for years to come, but addressing these issues now will likely be cheaper than letting them linger and cause damage my body if I try to suffer through the pain. Or, giving up on running and fitness altogether would lead to costly health problems down the road.

But I’ll be really happy when I stop getting an envelope from the PT every month.

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5 Comments on “Running isn’t cheap, but is it worth it?”

  1. I get a real kick out of the whole “running is a cheap sport” thing, especially after this past year for me. I also like “running is cheaper than therapy,” because let me tell you, as someone who is both a runner AND in therapy, running ain’t cheaper. Not by ANY stretch of the imagination, at least not when you’re on my insurance plan! One PT appointment (pre-deductible) was the price of 15 hours of therapy. Woof.

    But I really appreciate this. I’ve been feeling WOEFULLY poor basically since July, because those PT bills are a beast and have really forced me to be awfully miserly in just about every other aspect of my life. But ultimately, it’s a price worth paying to help me continue doing what I love and what makes me happy. Realistically, all the money I spent on PT was going to go somewhere, anyway. It may as well go to something important to me and my health rather than…I don’t even know. A new pair of jeans I don’t really need? Extra junk food at the grocery store? I think PT has been a way more useful way of spending my money than any of those things.

    1. Well put by Bethany about PT just being another thing to spend money on – at least it’s going to your health and not some junky junk that gets thrown in a closet never to be seen again or junk food. Also, a PT is like a physical trainer. I learned bunches of new exercises that I now do at the gym in PT.

  2. There are benefits beyond weight management too, though. The community, the experiences, the friendships, and the feelings you get when you’re enjoying your fitness lifestyle – those are all factors too! The bill may be high sometimes, but there’s no putting a price on happiness, and if fitness helps you find that, I’d say it’s worth it for sure!

  3. When I first hurt my shoulder (running…duh), I went to PT 2x/week for 6 weeks. Insurance covers some but not that much, especially initially. I hear you on the sticker shock. At least you can pay installments on that bill without interest. And I agree about the benefits of running. I get the most “bang for my buck” so to speak with it.

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