Quite simply, there is nothing like running. Slip on a pair of shorts, a vest and your running shoes and head out the door. In a matter of minutes you find yourself in a comfortable rhythm, your breathing controlled and relaxed, the feint sound of your feet lightly touching the ground. With each foot strike your mind begins to clear and the worries of the day melt away into oblivion.
The benefits of running are many, improved fitness for starters. I hate the feeling of being unfit, I feel lazy, sluggish, tired and unmotivated. Fitness brings with an energy and a zest for life. Of course if you have been out of running for some time getting back is always difficult and the first 6 weeks or so feels like a bit of a slow, but once you find your routine and some resemblance of fitness begins to return you begin to feel better about yourself, about the wold and basically about life in general. As our fitness levels improve so does the functioning of our bodies. Our hearts grow stronger and are able to pump blood through the arteries and veins into and out of the lungs in order to exchange carbon-dioxide for oxygen more efficiently. Our muscles grow stronger and are better able to assist in supporting our skeleton.
Another benefit of running and of course exercise in general is weight loss. Weight gain is a simple mathematical equation, number of calories in – number of calories used = positive calorie balance (weight gain) or negative calorie balance (weight loss). Running also causes our metabolism to increase which means our body burns more calories than if we did no exercise at all.
Another very important benefit to running which is often underestimated is stress reduction. The first paragraph of this article paints a picture of the positive impact running has on stress. Running is relaxing and gives us time to ourselves, which in this day and age is not something have too much of. Running takes our minds off our worries (even if it’s just for a half hour to a hour or so). If you are currently a runner I’m sure you are aware of that relaxed feeling you experience after a run. For me, running after work is tough, I’m tired, depending what I’ve eaten during the day will repeat on me during a run, but on days where I am unable to run in the morning and I force myself to run after work, after a km or 2 I begin to feel good and when I finish the run, I always feel great. I’m relaxed, I have more energy and the day no longer seems that bad. Stress is a silent killer. We live in a very stressful age, always bombarded by noise and activity and if we do nothing about the stress in our lives, it will kill us!
Of course there are many other benefits to running and I’m sure off the top of your head you can think of many more.
In order to run and improve in running, we have to run. So for example, swimming is an excellent workout and it’s great for core strength, but we can’t simply swim and hope to improve in our running. If we want to improve our running, then we have to run.
By following a program and being correctly coached we are able to build up gradually and become better runners over time without ending up injured. Far too many runners end up doing too much too soon and as a result end up with injuries like shine splints, ITB, plantar fasciitis or stress fractures. If you don’t know what any of these injuries are; keep it that way! If however you do know all about these injuries than you will know that they are not fun to have and take a very long time to heal.
Injuries are very demotivating and frustrating and can put us off running for life. Injuries are NOT a part of running and no one should have to run with injuries. If we build up gradually we train the body and strengthen the body to run further and quicker without causing undue stress to our muscles or bones.
Running is a wonderful sport and I hope that you will find great joy and pleasure in your running throughout your life.
I end off with one of my favorite quotes by Eric Liddell, “I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.”