As many of you know, I’ve been sidelined the past few years with various injuries which have made it difficult for me to run at full strength for quite some time. While I have a track background, distance running has not always been my passion. However, It’s interesting how much more we desire to do things when we are temporarily restricted from doing them- and running has been no different. The past few years, I’ve craved being able to run again pain free (and sometimes simply to run at all).
So as a result, these past several months I’ve been thinking alot about running- and why it’s such a great ‘go-to’ exercise. For all you runners out there, I may be preaching to the choir. But for those of you may be considering lacing up that pair of Nikes collecting dust in the closet and going out for a mile or two, let me give you some added incentive. Check out these 10 reasons to run:
1- Running is easy. All it takes is a pair of shoes and off you go. Regardless of whether you travel for work every week to a different city or are a stay-at-home parent on carpool duty, you can run. Most gyms, hotels, and even apartment communities have treadmills so even if you’re not up for braving the elements, you can get in a great workout without all the fuss.
2- Running is effective. The average number of calories burned per hour running varies on the runner, but it is higher than swimming, cycling, walking, and many other aerobic activities. The factors involved include weight of the runner, intensity of the run (speed and terrain relative to fitness level), and a host of other factors. However, at 170 lbs I burn close to 1,000 calories per hour when I’m running at a moderate (tempo) pace. That’s a lot of calories!
3- Running actually FEELS good. Experienced runners often describe a runner’s “high” they perceive when running for longer distances. Because of the methodical nature of running, it produces a euphoric feeling associated with long, rhythmic, repetitive movements, according to Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise. In an article on WebMd, Bryant says that the methodical nature (not endorphin levels) are key to the runners “feeling good” while they run. Whatever the cause, you runners can all relate!
4- Running is a great way to enjoy your surroundings. Back in a former lifetime, I worked in sales which required me to spend lots of time on the road. While it was taxing in some ways, I love pulling out my running shoes and touring a new area via running trails, sidewalks, and city streets. It was very different than simply driving around a city - it was slower, easier to feel connected. When I decided to purchase a home, I picked potential neighborhoods and would run through them, checking out the schools, the traffic, and the other homes in the area. It was a great way to get the ‘feel’ of the community. Not to mention, running is an INCREDIBLE way to see the beauty of nature. Nothing beats running by the river as the sun slowly rises and mist lifts off into the air. It’s simply breathtaking!
5- Running gives variety to a workout. Contrary to popular belief, running isn’t all the same. I love to add variety to my workouts by adding trail runs, hill sprints, running drills, track work, and even running the stairs to my training (as well as my clients’). This provides a way to alleviate any boredom that may be associated with simply placing one foot in front of the other over and over again. Changing the speed, location, intensity, duration, frequency, and other variables provides endless possibilities for a good workout, especially when combined with strength training, body weight circuits, or stretching sessions.
6- Running is a springboard to other sports. Learning to run (properly) is a great way to build an athletic foundation. Almost all land sports involve at least a marginal amount of running. Learning proper running mechanics helps provide dexterity, coordination, stability, speed, and endurance which lays the groundwork for countless other sports. Whether running has a direct correlation in a sport (such as triathlon or soccer) or simply provide a ground work (think softball or wrestling), it’s a great way to hone skills that can pay dividends down the road.
7- Running helps clear the head. This may be more anecdotal that scientific, but when I’m stressed, have a lot on my mind, or am deliberating over a problem, I like to lace up and hit the road. It provides uninterrupted ‘me’ time when I can turn inward and either focus on the problem at hand, or simply clear my head and not think at all. Many times, when struggling to find the answer to a complex problem or issue, I take a run break and choose to focus on something completely different (the beautiful scenery, or a particular podcast or playlist, or simply meditate with no distractions) and upon returning my mind is ready to tackle the problem, and I find the solution much quicker.
8- Running is the a great way to commute. DC is the home arguably the greatest amount of multitaskers in the country. And it is the undisputed home of the worst commute in America, according to the US Department of Transportation. So, some help alleviate the stress of the morning commute by running to work. With a little planning, commuters can both get in their exercise for the day as well as taking a chunk out of their commute time. And while many argue their commute is too long to run, many take a bus, metro, or carpool only part way to work then run the rest of the way (which is usually the most traffic-laden) to the office.
9- Running is a great social outlet. In a big city, running groups are a dime a dozen. Whether they are large training groups organized by the local running store, or small informal groups of a few friends motivating each other to make fitness a priority, running can be a great way to be social with a purpose. While running is many times a solitary endeavor, having a group or friend to keep you accountable can help ensure you meet your goals, whether that’s to finish a marathon, or simply get out and move a few days a week.
10- Running is healthy! No surprise here- sustained cardiovascular exercise has almost unlimited benefits - namely a longer life. According to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, “compared with non-runners, runners had 30% and 45% lower adjusted risks of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality”. And that’s not all. Because of the impact force of running, runners are shown to have increased bone density which can be valuable to stave off bone-related issues like osteopenia and osteoporosis. Combine all that with the fact that runners have lower incidence of strokes and other heart issues may have you considering digging out those Nikes after all!
If that doesn’t at least get you THINKING about those Nikes in the closet, I don’t know what will! Give it a shot- take a few laps around the block and see how you feel. If nothing else, you’ll have got your heart rate up and taken a few steps closer to a happier, healthier you!