As George Sheehan, the author of the New York Times best-seller “Running and Being,” has explained, “It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runner. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.” Running isn’t about the other people on the road. It isn’t just about fitting into your jeans, either. The lessons learned from the sport are what turn running into more than just a workout – it becomes a lifestyle. You learn to push through pain and challenge yourself every single day. You don’t do this because you are told to, but because you know that somehow, in some way, you’ll benefit.
These benefits could come in the form of shedding a couple pounds of extra weight, lowering your stress level or simply allowing you time to think. Maybe you’re benefitting from the sense of community, or maybe you’ve found peace in the solitude of you and the pavement. There are endless ways to find satisfaction in getting outside and going for a jog. If you still aren’t convinced to lace up your running shoes, let’s elaborate on some of these benefits with input from members of the running community.
Running can lessen the risk of diseases such as breast cancer, stroke, heart attack and Alzheimer’s. It can also boost your immune system and metabolism, and help you lose weight by burning calories – it’s the second-highest calorie-burning workout behind cross-country skiing. If these physical health benefits aren’t enough, there are plenty more reasons to get you off the couch and onto the road.
Feeling down, sluggish or useless? Running could be the answer! Running has been shown to boost your confidence and self-esteem and even help people with depression. Knowing you’re doing something healthy and active will make you feel better about yourself. By noticing improvement in your athletic ability and physical and mental health, you’ll develop a sense of satisfaction and pride. Beth, age 54, explains, “I love the way I feel when I am in shape. It’s so nice to feel light on my feet and not winded when I run.” When you act like a healthy person, you feel like a healthy person. Who wouldn’t want that?
Being too tired to run is no longer an excuse. Running can actually give you more energy! Yes, it takes energy to run, but once you get out there you’ll be more attentive and energetic throughout the day. Emily, age 21, would agree: “I can go from dragging myself out of bed to being pumped and ready for the day after running a few miles in the morning. Sometimes I don’t even need coffee after a great run, which is huge for me.” When you jump start your day with a run, you’ll feel refreshed and satisfied knowing that you’ve already gotten a workout in for the day.
Too busy to run? Think again. If you have a hectic schedule, running could actually reduce your stress level. If you tend to have a lot on your plate, moving things around to fit in a short run could be beneficial. It’ll allow you to get out your frustration from daily annoyances in a healthy way so you can be more productive during the day. Annie, age 20, recognizes this. “Running will always put me in a genuinely good mood. If I am stressed about work or school, going for a jog will instantly lift my mood.” This chunk of time allows you to unwind, forget the noise of your daily life and focus on yourself for once!
Setting goals for yourself will keep you motivated to constantly improve. In the sport of running, it’s easy to set clearly defined goals. Pledge to run three days a week, or register for a 5K or a half marathon. When these goals are reached, you’ll instantly feel a sense of accomplishment that no one can compromise.
Matt, a two-time marathoner and former collegiate runner, explains, “Being disciplined, fit and goal-oriented are all important to me, and running reinforces all three. All you need is a pair of shoes, so it’s a pretty inexpensive hobby, and it can be very rewarding. Running a personal-best time always makes me feel accomplished and fulfilled.”
There is so much room for personal and physical growth when you dedicate yourself to the sport. Pushing yourself to be better is always a possibility. Like Matt explains, “The results you achieve are directly related to the work you put in. There’s always room to improve, and with running, improvement is easy to see. Its quantifiable, so it makes it easy to stay motivated.” As a runner, you’ll enter into a cycle of goal setting, determination, hard work and rewards. This cycle will develop into a healthy competitive spirit, where you’ll be motivated to constantly pursue self-improvement.
No more telling yourself you can’t be a runner. If you can run, you can be a runner. It doesn’t matter if you’re fast or slow. Challenging yourself is all that matters. These benefits should be motivation to incorporate running into your daily routine. Trust me, improvements will come, you’ll see changes in your body, energy level and attitude, and you’ll become motivated to improve yourself in all aspects of your life. So get off the couch and grab your sneakers – it’s time to start running.
Lastly, in the wise words of Melissa Klinker: “Dead last is greater than did not finish which trumps did not start.”