Running: Why I do it, how to start, and the amazing benefits

Usually when I tell people that I love running they look at me like I’m crazy or just flat-out tell me that I am. What started out as a way to get out of the house as a teenager, has turned into a passion and a drive that has helped me lose over 40lbs in the past two years and kept me happier in my life than just about anything else! Here are 101 reasons to start running!

Some common misconceptions I hear about running ALL the time:

Running is hard on your joints and can ruin your knees

I don’t want to mess up my hips

Running is boring

Running doesn’t burn that many calories

While it is true that when you run you are hitting the ground with 4x your body weight, running can actually help to protect your joints. There are also a lot of ways to project your joints when you run and only increase your mileage by 10% each week. When tissue that supports joints (cartilage) breaks down, it’s referred to as Osteoarthritis and can be extremely painful. Many people believe that running accelerates this process but that’s actually not true. Runner’s World has a great article on how running improves joint health. In fact, the biggest cause of OA is actually high body fat and increased weight that bares down on the joints on a day-to-day basis. Dropping just 10lbs can take 45lbs of pressure off of the knees! Running, along with exercise in general, allows cartilage to pull in oxygen, compress and expand, and stay healthy while flushing out toxins. Not to mention, running helps keep your bones strong and keep your body young from the inside out.

For me, I run for the challenge, the runner’s high, and the feeling that I have competed with myself and accomplished something whether it’s a 10 minute run or a 40 push through the pouring rain. The endorphins that are released during your second wind on a run are something that I live for. Sometimes a good run is just what I need to reset my mentality, mood, and get my head back in the game. I’m also always more motivated to eat healthy and there’s nothing like a good sweat to flush out toxins in your body and skin.

Here are some of my favorite benefits of running:

  1. Stress reliever/eliminating depression – the best time to go on a run is when you are in a bad mood, no really, trust me. Within minutes of getting outside or hitting the treadmill, you will start to feel euphoric and that feeling will follow you for the rest of the day. You’ll also be able to sleep easier and deeper at night after you’ve put in a good run for the day.
  2. Growing your mind/training your brain – running is a great time to throw on some headphones, zone out, and think about your life, your goals, what you want, and how to get it. I can’t tell you how many realizations I’ve come to by going on a long run on the weekend. It also creates an environment for you to focus and train your mind. You will need determination and perseverance on longer runs and up those steep hills. Often times, overcoming our minds is the hardest part for runners. Learning to turn off the part of your brain that says “I think I’m tired” or “we can’t do this” – you’d be surprised how far your body can actually take you. Running and aerobic activity can also make you smarter. The more you exercise, the better your ability to make sound judgements, be less indecisive, and boost your concentration and memory.
  3. Improving balance and coordination – can you stand up and hold your foot behind your body without tipping over? The more I run, the more I notice my ability to balance and function improves. Running outside and on varying terrain requires your body and stature to constantly re-adjust. It also greatly increases your core strength.
  4. Improve your immune system – the more active we are, the healthier we are, and therefore more likely to fight off those nasty colds before they take us down hard. When I’m running on a regular basis, I hardly ever get sick.
  5. Boost your confidence – run tall and suck in your stomach and over time you’ll feel the results. You’ll also be impressed with your own efforts, distances, and your mood. It’s hard not to feel confident, powerful, and sexy when all of this happens. You’ll be more motivated to keep running, eat healthy, and have more energy.
  6. ENERGY! – Yep! You’ll have more of it. You’ll want to do more and will be surprised at how much more alert you are. Suddenly that 2-3pm slump isn’t so bad anymore and falling a sleep becomes a breeze.
  7. Muscle definition and a flat tummy – there’s nothing like running on a regular basis and starting to see the fat melt off, getting that defined line in your legs, and seeing the muscle underneath start to show. You’re a beast and it shows! Running is a great way to increase your lower body strength and lose stomach fat.

So maybe now you’re thinking “maaaaybe I could run” – you don’t have to be hardcore about it to call yourself a runner, either. Runners are people that run once a week, run marathons every year, or occasionally go on jogs. They are ALL accomplishments and something you should be proud of. Here’s a few tips on how to get started and some things to think about:

  • Start off slow – don’t get crazy and try to go on some 4 mile run on your first bout
  • Stay off the pavement – although the outdoors provides a better challenge and burns more calories than running on a treadmill, it can be a scary place to start. If you are going to run outside, find a track or run along the road on the dirt or gravel if you can.
  • Get some sweet kicks and fun running gear. Invest in that arm band for your MP3 and make that workout mix you’ve been meaning to get to. I spent a pretty penny on some neon/glow-in-the-dark Asics last year and I cannot tell you what a great purchase they were. Plus, I’m always more motivated to hit the trails when I know how cool my shoes look 🙂 81CZ6UmqqIL__SL1500_
  • Download a running app (like Nike Training Center) or find ways to log your runs, distance, etc.
  • Set a goal or find a race that interests you. I still want to do the Survivor Mud Run, the Warrior Dash, and the Zombie Run at some point. Get a group together to train and then celebrate when you actually make it through the finish line!
  • Track how you feel before and after a run. Monitor your mood and see how running challenges you and changes your outlook.

The most important thing about exercise, health, and fitness, is finding something you love and can be passionate about. Running isn’t for everyone but I’m constantly enthralled by the stories I read of people that are 50 or older who have never ran a mile in their life and are suddenly training for half-marathons and 5ks. YOU CAN DO IT! Consistency in anything is key and the more you do something, the better you will get, the stronger you will become, and the happier you will live your life.

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