Running is one of the most popular, accessible and beneficial forms of exercise out there. Running often becomes the sport of choice for many who either want to lose weight, shape up, train for an event or just improve their cardiovascular fitness. Running doesn’t have to cost anything; you can run anywhere you choose be it through your neighborhood, nature or on a treadmill if you happen to have one. You have probably seen people running through the rain, wind and the black of night because running has other benefits other than those of just the physical kind. This article will discuss some of the incredible benefits of running as well as things you may not have been aware of! If you haven’t been a fan of running before then this might just change your mind.
Benefits of running
- Running is good for your heart and excellent for cardiovascular fitness – Because aerobic running relies on your heart pumping oxygen around your body your heart has to work harder and will get stronger and more physically able to cope with the exercise demand being placed on it. Those who run regularly are associated with reductions in their risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
- Running torches fat – Running is excellent for burning calories and burning fat! High-intensity exercise such as running stimulates more “after burn” which means you continue to burn calories after the running session is over, due to your resting energy expenditure being elevated after you run.
- Aerobic & Anaerobic training – Running can activate 2 different energy systems depending upon the type of running you do. Long distance or steady state running activates the aerobic system and sprinting/lactate interval training will activate the anaerobic system. To perform running as an exercise, your body needs to break down sugar and convert it to glycogen, so it can be used as energy or fuel. When your body has an adequate supply of oxygen for this process it is called aerobic respiration. When there isn’t enough oxygen, for example when you are running hard at the end of a 5k or performing sprints this is called anaerobic respiration. The benefits of partaking in both aerobic and anaerobic training are that they can increase your strength, power, stamina and endurance.
- Excellent leg workout – Running will help to develop your leg and core muscles. Your quads, calves and hamstrings will benefit greatly and become stronger and more toned.
How to use running as a mindfulness practice
Many people use running as a stress buster because it’s highly effective at enhancing your mood and clearing your head. The term ‘runners high’ is real.
When you partake in running as an exercise feel-good hormones known as endocannabinoids are released into your brain, they are more commonly known as endorphins.
As you begin to run, try to keep a strong awareness of everything that’s going on around you, bring your attention back to the body and focus on your breathing rhythm as you run ensuring you are taking in plenty of oxygen. Leave your thoughts at home and focus on being present in the moment. Enjoy the fresh air and your surroundings. Running is especially beneficial for your body and mind in the morning, before you tackle your day.
As you run your heart will pump more blood around your body and to your brain meaning your brain will enjoy a supply of oxygen rich blood. This will help to improve concentration and also lift your mood. If you go to work after a morning run you will feel motivated and energized to tackle anything the day throws at you.
The beauty of running outdoors
The real beauty of running as an exercise is that you can do it outdoors. It allows you to explore any surroundings your heart desires and gets you out into the open and fills your lungs with fresh air. Running outdoors is more natural than running on a treadmill and is arguably easier to maintain your focus and motivation as you can progress your environment. Running outdoors gives you different surfaces to run on and different scenery to admire. Outside, your legs have to propel your motion forward while pushing through the resulting wind resistance (however minor it may be).
Without some lovely scenery passing you by and something to take your mind off the stress of everyday life, it can be all too easy to look at the clock every 30 seconds if you are on a treadmill and you can get discouraged that more time hasn’t passed since your last glance. Running outdoors is also better if you like to practice mindfulness when you run.
How to keep yourself motivated
Keeping yourself motivated with any sport or exercise is most effective when you have a goal to work towards. Having a goal will keep you pushing and you’ll have to hold yourself accountable. Your goal may be a running event you have signed up for or it may be a personal goal such as shaving time off your personal best. The below methods should help you structure your practice and stay motivated.
- Goal setting – Goal setting is very important in running when it comes to motivation. It’s a good idea to keep a log of your runs and time them. As you progress in your running you will be able to record new personal bests, faster times and longer distances. Keep a record of all these achievements and when you set out on your next run you will already have a goal. Running can provide you with endless elements to strive towards and personal bests. If you have a long term goal such as you want to complete a 5k run in 5 months time then each time you go out running you can work towards this end result by running further or faster.
- Use the SMART goal system – Using SMART goals is an excellent way to give your self a series of smaller targets which ultimately serve your overriding goal. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time sensitive. An example of a short term smart goal would be ‘To run 3 miles in 30 minutes – track the timing of the runs – achieve in 3 months time scale – relevant because I want to run a 5k in a certain time next year – I have 12 weeks to achieve this goal.
Training for a 5k
Having a goal of running a 5k is a common aim amongst avid running fans. A 5k is a great achievement and will set you up to complete other runs over a longer distance. The key is to start somewhere; no matter what stage you are at with your running you can start training now. Devise a training programme tailored to your needs with an expert running group if you are serious. Start with walking for 20 mins or jogging for 20 minutes every day and your body will build up its strength pretty quickly. Over a progressive period of around 3 months advance your running every week and you will gradually reach your target distance of 5k.
Running is an excellent sport to partake in. You can do it just about anywhere and it has numerous benefits to your mental and physical health alike. If this is something you want to try ensure you have the correct footwear first and foremost and comfortable clothing so you can run with ease.
Check out our suggested plyometric exercise and running plan to help you run 10km in: