If you were like me at a younger age, you despised running. I wasn’t the most athletic kid in the school. OK, I wasn’t athletic at all. I didn’t play sports and my least favorite day in gym class was the day we had to run the mile. From junior high into adulthood I simply “knew” running wasn’t my thing. Then, about 10 years after my high school graduation I decided to try it, just to see if it was still as painful as I remembered. What I found, between the panting and sweating of that first run, was I actually kind of enjoyed it.
Running gets a bad rap. People who don’t run for fun don’t understand how anyone could. They see it as bodily punishment, a painful experience of pushing yourself beyond what’s natural. Runners agree. Running can be painful and it does push you beyond what you think is possible. The difference is: runners learn to love this. Running for some becomes a test, a competitive sport between your body and your mind. For others it becomes freedom, a block of time where the world drops off and all that is left is the sound of your shoes crunching against the ground and the sky overhead.
Some of the benefits of running are expected and others may come as a surprise. Obviously running is good for weight management and cardiovascular fitness. However, did you know that running can also improve coordination, mood and bone health. That’s right; contrary to what many people believe, that running is bad for the joints, running can actually improve bone strength as the body adjusts to the impact demands. Still skeptical about the impact of running on your knees? Check out this piece from RunnersWorld.com that counters the common misconception.
My running adventure started slowly. Just because I started to realize I might actually like running does not mean it came easy. I struggled through the first several weeks running 2 minutes and walking 2. Like many other beginning runners I found a training plan that kept me on target and allowed me to build up mileage at a reasonable rate to be very beneficial. The Couch-2-5k program has worked for many people wanting to take up the sport but unsure of how to start. The plan will start you at ground zero and have you running 3 miles within 8 weeks.
As you start a running regimen it is important to be cautious and remember your body will take time to adjust. Take some time to really learn about running. Use sources like online communities and fellow runners to get good running tips. After you have decided this is something you want to take seriously, buy a good pair of running shoes. Lastly, as a motivational boost, register for your first 5k. Having a goal to work towards can help you run out the door on days when you would rather stay on the couch.
Remember when you were a young kid and would run for fun? You would be walking along and just break out into a sprint. That energy, that sense of freedom and joy can still be found in running. Often it is buried under years of adulthood and requires work to uncover, but you will know you have found it when, on those rare occasions, you catch yourself on a long run day wanting to smile at the sheer pleasure of running or run faster just because you know you can.