May is National Runners Month
Running is one of those things like guacamole people either love it or hate it. Since May is National Runners month, this month's post is dedicated to running and why I think can be one of the best ways to get on a fitness journey. I've spent the last 11 or years doing some form of running and let me tell ya what a long strange trip it’s been. It's amazing to think of how far my two feet have taken me on this journey, because becoming a runner can help you be fierce and overcome a lot of shit in this crazy world.
So let's rewind a little, growing up I was never into fitness. Surprising, huh! I hated running and when given the option to skip PE a couple of days a week, if I learned how to play an instrument that’s what I chose to do. Looking back, today if I was given that option even though I love music I know I’d pick PE class and I blame a running habit for making me the fitness enthusiast I am today. Although, in a perfect world kids should get a healthy dose of both music & the arts with lots of physical activity.
10 Reasons Running is Badass
1. It makes you feel truly free. You feel the breeze across your forehead, see the world move below your feet with each step and look out farther into an endless horizon. In a world with constant deadlines, notifications, and meetings running can be a nice liberating change of pace.
2. It can be enjoyed in solitude or among company, quiet or loud indoors or outdoors. It can be a sport for lots of different moods. Somedays I feel like cranking the tunes and zoning out or other days I like to head out with a friend. Nothing beats catching up and burning some calories at the same time. I'm also a deep thinker, so running gives me a place to do that without standing still.
Of course running outside is better, but if weather takes you indoors the treadmill doesn’t have to be the dreadmill with the right program! Hill climbs, intervals or sprints can be a recipe for a great treadmill workout that won’t leave you watching the clock.
3. Endorphins are involved in natural reward circuits, aid in pain management and possess morphine like effects. Scientists are still trying to find out exactly why the body produces them. What they have found is that they are produced in response to prolonged, continuous exercise. Let’s just be thankful the body does this, cause I’m sure this mechanism has helped all of us push through some pain and cross that finish line!
4. Endocannabinoids are what’s getting you that sweet runners high. Shown to be responsible for improvements in mood after moderate intensity aerobic exercise. In mice it has been shown that blocking the endocannabinoid receptors (but not endorphin receptors) inhibits the anti-pain and anti-anxiety/stress relief effect of running. Scientists also think that this is what signals endorphins to be released. That’s dope!
5. Cardiovascular benefits Keeps your heart healthy and strong. Also helps you keep fit so you can make it to the top of the stairs without getting winded or keep up with you kids that are running around with all this energy you wish you had. Start running and you’ll soon discover that energy boost I’m talking about!
6. Stronger Bones & Muscles We lose muscle mass and bone density as we age. Running can be a good way to counteract that. But it's not an excuse to completely ditch strength training!
7. Increase your longevity Running and exercise in general can be the fountain of youth at the cellular level by protecting telomere length. At the cellular level, telomeres are the part of cells related to aging. Our cells are constantly dividing to produce new cells that replace old worn ones. In this process, chromosomes carry all the information needed to generate new cells and telomeres protect that information. And as telomeres get too short to do their job, cells age and stop working right which is basically what aging is all about.
8. Helps you sleep How many times have you struggled to fall asleep? Running can help with that.
9. Race Swag/Post race parties Nothing is better than feeling great after a race, having some race swag to take home and a good excuse to enjoy a cold one before noon! Best Post-Race Bash: Bolderboulder
10. Finding common ground with many cause we’re in good company. In 2014 a whopping 18,750,000 runners crossed the finish line with 57% of that number being Women!
Ready to get started?
So there you have it, some reasons I love running! Ready to get started running? That’s great! But let’s do this safely because it’s kind of like the Sun it must be treated with respect and the last thing you want to happen is the terrible too’s: Too much, too soon usually leads to injury and then running won’t be so great and you may never want to do it again.
First, check your foot type and make sure you’ve got the right shoes for running! Here’s a link to a great guide to do that from Runner’s World
Now that you’ve handled that very important first step you may proceed. Please don’t skip this, trust me it will save you miles of misery in the long run.
Follow the guidelines below, aim to work on running every other day. You can still exercise in between those running days but stick to lower impact movements like biking, swimming or yoga.
You have to walk well before you can run
We have to get good at walking before we attempt to take it up a notch into running. So begin by working up to being able to walk briskly for 30 continuous minutes. Once you’ve established that base, you can begin adding bursts of jogging into your routine for the next couple of weeks or so. Start by adding 30 seconds of of running and walk briskly for the other 4 minutes and complete that up to 6 times.
Gradually increase running time and decrease walking time as your body adjusts. Aim for reaching a 1:1 ratio, so 1 minute running, 1 minute walking. From here, try adding to the running time. So the next step up would be 1 minute 30 seconds of running, then when that becomes easier move up to 2 minutes and so on. Try to keep your “resting” at one minute or below. Work towards eventually reaching 20 minutes of steady running/jogging. If you're struggling to maintain 20 minutes try a slower pace. Think being able to say a complete sentence during your run, if you're struggling to get words out you're hitting your lactate threshold and your body is going to say STOP before you reach your goal.
Try a 5K Race
Now you’re ready to complete your first 5K race. Warning: These can be addictive! You can enter another race, but give yourself enough time to recover. I can’t stress enough how you don’t want to overdo it. I know that you're all thinking I’m nuts! Like why on earth will you want to actually keep running if and when you’re completely exhausted or in pain. I can’t explain it other than it has to do with reasons 1, 3, 4 and possibly 9.
You’ll notice I didn’t give a timeframe to achieve these goal in and here’s my reasoning behind that. Everyone is different and will adjust to the impacts of running differently. The main point is to gradually build up the strength in your body to sustain this high impact activity. This may take one person four weeks, and another person 6-8 weeks and that’s ok!
Listen to your body
The one thing I can’t stress enough to do through this process is to listen to your body! At the end of the workouts you should feel tired but not completely spent, so you could do more if you wanted to. If you find yourself completely exhausted or a constant pain somewhere, back off and spend more time walking until you adapt.
If the pain doesn't get better in time, it may be a good idea to see a sports doc. Some people just have different mechanical structures and need to make a few adjustments before they can hit the road running. Once it's figured out nothing can stop them from becoming excellent runners! Sometimes it's as simple as doing a few extra exercises for muscle imbalances other times an shoe orthotic helps.
Learning to listen to your body and knowing when to stop is a very important for injury prevention in the long haul. Once you get into running and finish a race or two, you might catch the race bug, then be ready to add more and more distance which is great! But if you don’t know how to back off and keep pushing through, you run the risk of hurting yourself and having take some major time off from running. Something, that anyone who loves running (including myself) fears the most! To date, I’ve never sustained any form of major running injuries. I credit this to resistance training, good nutrition, the right shoes (and not wearing them too long), cross training from time to time and backing off as needed.
If you’ve thought about running I hope this helps you get started off on the right foot!
Sharma, Archana, and Deepali Verma. "ENDORPHINS: ENDOGENOUS OPIOID IN HUMAN CELLS." (2014).
Raichlen, David A., et al. "Exercise-induced endocannabinoid signaling is modulated by intensity." European journal of applied physiology 113.4 (2013): 869-875.
Prabakaran, Sudhakaran. "Endocannabinoids mediate runner’s high." Sci. Signal. 8.401 (2015): ec322-ec322.
Heijnen, Saskia, et al. "Neuromodulation of Aerobic Exercise—A Review."Frontiers in psychology 6 (2015).
Ludlow, Andrew T., and Stephen M. Roth. "Physical activity and telomere biology: exploring the link with aging-related disease prevention." Journal of aging research 2011 (2011).
2015 State of the Sport-U.S. Race Trends http://www.runningusa.org/2015-state-of-sport-us-trends
Shammas, Masood A. "Telomeres, lifestyle, cancer, and aging." Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care 14.1 (2011): 28.