So, it’s week 2 of training for my first half marathon. If I tried to tell you it’s going well, I’d be lying.
I’m bad at lying, so I’ll just lay it out there: I’m not good at running. And I don’t really enjoy it. I mean, I LOVE the side-effects. I love the work of powering through and seeing how many miles I’ve clocked, how many steps I’ve taken, and feeling accomplished.
But the act of running? Pounding the pavement, and to a greater extent running on the treadmill, is not really something I call “fun.” I can have fun WHILE running, but…running, itself, is not fun. Am I not supposed to say that? Oh. Hopefully I didn’t burst any bubbles.
But, for all that, running is totally worth it. Come at it with the right attitude, and it can actually be fun. And the benefits of running far outweigh the minor inconvenience of the act of running.
1. A Healthy Heart
Let’s get real for a minute. When I was 12 years old, my dad died of a very sudden heart attack. He was 46. He was one of the healthiest people I knew. A lifetime spent doing physical labor meant he was one of the strongest human beings I knew. However, he smoked like a chimney and both of his parents died of heart attacks — his father was also in his 40’s.
Knowing I’m at high risk, I need to be proactive. So, I run. Every step carries me a little further from a higher risk of heart disease and related health problems.
2. A Healthy Mind
The endorphin rush of physical activity is a natural anti-depressant and mood stabilizer. This is incredibly important in my life, since I’m living with bipolar disorder. I have had strong negative reactions to most medications I’ve tried, so fitness is a big part of my self-care regimen.
I literally run to “burn off the crazy.” And it works.
And it doesn’t just help with instability — it works for regular folks, too. Physical activity is a HUGE stress management tool. If I’m having a bad day at work, the best thing I can do is take a break and run until the stress is gone.
3. A Healthy Waistline
I’ve always sort of struggled with my weight. I was always jealous of girls who could hold a steady weight without trying. My weight fluctuates easily (usually in an upward trendline) and losing is hard. While I try to eat healthy on average, running means I can eat what I want to without having anxiety about food. I love things like pizza, hot wings and beer — those “loves” can add up to extra pounds easily.
Having kicked an eating disorder’s ass, this is also important to my mental health. Running allows me to feel in control of my well-being without obsessing over what I eat. (Within reason. If you or someone you love has a unhealthy problem with exercising too much or obsessing over eating healthy, it can be also indicate problems. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek help!)
While losing weight hasn’t been the goal of half marathon training, I’ve already managed to lose 3 pounds since starting. That’s a pretty great side-effect if you ask me.
4. A Healthy Self Esteem
Think hard, back to the last time you conquered a big obstacle. I can think of a few examples: my first concert in college after taking a year off from playing flute; the day I earned my college degree; when I moved away to a new city and built a life of my own.
Take that feeling and metaphorically bottle it. Every time you go for a run, you get to take a swig of that magic bottle. Since running is NOT something that comes naturally to me, that feeling of accomplishment comes with every completed run. Outdoor or indoor, it’s a challenge to myself to go as far as I had planned.
5. A Healthy Involvement in the Community
Take a look at the races in your area. You’ll likely notice that most of them are charity runs. Any time I do one of these charity races, I get to feel the additional endorphin rush of supporting a good cause. Running those races also helps raise awareness.
And even aside from philanthropy, running is a great way to build relationships. Even if I don’t run directly with other people very often, people who run LOVE to talk about running and encourage each other. I have several co-workers that I like to chat with about running. It’s a surefire community-builder.
So, that’s why I run. Running allows me to be a better version of me. Are you a runner? Why do you run? Or, do you have another activity you do? I’d love your thoughts on the topic!