If there’s one form of exercise that rules them all, it, in my humble opinion, is running. I’ve been running on and off since college, and it’s always fascinated me how much it helps me and my body. I also used to dance, and was quite fit until a few years ago, so back then running was never just about losing weight or getting fit. It was all about the mental benefits.
Early Running Influences
I had a set of encyclopedia at home while growing up, and one of them had a photograph of a woman running. She looked gorgeous, her blond hair was alight with the sun behind, and she seemed to be flying. I fell in love with wanting to look like that. And with running – initially as a means to look like that and later for itself. The movie Personal Best (1982) also majorly inspired me (which reminds me: I should watch it again). Then, a few years ago, I happened to read Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall. Which lit my imagination in terms of long distance running and endurance running. I never did any endurance running, but who knows. Maybe I will now…
I started running again recently, after an illness-related break of many years. The last time I ran seriously was during my masters in the Philippines, where I took part in several runs and raised money for Alzheimer’s patients by getting people to pledge dollars for every kilometre I completed. And I completed a sizeable number of kilometres, very easily. I was fit, and even that had been the lowest fitness point in my life until then.
Since then, though, my life has been a bit of a roller coaster – more than usual! I’ve been unemployed, depressed and unwell. I’ve had my heart broken and my spirit crushed. I’ve had to make difficult decisions, and I experienced feeling lonely for the first time in my life.
In the midst of all this, while taking care of my physical fitness was on my mind, I just couldn’t muster up the energy. And I hated myself for it, for feeling tired all the time, for not having the “will power” to get my lazy ass off to a workout, for the way my body kept growing into something that felt so unfamiliar. I’ve had to fight a lot of demons to reach this stage – where I’m looking after myself, taking care of myself, and doing well for myself.
I’m taking it slow now, though. I have new shoes, and an unfamiliar body size and shape (I’ve put on a lot of extra weight in the last three-odd years). In fact, I’m actually taking it slower than I need to, because I have started and stopped several times in the past three years. An entire year (2017) was lost due to my terrible chronic sinusitis. Following my sinus surgery in November last year, I have been feeling much better, breathing through my nose for the first time in over a year. Believing myself to be normal like before, I went for an easy hike a few weeks ago and was barely able to finish it, huffing and puffing my way up and downhill like I was doing it for the first time in my life. It was humiliating, especially considering the friends I was with were all older and less sporty. But baby steps forward still count as progress. Since that weekend, I’ve begun doing yoga again, and I’m eating very consciously. I’m working at reducing stress.
This time around, I want this to work. I want to get fit again.
The Benefits of Running
In the short time I’ve been running this time around (three weeks, ha!), I have already seen quick benefits:
- My digestion has improved. Thanks to all the movement, my insides seem to work more or less the way they’re supposed to, and not in the suboptimal way they used to. My digestive system is the prime beneficiary, and this is also clearing up my skin.
- My back pain has subsided. I had terrible muscle spasms due mainly to inactivity coupled with bad posture and strain. Running strengthens your core. So after three weeks of daily running, not only has this specific back trouble gone, but I’ve started feeling more flexible. Which is exciting, because I used to be extremely flexible back when I was fit and healthy.
- My mood has improved. Hello, endorphins! I’ve also been feeling less overwhelmed and stressed, and less out of control of my own life. Running has a wonderful way of focusing your mind and calming your nerves.
- My skin has improved. Thanks to point 1 above and to all the sweating, toxins are being flushed out very efficiently. My skin is looking better than it has in years. And in just three weeks’ time!
- I’m getting toned. My flabby bits are less wobbly, and I’m also standing up straighter. My body feels stronger, like it can handle life and all that life throws at it.
Of course, these benefits have come to me this quickly because of a few other reasons – I’m eating really healthfully, and I’m doing what I can to cut down on stress. Plus, I’m getting a solid eight hours of sleep every night. Starting to run every day, in addition to this overall lifestyle change, has really brought in some quick changes.
But what I love above and beyond these tangible benefits is something only other runners will understand. You see, I love running. It’s a salve to the soul, it’s a taste of freedom, and it’s about getting in touch with the essence of everything. There’s more to running than pounding the road; it’s akin to meditation, when you’re just breathing evenly, moving smoothly and keeping your mind blank.
Is this the runner’s high? Haha!
Equipment for Running
Another great thing about running? You don’t really need much – apart from a good pair of running shoes. I have a pair of Nikes that I love (Image below links to Amazon (aff. link)), but the next pair I buy will definitely be vegan. (If you want to check out some ethical activewear brands, download the Ultimate List of Ethical Brands here.)
I use the Fitbit Flex 2, too (Image below links to Amazon (aff. link)). It isn’t necessary, of course, but it does help.
Finally, I seriously doubt I would have stuck to this for longer than a few days if not for the Freeletics app. I’m definitely recommending it, and simply because it works very well for me. I realise there are countless running apps out there, and different ones work for different people. Freeletics works very well for me. Maybe it will work for you, too?
Love spending time outdoors? Maybe you’ll enjoy the post on Five Mesmerizing Audiobooks to Bring You Close to Nature.
What about you? Do you run? Do you like it?