“I believe that every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine running around doing exercises.” — Buzz Aldrin
You know how Edison said genius is one per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration? It can seem that running — whether for better looks or better health — is the opposite. It’s all about just working it, going out and making it happen. Without a giant helping of someone or something to inspire you, however, the regimen may not stick. You might not even start.
Take me. I’m the tortoise, not the hare. I do everything from washing dishes to writing (just ask my editors) as slowly as a snail. I love to stroll and wander outdoors, but to do anything quickly and expeditiously just goes against my grain.
Two months ago I took up running, a sport that requires going fast(ish) from Point A to Point B. Inspiration came for me in the form of some family members and friends, who look, well, fabulous, lately, and from seeing hundreds of strangers, some decades older than me but very strong and fit, at a 5K/10K I covered for a newspaper article,.
I started with a smartphone app called “Couch to 5K,” that eased me in with one-minute segments of running alternating with walking. Although at first it was really hard to move my body at that pace, by the end of the first half-hour outing I felt my blood coursing through me, nourishing me from brain to limbs to toes, clearing out cobwebs, toxins and stress. The endorphins were flowing, and I felt really good.
We all know running is good for you, but other than being a good calorie-burner it has other mental and physical benefits. It’s obvious that running gives you time to ponder and work out your problems, or to avoid them with some “me time.” It also helps work out those aggressions, calms you, and gives you peace if you’re stewing about something or someone.
Running is an excellent treatment, not a cure-all but a helper, for depression and addictions as well. It gives you a clearer head, and studies have shown that whether you’re a lab rat or a human you can work out problems with more facility. Other studies have shown that it’s good for not only your brain cells but also the hippocampus portion of the brain, which helps with learning and remembering things. The hippocampus gets bigger and stronger in older adults who begin a running program, which also staves off dementia.
Both calming and mentally energizing, running eases sleep and appetite issues and tension- related ills. Setting and meeting goals brings up self-esteem and general confidence, which carries over to life when you’re not running. Whether from endorphins or just the joy of moving, running can lift your mood and make you feel just plain happy.
Physically, running is good for more than just the muscles you use to move yourself down the road. The pull on your bones makes them stronger, too, and the teeny muscles in your circulatory system get more elastic, working more efficiently to get nourishing blood to your whole body. Running can raise your good cholesterol level and makes your lungs work more fully and efficiently. It strengthens your immune system and lowers the risk of breast cancer, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis and cardiac disease.