The benefits are just too damn good to not give it a try.
“One run can change your day, many runs can change your life.” — Unknown
EDITORIAL DISCLAIMER: Any advice or recommendation given in my writing is what works for ME and may not be the best regimen for you based on your psychological or physiological makeup and stability. Please consult a doctor when making decisions about your health.
I admit I am one of the lucky ones.
Like people who eat terrible food and never get fat or those people who can throw on any old outfit in their closet and walk out of the house looking amazing, I have to admit I was blessed to be in the minority.
While I can’t say I possess the “eat-anything” gene or the wear whatever I want and look amazing attribute, the one thing I can say I was blessed with was a love for running.
I have probably loved running since the first day of JV football practice in the 9th grade when the coach told us to start the practice by running 2 miles. I managed to come in 3rd in the entire school, which included all grades and age levels.
I was only beat by two seniors who had been running track their entire high school career.
Lucky for me, our football coach was also the school’s track coach, and he recognized that my 135 lb. frame would be much better served running around a track then trying to tackle or break a tackle of someone twice my size.
Therefore, I decided football probably wasn’t going to be for me the very next day and decided to instead go out for track in the Spring.
Twenty-eight years later and my love of running is still as strong as it was on that fateful crisp autumn day.
And while I understand that many people naturally seem to hate running like Kanye West seems to hate Pete Davidson now, you should at least give it a try for five very good reasons.
You need the vitamin D now more than ever
Let me be clear…I am specifically talking about running outside.
While I don’t have anything against running on a treadmill, there is just a major difference between the benefits you get from your feet hitting the real earth and taking in the world around you, as opposed to trotting along on a rubber mat at your local L. A. Fitness.
Running outside, in my opinion, provides much greater benefit than running on a treadmill, but if you can only run inside, then that’s better than nothing.
However, this first benefit is related directly to running outside and allowing the sun to hit you on the face and body while doing so.
In this new COVID, work from home world in which we live, there may be periods in which we may not step outside of our homes for days.
For that reason, we have to create opportunities to allow the sun’s amazing healing and rejuvenating properties to have an effect on our bodies.
Sunlight is the catalyst that turns the cholesterol in your skin cells into Vitamin D through synthesis.
Vitamin D is needed for the healthy absorption of calcium and phosphorus, two nutrients needed for the creation of strong and healthy bones. This is one of the reasons that a lack of Vitamin D has been linked to diseases such as osteoporosis and muscle weakness.
Getting outside and letting that sunlight hit you will go a long way in keeping those Vitamin D levels high and those muscles and bones as strong as ever.
It’s one of the best cardiovascular exercises for your body
Your heart needs cardio.
While lifting weights and eating well will keep you slim and trim and allow you to look good naked, if you want to have that same health internally, you need to have some form of consistent cardio in your workout regimen.
You heart needs the stress of cardio to help keep it pumping strong to prevent any type of heart disease in the future.
While swimming or biking are equally effective, I think running takes the cake because you can do it anywhere at anytime on any day.
As shared, when I’m on vacation, I make it a point to still workout a few days per week to keep my fitness level up and not have to work off so many pounds when I return home.
Read about why it helps to workout while on vacay
If swimming and biking are my two cardio exercises of choice, then I need to find a swimming pool or a bike. On the other hand, when it comes to running, I only need my running shoes to make it happen.
Also, when I do this while traveling, it gives me the chance to see the city I’m in from the ground level as a local would, which is an added benefit that I always enjoy.
It helps build mental toughness and fortitude
If you don’t know David Goggins, he is an internationally-known former Navy Seal who has coached and trained some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the world.
He has ran numerous 100 mile marathons and teaches people to push through pain and discomfort to be able to achieve all of the things they desire in life.
He teaches something called the 40% rule, which basically says that when you feel you are tapped to your capacity with something, you are only about 40% of the way there, and you have another 60% left in the tank if you are willing to push through this feeling.
There are no better exercises that will help you build this mental toughness muscle than running because you are often faced with this type of decision to make on each run.
When you run, only YOU know if you are at your capacity or not. If you are pushing yourself to grow, there are going to be times in which you will feel pain.
You then will have to make a choice.
Will you continue to run and fight through the pain to reach your goal time or destination or will you give up and pull back and slow down or stop?
Running can allow you to make that decision almost on each run and will build a willingness to endure temporary pain to be able to reach your goals that will last forever.
Very few exercises build this mental toughness muscle as well as running, as it is something you can take into a number of different areas in your life.
It helps your long term memory tremendously
As you age, the focus on keeping your memory sharp should become something that you spend a bit more time considering.
There are many things that you can do to protect it as shared in a previous article written.
Read about the different measures you should take today to protect your memory for the future
One of those things, of course, is exercise and there are no better exercises that will help protect your memory than cardiovascular ones.
Exercise in general helps by increasing the formation of something known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which helps with the formation of new synapses that mediate learning and memory.
As it relates to running specifically, it helps with the creation of cathepsin-B, a protein that helps the brain form new cells used for memory formation.
With so many different factors that can hurt our long term memory over time, it would seem wise to take whatever steps we can as early as we can to prevent this.
It is one of the best forms of free therapy and can help dramatically with problem solving
There are few activities you can do that can help work out difficult and complex problems better than running.
Outside of just the sun feeding your body the vitamin D it needs to be at its most optimal self, running also triggers the release of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, which can improve your mood.
Therefore, if you are ever feeling a bit down or depressed, there is a good chance if you go for a run, you’ll instantly start to feel a little better when the body releases these chemicals within your brain.
The other side of this relates to how you will typically zone out while you’re running and get into somewhat of a meditative state due to the repetitive nature of the experience (right foot up, right foot down…left foot up, left foot down).
This often allows people to run while they’re also thinking about a number of different issues they have going on in their lives.
Perhaps it’s due to the serene nature of running outside, the vitamin D, or the increased dopamine/serotonin combination, but many people have professed to having great ideas or breakthroughs while running, based on being able to work a problem over and over in their minds during the activity.
And while there’s no guarantee that you’ll figure out how to solve world peace and stop world hunger while you’re out for a casual 5k run, at least you’ll be getting some great vitamin D and keeping your brain sharp so you can continue to work on it in the future.