We were born to run
We were born to run, in the same way that birds were meant to fly. Our ancient ancestors realised that they could move a lot faster if they ran instead of walked. Running came in handy when they were hunting for food or trying to evade a predator.
Running in modern times is no longer required for hunting. The average human these days will run to catch the train or chase a bus. Running has also been consistently the go-to endurance exercise for men and women across the world. If you travel to the main cities around the globe, it is highly likely you will come across a runner in some form or shape.
So why run? There are many benefits both physical and neurological that scientists have studied. Some of the lesser known more scientific ones are:
- Having antidepressant effects. Endurance exercises such as running can prevent neurotoxins forming. So basically running is a pick me up and stops any bad chemicals forming in the brain.
- An increase in the production of Serotonin a chemical in the brain responsible for effecting mood and social behaviour. It’s also known to affect sleep, memory, sexual desires, appetite and digestion. So think about how many other areas of your life can change by getting in that run.
- A study by Physiological Genomics discovered that endurance athletes were more likely to have higher levels of the NRF-2 gene. Aerobic exercise activates the gene because of the increase in oxidative stress. The challenge you put on your body to breathe activates the gene. NRF-2 activates over 200 genes involved in detoxifying harmful compounds and fighting inflammation. NRF-2 also helps produce new mitochondria. These are the key structures that provide energy in each of the cells in your body.
-An increase in Mental Strength. The ability to push through difficult times is developed by challenging yourself. You could do this by picking a mainly uphill route. Taking a new path, thereby doing something different for that day is a huge mental and psychological boost (quote another study).
-Aerobic exercise boosts memory says a study at the Centre for Brain health, University of Texas. Exercising keeps your mind sharp and as you age will help fight any signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s.
So, you’re convinced that running may be the way forward. Well here are my key pointers for those who want to get the best out of running:
1 — Just run — Don’t worry about the amount of time, distance, pace or even the route. Just getting out there and getting a run in is an achievement in itself. Some of my best runs have been when I have gone out without a particular target or goal. So don’t overthink it just do it.
2 — Take the blinkered approach — Don’t allow others to distract you on your run. Ignore everyone else. Do not feel self-conscious about being out there. Imagine as if there are no other people out there but you. Obviously, if you are running close to traffic then be wary as you don’t want to get knocked over.
3 — All you need are your running shoes- I used to be into gadgets. I couldn’t go out for a run without my nike+ tracker and my heart rate monitor. The truth is none of it is essential. All you need is yourself and some comfortable shoes and clothes. To be a runner is to run — so don’t kid yourself or listen to the hype about needed the gear.
4 — Give your legs a boost — During your run, you will have the natural inclination to slow down when climbing a hill. Don’t do it. Do not slow down on hill climbs. Do the opposite of what feels natural. Give your body the rest on the declines by slowing down and the extra support it needs on the tough parts. You may hate it at the time but will be thankful afterwards.
5 — Get checked out first — Don’t embark on any exercise plan without ensuring that there isn’t some form of an underlying condition. Go and get a professional medical check-up to rule everything out.
6 — Stretch and recover — The number one most important tip that I would have for runners and would-be runners. You need to support your running by working on your flexibility and mobility. Stretch on your days off as well as before and after runs. Get some yoga or pilates work — but at the least some core work into your programme. Simple bird-dogs or planks every other day will work wonders for your endurance and most importantly help you avoid injury. After many hamstrings and groin injuries adding a session of yoga once or twice a week as done wonders for my mobility and made me injury-proof.
So what are you waiting for — the road out there is waiting for you, just get out and get running. We were born to do it so don’t fight your primal instincts. You will feel better for it.