Okay, so there’s a MASSIVE number of reasons to start running. Right now, you’re probably ready to get up and run out the door! But before you do that, stop and think for a minute. Because if you’re like most people, you may well have tried this before. Almost all of us have at some point given running a try. The problem is that most of us never stick with it and most of us quickly get bored of it.
So what’s going wrong?
So where do most new runners go wrong? There are a number of places but the biggest issue by far is just the scale of their ambition. Right now, you might be probably tired and out of shape. That might sound rude but the fact of the matter is that most people are. Most people are so badly out of shape, that once you start running, you will practically be a different species.
Most people spend 8 hours+ in an office every single day and they probably commute for 1-2 hours. That’s ten hours of stress each day and ten hours of breathing in toxic fumes, being shouted at and being crowded. So it’s no wonder than when they get home, they can’t muster the strength to do anything active. Most of us have admin and correspondence we need to sort out (file expenses, answer letter, phone Mum) and then we need to play with the kids, make the dinner and get an early night so we can start it all again tomorrow.
It’s no wonder than the small amount of time we do have is spent watching repeats on TV, or just staring into the distance. And it’s no wonder that so many of us will order fast food for dinner tonight. We barely ever use our bodies. We spend hours at a time locked into a hunched over, seated position and staring at a bright screen. We don’t sleep well. And we don’t eat right. Our resting heartrate is somewhere in the 80s and we’re carrying a huge amount of excess fat and flab.
Eventually, we get sick of this. So what do we do? We write a training program. That training program might involve running, or it might be based around lifting weights. Either way though, we set ourselves the task of working out 4-5 nights a week for an hour at a time. Maybe at a gym. And while we’re at it, we tell ourselves, we’re also going to start eating more healthily. That means no carbs! And only 2,000 calories! We’ll track those calories and we’ll cook right. But wait, wait, wait! (Insert record scratch sound here). A moment ago, you were saying you have zero energy and you’re really out of shape. And now you intend to add hours of intensive exertion to your routine? While also not really eating enough to sustain yourself??
And you’re surprised it doesn’t work!
You can’t just go from nothing to something so incredibly intensive – it’s just not going to work. And time isn’t really the issue here. You probably have just about enough time. The issue is energy. Energy is not an infinite resource. Just because you can’t see it, that doesn’t mean it’s not there and it doesn’t mean it’s not important!
If you don’t have the energy to train, then you’re not going to train. It’s that simple. So if you try and introduce a MASSIVE training program, you’re going to fail. And then you’re going to be disheartened. And then you’re going to decide that running doesn’t work, or it’s not for you…
Fitness shouldn’t just be about losing weight. In fact, this is where a lot of people will go wrong. If you simply aim to lose weight, then you’ll find you can quickly become disheartened and you can make some bad choices regarding your diet and your training. Instead, all forms of fitness and training should be aimed at feeling better and being healthier. Because when you do that, you will find it much easier to stick at what you do and you’ll find that your body changes to look the way you want it to almost as a side effect.
Don’t run to look good – just enjoy the fact that it happens! So the BIG benefit of running is what it does for your health. And it does tons for your health. Obviously running improves your cardiovascular fitness and your energy. It’s not just your heart that improves, it’s also your mitochondria and all the other energy systems in your body. This means, quite simply, that you get tired less easily.
That’s true whether you’re playing sports, skipping rope or you’re on a long walk. Bruce Lee used to run for miles every single day and the reason he gave for this was that you can’t expect to be a good fighter if you’re tired out after throwing just a few punches! The same is true for tennis, for football, for rugby. And even just a busy day or stressful commute. When you can run 10 kilometers, suddenly everything else becomes really easy.
Wouldn’t you love it if everything was really easy? But there are many other, much more specific and scientific benefits to running as well. The first thing it does is to increase the size of your left ventricle. This is the part of your heart that stores oxygenated blood and then pumps it around your body. The stronger and larger this gets, the more blood you can transport around your body with the fewer heartbeats.
This is a benefit that is exclusive to steady state cardio like running – it doesn’t happen with modern forms of HIIT. What that increased left ventricle means is that you can now deliver more oxygen and nutrients to your body at any given time. That doesn’t only mean when you’re running but also when you’re sleeping and when you’re working. This means you’ll wake up each morning feeling more energetic and you’ll be able to stay awake and alert for longer during the day.
Have you ever wondered what you could accomplish with one more productive hour? Likewise, that increased power in your heart also means your pulse doesn’t have to work so hard. Instead of going into overdrive to try and pump your blood around your body, your heart can take a much more casual approach and still provide more than enough of what you need, where you need it.
What does this mean? It means that you now have a lower resting heartrate (RHR). That is important because a low resting heartrate is correlated with low cortisol – cortisol being the stress hormone. In other words, when your heart is healthy, you are less physiologically aroused at all times of day. That means that you will feel much more refreshed and much more rested even when you’re not really doing anything. It means you’ll be able to handle stressful life events much easier and it means that you’ll sleep FAR better (your sleep quality is measured largely by how low your heartrate drops).
This also means your blood pressure will be lower (because blood pressure is a result of the viscosity of your blood and the force of your heart pumping). That in turn means you’re much less likely to suffer a heart attack, stroke or other incident associated with high blood pressure. When you combine this with a lower body weight, you become generally much less likely to become ill or to suffer any kind of serious attack.
Oh and that lowered cortisol means that you’ll experience higher testosterone. For guys, this means that you’ll be able to see more muscle mass and more fat loss. A lot of people stay away from running because they think it will make them skinny and it will make them burn muscle. We mentioned ‘myostatin’ earlier and indeed this is a compound that causes the breakdown of muscle.
BUT (and this is a big but), running also makes you more anabolic the rest of the time by helping you to rest more efficiently. That means that it can actually boost muscle mass. And this is greatly enhanced by the increased testosterone that correlated with an improved heartrate variability. For men and women alike, running is actually also a very good way to build muscle mass in the legs.
This is attractive in and of itself but it also leads to yet more fat loss and yet more muscle building (this is why we’re told never to skip leg day!). Women wanting to get ‘fitness model’ type physiques really NEED to run. Because you don’t lose cellulite by losing fat – you lose it by toning up. If you start running, then you will have a much firmer and more toned set of buttocks.
All these changes have amazing impacts on your mood. This is what happens when you lower the stress hormone and start getting the body you’ve always wanted! But it’s also what happens when you experience the ‘runner’s high’. Running triggers the release of endorphins which are nature’s natural antidepressants and analgesics. They kill pain and they make you feel elated like nothing else.
This is compounded by the fact that running allows you to explore your natural area and usually involves running through naturally beautiful locations. That might mean a nearby forest or it might be a park – either way, countless studies have shown that spending more time in nature further reduces stress and even improves creativity. If you spend most of your time in a noisy, dirty and polluted urban environment, then this is a great way to get an ‘escape’ and to feel a lot better for it! Being outside in the sun, will also benefit your health.
This is quickly becoming a health fad that some people refer to as ‘bathing in nature’. For us at Parallelo Health, one of the best parts of running is just getting to explore our local area! And that’s nothing compared with the incredible sense of achievement that you get from beating personal bests. Running is one of the purest forms of self-improvement and an excellent chance to challenge and test yourself.
You’ll be constantly pushing yourself further and harder and it’s a fantastic way to develop mental resolve and resilience. When you’re a runner, nothing can pose an insurmountable challenge anymore. You start to learn that you just have to keep going a little further to cross that finish line. So it is with running and so it is with every other challenge life throws at you.
Running is healthy and a great way to enjoy the world outside your living room. It also has many health benefits and makes you produce hormones to create your own high! We understand there are many things that can cause a runners block, but we hope this blog will help you get over it and makes you want to tie your running shoes.
If you have any questions about running or runners block, please let us know via the comment section below or via our contact page. We are happy to help!