Running, what, why, where, when?
Updated: Aug 12, 2021
Running is something that give me the sense of freedom, the freedom to move past my thoughts and fears, to work through my anxiety and to ultimately learn about myself. When I go for a run it helps clear my head so that I can focus on the things and tasks at hand. Life is crazy busy, there is no shortage of things to do, lists to complete, and places to go. But running helps clear the space between my ears so that I can focus on the important things in my life. The to do lists are still there, work and personal obligations are still there needing my attention. But now I have made space to think clearly and prioritize.
What is running?
From an energy stand point running is the transfer of force of the power of the muscles of the body, through our bones and feet, ultimately into the ground at some angle to produce forward momentum. This forward momentum repeated over and over again results in running. The more efficient someone can transfer the force of the muscles into the ground the further or faster they can go.
From a physical stand point running is the coordinated movement of the body, the synchronizing of hundreds of muscles and nerves, the cardiovascular system transporting oxygen to the body to support the demands of the task at hand. All of this is turning into a smooth repetitive motion, that when done well can go on for hours and hours, and even days in some cases (Ultra running).
From an emotional stand point running is a way to get out of the head, the churning wheels of things that need to get done, the to do lists, and never ending obligations, meal planning, and bills to pay. Running is a chance to turn the "thinking brain" off and let the subconscious take a wack at things. After I have been running consistently I always notice that my best ideas or solutions to problems pop into my head during a good run. Sometimes it in the middle of the run or after, once I am back home and getting ready for the rest of the day. The solution I had been looking for is right there in front of me.
From a fitness stand point running is a great way to challenge the body, specifically the cardiovascular system. I could go into a lot more detail here but I will save that for another post. Essentially on the micro scale the body is consuming energy and oxygen, while pumping blood to all of the muscles and organs in the body. The blood flow helps replenish the nutrients and oxygen that has been used to perform the task at hand. The more "experience" and "trained" someone is the more efficiently they are able to utilize this system. As the muscles get stronger, the cardiovascular system also gets stronger at pumping blood. On the Macro scale running is about getting out (or on a treadmill) and getting moving.
Personally I love running for a number of reasons
It is always there just waiting for me to pick it up and go
It can be done almost anywhere
I can run with minimal "gear"
It's a fun and very rewarding activity to participate in
It's always right there: I have an on/off relationship with running. I go through periods of running daily, getting in good milage and feeling really great. Then for any number of not very good reasons I fall out of the routine. But the great thing is that all I have to do is put on my shoes and head outside for a 15 min jog to realize how much I like running.
I can run anywhere: I have run around my home, in the city, the mountains, on vacation, and on work trips. Provided it's safe I can run anywhere. Even during COVID-19 lockdown there were people running in circles in their apartments and around their homes. On a vacation one time there was a small ~100 square foot triangular patch of grass between three streets, on the inside a well worn path in the grass. The following day I saw a woman running the triangle path over and over again, clearly this was her route that she ran every day!
Running gear: It can be easy to get wrapped up in the consumerism of the sport. To think that in order to run you need the right shoes, shorts, shirt, watch, earbuds, hat... the list goes on. I have run barefoot, in flip flops, dress shoes, and boots. For the longest time I ran without a watch or phone, no music (actually I rarely run with music) just out for a run, feeling and learning from my body what it wanted and needed. It is true a good pair of running shoes does make the difference, and I highly recommend running shoes that fit you and your foot to continue to run, just dont let it stop you from getting out there.
Participating in running: The running community is a great community, whenever I am out on a run and see another runner I always give a nod or a wave acknowledging the other person. There are no shortages of running groups to join no matter your experience level. It is also very rewarding to see how much/far/fast/elevation you have run in a week, month, year, during training and at an event. Some of my fondest memories are not of the races I have run (even though there are some great memories) it is usually the training runs that I remember the most. The time is snowed on me, the time I bonked and had to walk home, the time I got totally lost without my phone (no tech running) and had to keep running until I got "un-lost". Running is great because it is so accessible.
Where to run?
People run the world over, no matter where you are you will see people running. I have run in plenty of different states in the US, and countries around the world. While it is true some places have more runners than others. But no matter what, I always see at least one other runner out on the road or trail getting in the miles, running for their personal reasons. Runners come in all shapes and sizes, speeds, distances, and ages. You used to run as a baby, even if you have forgot about it, take a look around the next time you are in a park near a playground, kids are natural runners.
Every time my spouse and I move or travel to a new place, town, city, or country I always enjoy learning the streets and layout of the area during a run. First I start with a small loop or out and back so I don't get too lost. Then slowly day after day, week after week I branch out, learning more and more about a city or country side. Running is such a great way see a new area. Frequently on vacation we have been pressed for time for one reason or another, so to get in the sights that we want to see we will frequently run. A tourist map or phone in hand, out the door we will go. Running to see the sights before we have to move on to the next part of the trip. As a consequence there are a number of trip photos of us looking hot and sweaty, smiling in front of some monument or view.
When to run?
Anytime is a good time. I personally run the best in the mornings, but there is nothing like a good midday run or in the cool of the evening. Honestly the best time is when it works for your schedule. The best advise is to make a consistent time that you run. making this part of a routine will make it easier to get that run done. As I mentioned before, I end up having an on and off relationship with running. When it's on I am on a good routine, running first thing in the AM so that the rest of my day I don't have to worry about it. When I am in the "off" phase its usually because I have not set up a routine, I have not committed to running at a specific time. As a result things get in the way, I procrastinate, and I am sure you can guess the rest.
Running is something I have been doing for 30 plus years, and gotten into more and more in the past 10 years. It is a great way to build community, improve your health, and motivate yourself to set those goals and make those dreams come true. There is no such thing as a bad runner, there is only a level of efficiency. The more efficient a runner the further and faster they can go to meet their goals. There was a time for me when 1 mile seemed impossible, then it was a 5k, then a marathon was well beyond my abilities, but slowly over time with consistent training and planning and goal setting I was able to run a 50K! Start out slow, build and give the body time to adapt to the new challenges, you will be surprised at how fast you improve.
Don't let the negative self talk keep you from getting out to the road or on the treadmill. The best time to start running is now. Use the "gear" you have and just head out for 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, and before you know it there will be a training log taped to the fridge. Of course everyone has their own "why", once you find your why it will be easier to get up and put those running shoes on.
Until we meet on the road, stay safe out there.