I have had a love/hate relationship with running for as long as I can remember. I’m sure most of you feel the same. Although many of you are probably thinking, “Nope, I actually just straight up hate running—skip the love part.” Well, today I’m going to do my best to change your mind by sharing some of the reasons why I love running, and why you should too.
1. It’s a great time to think about a lot of things, or not think at all
I don’t know about y’all, but some days I have to force myself to think about anything besides the fact that I’m running. All I can think is, “Damn, my legs are sore.” “Has it been a mile yet?” “So… when can I stop?”
Unfortunately, it takes time to overcome this. When you’re a beginner, it’s only natural to have these thoughts. Hell, I’ve run countless 5K’s and two half marathons and I still kinda consider myself a beginner. But if you do your best to think about life // literally anything besides running while you run, it will likely go much quicker and smoother for you.
Sometimes I think about my to-do list for the day, things that are coming up that week, or funny things that happened lately. Other times I actually ponder about some deep stuff while I run, like the future. Yikes. Scary, I know. During my first half marathon, someone suggested praying for one person per mile. I actually did this for several miles, and it helped keep me going because I was focusing my attention on those people, rather than the act of running.
On certain days, I would rather just not think about anything at all. If I’m on the treadmill at the gym, I’ll plug my headphones in and pick a good show to zone in on, and the minutes just fly by. Some of my favorite shows to watch while I run include Friends and the Ellen Degeneres Show. I regularly laugh out loud at both of these… while running. But I don’t mind if I get funny looks—I work out at a “Judgement Free Zone,” guys. (Go Planet Fitness…) In summary, distract your mind with anything and everything, and you’ll forget you’re even running. ; )
2. Running is free therapy
This somewhat goes along with the first one, but here I’m talking about any negative thoughts or feelings you may be having. Whenever I’m feeling sad, angry, or stressed out, I either need a monstrous bowl of fro-yo, or I just need to run it off. (I usually try to stick with the latter – with some exceptions.)
When you’re running in this mindset, it feels so effortless. You’re heated and distracted by whatever is on your mind and all of a sudden you’re able to run faster and longer than you could before. Whatever is bothering you is the fire fueling that workout. Exercise is the most positive way to channel negative energy. Don’t just sit in your house and let things boil up inside of you. Do something with those feelings. Work ‘em off with a quality sweat sesh! I promise you’ll have a clearer mind after you run/exercise, period.
3. Running is a workout unlike any other
For starters, running torches more calories than almost any other form of cardio. If you don’t run very often, and then you run a mile one day, I can almost guarantee you will be feeling it the next day.
Both times I trained for my half marathons, I felt great about the condition my body was in. Not just how I looked, but how I felt, especially while I ran. Running improves your muscle endurance and challenges multiple areas of your body at once. Especially when you run outside and you’re faced with hills, bumps, wind, and all the other crazy elements that make it a hell of a lot harder, but that much more rewarding. Running strengthens your quads, hamstrings, glutes (especially with hills), core, and calves, to name a few.
4. Running is freakin’ HARD
Which is what makes it SO satisfying when you’re done. I love a challenge. I don’t know about you, but when I workout, I want to sweat. I mean, really sweat. Otherwise, I feel like I’ve wasted my time. If you’re getting your heart rate up and putting a good amount of effort into your workout, you are inevitably going to sweat. If you’re not at least “glistening,” step it up. Your shirt should be a shade darker when you step out of the gym. Or just wear black, like I usually do.
Don’t worry about people thinking you’re gross for sweating. That’s the purpose of your workout. When I exercise I want to feel like I gave it all I had. I hate leaving the gym thinking, “Well, that was a decent (or crappy) workout.” I want to think, “Wow, I am worn out. I need food NOW.” I’m pretty much always ready for another meal or snack after I workout, which just reinforces that I worked hard and burned lots of calories! It is important to replenish your body after exercise, but remember to make healthy choices so all your hard work doesn’t go to waste!
The truth is, you can’t have the best workout ever every single day. I get that. We all have our off days. Sometimes you’re too sore from the previous day to even have a decent workout. It’s important to give yourself rest days so you aren’t causing more harm to your body than good. That’s why I find it beneficial to target specific muscle groups each day because then they can rest until the next time you train them. (Ex: arms Monday, legs Tuesday, chest Wednesday, etc.)
5. You can run while you enjoy the beautiful outdoors
As much as I love lifting and being in the gym atmosphere, there’s nothing quite like going on a solo run on a beautiful, wide open trail. Nothing but you, the asphalt, the trees, and whatever tunes you choose to blast in your ears. (Or no tunes if you prefer. In case you were wondering, I listen to rap/hip-hop while I work out because it pumps me up.)
Come to think of it, I’m actually a little upset with myself for not running outside more often because I know how peaceful it can be. And I have a trail right behind my house! We walk the dogs on it every day, but I haven’t gone on a nice, long run on the trail in a while. I prefer getting my workouts done in the AM, so I usually knock my cardio sesh out at the gym before I lift. BUT now that I’m writing this, I challenge myself (and you all) to get outside and enjoy the beautiful Earth that God created for us!! Whilst running. 😉
6. You can do it with friends
Everything is more motivating when you do it with a partner who shares the same goals as you. Whether it’s a new diet or exercise regimen, studying for an exam, or what have you. If you have someone running next to you, you’re much less likely to stop. Why? Because, a) humans are competitive creatures. You can’t possibly give up before they do, so you refuse to let those legs of yours stop moving. And b) it’s comforting to have someone on the journey with you.
You may be able to have a conversation with them while you run, or you may both have headphones in. Either way, seeing that person alongside you in your peripheral view will encourage you to keep running, or possibly even run harder than you would if you were alone. This person can also help hold you accountable if you set “running dates” with them on certain days of the week. You can’t let them down, so you have to stick to your schedule. I bet you’ll be glad you did.
7. You can see and feel yourself improving over time
It won’t be immediate and it won’t be easy, but you can make great improvements with consistency. Training is everything. I will never forget how proud I was of myself after I completed my first half marathon. Prior to that, I think I had only run three to four miles consecutively. I guess I just never had a reason to run any further than that.
As I mentioned, I like to challenge myself, and I’m so much more motivated when I have a goal to work towards. When I decided to do my first half, I was really excited to push myself and see what my body was capable of. I was honestly so amazed at how far I could go. FYI, I am not bragging about myself. I’m no professional. But I am bragging about how incredible the human body is and how it is BUILT for us to be physically active. It can do SO much if you treat it right by exercising and eating well.
Training helps your body make gradual improvements with every run and all of a sudden (okay, after many weeks…) you can run nine whole miles and you’re thinking, “How in the world did I just do that!?” The more you run, the easier it gets. Before you know it you’ll be able to run farther and farther and the miles don’t seem quite as daunting as they used to.
8. Running is so much more than just a workout
Training not only improves your fitness and endurance, but it’s a true test of your character. It says a lot about your motivation, dedication, priorities, and your ability to commit to something. This applies to exercising in general, as well as running/training for a race. Are you willing to make time for it every day? Are you willing to make sacrifices? Can you take a few nights off of going out in order to stick with your training schedule so you’re ready for the race you’ve been working so hard for? If you make a commitment, stick to it. Don’t let yourself or anyone else down. (This should apply to all areas of life, not just exercise.)
Everyone knows they “should” exercise and eat healthy, but so many people still don’t do it. Why wouldn’t you do something that you know will benefit you today, as well as the rest of your life? For many people, it’s because they lack the motivation to get started. I understand this 100 percent. It’s easy to keep pushing it off and saying “Oh, I’ll join a gym next month. I’ll start my diet after [this vacation/holiday/wedding, etc.” But I think it’s helpful if you look at it as a lifestyle, not a diet.
I’m never going to recommend a two-week “cleanse” to shed 20 pounds fast. I’m talking about making long-term lifestyle changes that you will adopt forever. Think about all the ways you could benefit from it. You could look and feel better, and live a longer, healthier, happier life. Think of all the success stories you’ve heard about others who have improved their health or lost X amount of weight by adopting these behaviors. There are so many different ways to exercise, and running is only one of them.
Find whatever it is that appeals to you, and just do it. Every day. Find a buddy to join you. Just move—even walking counts! Take some time and think about your top priorities. Is your health one of them? If it’s not already, then add it to the list. I’m begging you. Everyone deserves to care about him/herself and take care of the one body they were given. Once you make exercise a part of your normal routine, you’ll have a hard time not working it into your schedule every day!
For those of you who hate running, give it another chance. Try some of these things I’ve mentioned and you may change your mind. Run outside and enjoy nature. Distract yourself by watching a show. Find a running buddy. Maybe you’ll start to fall in love with it too, especially when you see the results.
For those of you who run occasionally, but need a little extra motivation, sign yourself and a friend up for a 5K or a half marathon (if you’re able to commit to training). There are local runs going on ALL the time. Just Google, “5Ks in (insert date) in (insert city/state),” and I guarantee you’ll have plenty to choose from. If you have a run coming up, you’ll be so much more motivated to run more often and get your body ready for the race! By the time the run comes around, you’ll be so excited to show off what you’ve been working for. And hey, you usually get a medal or free T-shirt 😉 and best of all, FREE FOOD!
Although running is a great form of cardio (which is good for your heart), it’s still important to incorporate strength training multiple times a week to maintain muscle mass and tone your body. So don’t rely solely on running, or any other form of cardio for that matter. It’s beneficial to mix up your routine so you are hitting all the major muscle groups, not repetitively working the same ones and burning them out.
Could you relate to any of the reasons why I love running? Do you turn to running/exercise to relieve stress too, or do you turn to candy and sweets for comfort? I hope some of you will rethink your opinion of running and give it another chance. Use it as an outlet or a way to connect with friends. Sign up for a race to increase your motivation. Work it into your current workout routine, or start exercising and slowly work up to it. Every little bit counts!
Follow Shanna Hutcheson @wellnessforthewin