I started running about 12 years ago and fell in love with the sport. While some non-runners can’t imagine the joys of pounding the pavement, most runners discover that it provides incredible benefits that make them dread the day when they can no longer run.
What’s so wonderful about running? Let me share with you some of the benefits I have experienced.
It Combats Anxiety and Depression
Life can get hard. Sometimes, it can get so difficult that you feel like you’ve got a dark cloud over your head everywhere you go. Been there, don’t that, got the t-shirt.
In fact, it was stress that was pushing me toward depression that got me into running in the first place. I discovered that as I developed fitness and ran for 3 or more miles, neurotransmitters (endorphins, dopamine, etc.) were released into my brain, enabling me to feel like all was right in the world. I have been through some very difficult times but never had to take anti-anxiety meds as long as I was putting in the miles.
If you want to dig deeper into how running can help your mental disposition, check out the book, “Running Is My Therapy” by Scott Douglas. In it, the author writes about how running helped him fight off his genetic predisposition to depression.
It Helps Develop Discipline / Mental Toughness
Running isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it. It can be tough when you are working to increase your weekly miles. It’s not easy when you are doing interval training, hill workouts, or anything of the sort. You will sweat, be out of breath, and others will see you and wonder why you are abusing your body.
Yet, I have discovered that people are often far too easy on themselves. And when we are easy on ourselves, life can get hard. But when we are intentionally and strategically hard on ourselves, life can get so much easier. The discipline and mental toughness developed when running can help develop discipline and mental toughness that can translate to other areas of our life. You will feel less like a recipient and victim and more in control of your life.
It Creates Opportunities for Competition
If we aren’t careful, life can get boring and predictable. We wake up, go through our daily routine, go to bed, and get up the next morning to do it all over again. Most people don’t have something powerful that gets them up in the morning and keeps them looking ahead with excitement and positivity.
I discovered that after I got to the point where I was running 3 miles without stopping, I wanted to get faster. I wanted to run in 5K races and eventually in half-marathons. And when I ran in those races, I wanted to run the same races again the next year and beat my previous race time.
“Are you living to run or running to live?”
Honestly, I did both and realized it wasn’t difficult. I was having the time of my life! Challenging myself to do better was incredibly emotionally rewarding. When life got a bit crazy, running was one of my happy places.
It Gets the Body in Shape
Running (especially at slower paces) will do many wonderful things for the body. Here are just a few of the things that you might experience:
- It burns calories, so you will begin losing unwanted weight (as long as you don’t overeat).
- Your resting heart rate will go down, meaning your heart is becoming stronger and more efficient.
- Oxygen levels in your blood will increase, giving you more energy during the day.
- Your lower body will tone up, so you will want to do some upper-body exercises to balance things.
- The bones impacted by running will strengthen.
- Your hippocampus (part of the brain) may grow, improving your memory.
- You may discover that your cholesterol goes down a bit.
- You may discover that your quality of sleep improves.
The list of health benefits for runners is large. Just do an internet search to discover more.
It Sets an Example for Others
Some people live their life for themselves. But living our lives for ourselves is much too small a purpose. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus has called his followers “salt” and “light” (Matthew 5:13-16). Simply put, salt and light point to leadership because they are intended to influence their environment. Salt holds back decay and makes things taste better. Light chases darkness away. So my understanding of following Jesus is that I must live in such a way that I’m positively influencing those around me, leading them by word and example to a better place.
While I readily admit that I’m so far from where I want to be and I mess up more times than I care to admit, I still want to live in such a way that I am able to help and inspire others to strive to live a better life. In a nation that is fighting the “Battle of the Bulge,” battling anxiety, and struggling in so many other ways, I want to lead by word and example and point to a better way.
I hope this short list has helped. Are there any things you would add to the list? If so, please share them in the “Comments” section below.