I was saying goodbye to a friend the other day, and I happened to mention that I was going to go for a run when I got home. She looked at me like I had a third eye and asked me, "Why would you run on purpose?" I laughed and shrugged my shoulders and said, "Because I love to run." She responded by saying, "I only run when chased." I smiled, and disregarded the words I've heard all too often, then carried on my way.
I can't tell you the number of times I've heard those exact comments when I mention to people that I'm a runner. I can't tell you the number of times I plaster a fake smile on my face and ignore the urge to lecture people on why running is so good for you. But hey, I get it. I was once a skeptic and didn't think running was all that it was cut out to be. And the reason for that was because I'd never actually tried to be a runner. I'd tell myself that I could walk miles and miles without getting winded, or I could ride a bike for hours and never get tired. Why would I want to run when I could do these things with ease? Looking back, my lack of enthusiasm was probably the result of intimidation. I didn't have the endurance to be a runner, and I knew it.
For years I was dormant and ignored the fact that I needed to exercise. I mean, I had the speedy metabolism of a child, and I could eat all the junk I desired and never gain a pound. Then, I got pregnant, gained weight, and quickly realized that my body wasn't the same as it was pre-baby. So, after it was safe to do so, I decided I was going to get in shape.
At first, I just did some yoga. Then, I discovered Shaun T's, Insanity, which helped jump start my stagnant body. The more I exercised, the more I found myself interested in physical fitness. I warmed up to different types of physical activities, and the thought of becoming a runner sat in the back of my mind patiently waiting for its debut.
I became curious about running. I'd see people gliding along in the neighborhood, and they always looked so relaxed and focused. It seemed like such a simple thing to do - put on your shoes and go. I started to muster the guts to give it a try. And one day, I got so annoyed with my usual workout routine that I decided it was go time. I was going to become a runner. It helped that my husband ran for his form of exercise. Ultimately his dedication to the sport was the spark to my match. I saw in him how much he loved it and the crazy high he'd ride in on after a 3-mile plus run. So, I made up my mind and decided to give it a try.
At first, my running ability was a joke. I could only run for a few minutes. I was so out of shape, and it pissed me off. But I stuck with it and soon I was able to run for 30 minutes straight. I remember the very first time I looked down at my watch and saw that I had run for so long. It was a monumental moment for me. I felt so accomplished - I felt like a runner. I was now part of an elite group of dedicated individuals, and I loved it. Soon after, I'd ran my first 5 k, and I performed well considering my beginner status. Nowadays, I try to run 4 or more days a week for about 3.5 miles each time. On a good day, I can run longer. And my body is reaping the benefits of it - big time!
All of this is great, but now for the real reason I'm writing this post. Why do I love to run? The more obvious reasons are for the physical benefits. Studies show that running can prevent a slew of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, some cancers, and the list goes on. It helps to strengthen your bones and joints (although my joints beg to differ), it helps your mind stay sharp, and it helps you sleep better at night - like a baby I might add.
But I don't think I need to school you on the physical improvements running provides for your body. You're smart, you already know that exercising is beneficial to your health. What I want you to understand is that running is medicine for your soul. It's the remedy for your unstable emotions. It helps boost your mental clarity and in the end, improves your overall ability to cope with life. That's why I love it so much. Not only do I stay in shape, but I have access to mental therapy pounding the pavement right outside my door.
I could have the worst day in the world, come home, put on my running shoes, take off for as little as 30 minutes, and when I return home, I'm a brand new person. My mind has been cleared, and my mood has improved ten-fold. I have the ability to think about what's bothering me without being bothered. I find it easier to solve problems because there are no distractions - it's just me, the road, and Mother Nature. Some of my best ideas have been born while on a run. In fact, the majority of my first novel was created inside my mind while running. I found that if I was having problems with character development or scene development, I could sort them out by running because I could clear my mind and focus.
Furthermore, there is no equipment required. Nope, all you have to have is a good pair of shoes. However, you'll benefit from having a great playlist to listen to, some shades, and sunblock if needed, at which point, you'll have the ingredients to make the most emotionally and physically rewarding fitness regimen known to man.
You'll be able to enjoy that high that everyone talks about (yes, it does exist), and you will finally understand the euphoria of a physically defeated body. Your muscles will be exhausted, but it will feel so good, and your mind will thank you for the workout because it helped push your body to the end.
I doubt you need a lecture about the importance of exercise, and that's not what this is about.
But here's the thing I say to the naysayers of running. Don't knock it til you try it. If you're not a good runner, don't fret because you can condition your body to become one. It will take time, but it will happen. You don't have to be fast or graceful, you just have to be safe. I myself am not a fast runner, nor am I graceful, but I could care less. It’s still worth it nonetheless.
Not convinced? Well, that’s ok, to each their own. And the next time someone asks me why I run on purpose or makes some silly comment about running, I'm still going to smile and shrug my shoulders. But in the back of my mind, I'll be thinking about how on Sunday morning I'm going to wake up early, eat a little breakfast, put on my running shoes, step outside and breathe in deep the fresh morning air, and listen to the beautiful melodies of the birds in the trees. I'll set off on my run and establish the tone for the day. I'll put my earbuds in place so I can enjoy a good playlist, which may include anything from 80's music, Snoop Dogg, or songs from the Jem and the Holograms soundtrack (don't judge me). Then, I'll slip on my shades, find my stride, and set my mind free.