It’s been more than a year since I started to run constantly. I can safely say now that running is an important part of my life. And it changed so many things, starting with my morning routine and ending with my travel plans. I confess I started to look for places which are holding at least a major running event when I’m planning my trips now. Yes, that’s how deep it goes. At least for me.
Probably the most important benefit of this new habit was related to my self-esteem. I know very few, if any, things that will make you feel so sure that you can accomplish anything in your life, than waking up in the morning, looking at the guy in the mirror and telling: “Yes, I ran a marathon”.
But, as important as this benefit may be, there are many other. Without claiming that I touched all of the possible benefits of running, here’s a list of 10.
To keep on running, to keep the pace you want, to be sure that you won’t run out of air, that you won’t get cramps in your feet, that you’ll still have resources when you’ll need them, well, you gotta work out your focus. Not your muscles. Your focus. Running is one of the best focus enhancers I ever encountered. The fact that your body is getting better and better at this is just a consequence of your continuously sharpened focus.
Running is not about hype, although you can surely get really high if you’re running constantly (and I’m talking endorphins here, not something else). Running is about getting out of bed, putting on your shoes, getting out of the house and start running. It takes discipline to do that. It’s not a huge thing, but the fact that you’re doing it constantly, day after day, well, that’s actually a really huge thing.
You can’t run on autopilot. You have to be careful where your next step will land. You have to follow a certain path. And if you’re doing this constantly, a certain type of awareness will start to build up inside you. It’s not about focus, this time, it’s about being present and in sync. Shortly after I started to run I felt this improvement and, from that day on, I call running “moving meditation”.
4. Location Independence
You can run everywhere. You just need to put your running shoes (or just run barefoot, if the outdoors are friendly enough) and then hit the road. You don’t need fancy equipment (if you’re gonna run in official competition, some degree of equipment will be required, though), you don’t need expensive gear. You can do it literally everywhere, on city streets, on running tracks, on hiking roads. Unlimited freedom.
5. Improved Metabolism
Running is in our blood, literally. Our ancestors used to hunt by chasing their prey until it got exhausted. They were literally running after the game until the game eventually felt down. If you compare this with our modern lifestyle you’ll see a huge difference. So, by getting back to what we’re designed to do, we create a much more reliable and healthier biological machine.
6. Weight Loss
Closely related to the one above, of course, but with a twist. If you run, and if you run constantly for a long time, you’ll eventually feel the need to become lighter. To get rid of the excessive weight. It’s not something only physical, in time it will make you lose other types of “weights” (like people you don’t really like hanging out with, or activities in which you don’t really find benefits or pleasure).
7. Problem Solving Abilities
During running you have access to a large part of your brain which is usually engaged in other activities. That’s extra thinking power. Since you know you’re gonna run for the next 30 minutes, or for the next hour, or for the next two hours, you can let your mind wander around. And, many times, this release of the pressure will soon lead you to unexpected solutions to some of your most annoying problems. Works for me every time.
8. Social Skills
It may look that running is a solitary activity. For most of its parts, yes, it is. But at a certain level, it’s also a very powerful social activator. Sooner or later you’ll start participating in competitions and during those competitions you’ll meet people. Very interesting people. Some of them will be useful to you, because they’re more experienced, some of them will become friends, and for some of them you’ll be useful, in time. It’s a world. A great world.
When you push yourself to the limits, when you struggle, when you sweat, when every part of your body hurts so much and when you want so badly to just quit, now, you start to understand what other people may experience too. And you slowly start to be more open, more understanding, more patient. Everybody has their struggles. Everybody has their challenges. Everybody has their finish line to reach, just like you. We’re all the same.
10. Emotional Balance
You can’t run for a long time if you’re angry. You can’t run for a long time if you’re depressed. Eventually, you’ll run out of fuel, because so much of this fuel is going into the extra emotional consumption. Running will always give you balance. Will always make you see things in perspective, wait for everything else to come into light before jumping to conclusions.
Ok, I lied, there are 11 benefits of running. As I started to write, I realized I can squeeze in at least another one:
11. Long Term Planning
If you run constantly, at some point you’ll wanna race. And to finish a long race, like a marathon, or a semi-marathon, you need some serious long time planning abilities. Even if we’re talking only about training for such an event, it usually takes a few months to get there. Surprisingly, running will make you more patient, more time aware and more willing to carefully plan in advance any tedious task.
So, are you a runner? Do you plan to start running soon? I’m sure that I overlooked some other benefits of running, so, if you know of any other, please feel free to share them in the comments.