When I started running, I saw a lot of stuff about why running is a bad idea. From how it hurts your knees to how boring and painful it is, there’s a lot out there about why other forms of exercise are better ways to workout.
I can see where some of these things are coming from. I recently attempted to cycle for the first time in a long time, and afterwards felt how a lot of people feel after a short jog: it was hard, it hurt and I didn’t want to do it again.
Based off past experience, this would be how I’d expect to feel about running. But it isn’t. To my surprise, after a short time of struggling to keep up the commitment, I began to enjoy going for a run. In this post I’d like to talk a bit about why this was, and in contrast to the many obvious reasons why someone wouldn’t want to run, offer 10 reasons why I think it’s a great idea. So without further ado, here we go:
1. Almost anyone can do it
I’m aware that running isn’t for everyone, and for various reasons some people are not able to be physically on their feet, but for the majority of people running is an excellent choice for any level of exercise. You can do it any day of the week, no sign-up is required and it’s free; whether you’re completely inexperienced in physical exertion (as I was), or you’re a hardened athlete, running is beneficial for everyone. Being in charge of how much or little running you do can be a downside, but it also means you can take it at your own pace (literally!)
2. Success feels amazing
Running has given me a huge boost in confidence and self belief. When I started, I couldn’t run for longer than a minute without feeling ready to collapse, but as I kept going the sense of achievement was amazing. To run for 10, 20 or 30 minutes is a great experience when you didn’t think you were capable of doing so. When I ran 5KM (3.1 miles) for the first time, I wanted to tell everyone and it was hard to contain my excitement.
As I improve, so does this feeling of success. I felt brilliant after running my first half, and after my first marathon I cried like a baby. Whatever your reason for running, feeling proud of yourself runs alongside you.
3. Time to switch off (or to switch on)
A lot of people listen to music when they run. I don’t often, because I use running as an opportunity to take time to think and in some ways just concentrate on what I’m doing. A lot of people get bored which is understandable, but the monotony of putting one foot in front of the other can be a great opportunity to switch off and let your legs take over.
Once you get past the initial struggle to keep going, you’ve got a lot of time on your hands to clear your head and think (or stop thinking) about anything you like!
It can also be great to listen to a Podcast or Audiobook, which work well too! Running can provide you with time that you otherwise wouldn’t have to listen to some things, which can also help take your mind off what you’re doing when you’re on a particularly gruelling run.
4. It builds resilience
It’s often said that running is as much a mental sport as it is a physical one. This is definitely true. When running, there will be times when you want to give up but manage to keep on going. There will also be times when you surprise yourself with your ability to hang on and finish strong. It can be tempting to separate doing this during a run from the rest of life, but it actually has an impact on everything else you do. Lessons learned from running can actually help in other areas of life, and the “grit” of digging deep and hanging on is especially helpful.
5. It helps in the hard times
I started running after I had put on a fair amount of weight following one of the hardest periods of my life. I was feeling down a lot and didn’t know what to do with myself. A lack of motivation and meaningful hobbies meant that I spent far too much time sleeping and wasting time, and I wasn’t taking in enough fresh air or sunlight.
And then I started running. I won’t pretend that it solved everything or made my problems go away, but the feeling of achievement and success that I mentioned earlier made all the difference in how fulfilled I was feeling. Exercise has also shown to play a big part in alleviating the symptoms of sadness and even depression, so that also helped. Finally, the routine that came with needing to make time to run gave me a sense of purpose, and when I felt like I had nothing to hang on to I knew that I could get out and burn some energy by going for a run.
Again, this won’t be true for everyone and shouldn’t replace proper medical advice. My experience is that running can form one part of a healthy lifestyle, but is not the be all and end all.
6. A whole new world
How far is a mile? Before, I had no idea. Nor could I tell you how close the local shops were, or how long it would take to run to the doctors when in a hurry. Now that I run, I have a much better idea of both where things are and how far apart they are. Maybe you already know this (as I can imagine my fianceé telling me!) but even so, running can change how you look at the world around you. The local area that I live in has come alive for me as I’ve discovered nice walks, learned shortcuts through the streets and generally gained a better idea of what’s around.
I’ve also found that I’ve become a much more “outdoor” person since running. I now find myself looking forward to walks and am generally more appreciative of places that I go to.
7. A healthy hobby
This almost goes without saying and could have been included in one of the previous points, but I think it deserves a special mention anyway as it can’t be emphasised enough. As someone who has previously been in to a lot of hobbies involving computers and video games, I enjoyed myself but never quite felt fulfilment in the way that I have with running. Whether it was because I was staring at a screen all day or because the rewards in games aren’t as tangible (which I’ll talk more about soon!), I always had a deep sense that I wasn’t achieving anything. In contrast, Running has given me confidence and self belief, as well as helping me to find something I truly enjoy. I’ve also become a lot healthier along the way!
8. Make new friends
This isn’t something I have a lot of experience with but running groups and communities are well known for their hospitality and good atmospheres. Events such as Parkrun and charity races are acclaimed for their warm welcome, and even online communities such as the Running Sub-Reddit provide a great opportunity to get to know like minded others. People who enjoy running tend to like to talk about it, so making friends is easy and there’s always plenty to talk about!
9. Compete with yourself (and others)
This is another point that could be covered in several of the others but deserves special attention. Something that drew me to gaming and similar hobbies was the attention to detail that was possible and how in some cases you could spend hours working on technique and skill. With apps that I’ll mention below such as Strava, this is possible with running too. It’s a great feeling to see yourself running the same route 30 seconds faster than you were a few months before and even competing with others to run the fastest or furthest. The push to run one day more this week than last or to take 10 seconds off a PB can be a great motivator, even if you don’t feel like competing with others.
10. Get your nerd on!
Finally, a huge point for me but perhaps not for everyone. As someone who was and is hugely in to technology, the so-called “gamification” of my running has made all the difference. Apps such as Strava and Nike+ give trophies and badges for best times and streaks. Running Heroes gives discounts and rewards for points accumulated through running, and Zombies, Run! uses audio storytelling to create an RPG type gaming experience as you pound the pavement.
I’ve also recently started using Smashrun, which gives detailed stats on just about anything you can imagine. Want to see each jogging session based on time of day, pace or duration? There’s an app for that. My inner geek rejoices as I’m able to see improvement on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis. And just to make things easier I also bought myself a basic Garmin GPS watch. Because there’s nothing better than activity tracking, right?
Conclusion: Give it a Go
I had no expectation that I would actually ever enjoy running. Nor can I guarantee that running will become something that you look forward to. What I can say is that it isn’t anywhere near as bad as you’d think. I’d encourage anyone to try out a Couch to 5k program, which through a combination of walking and running three times per week helps individuals of any level of fitness progress from nothing to running 5km in just nine weeks.
How about you? Let me know what you think! What do you/don’t you like about running? Has your opinion changed at any point?