As I was packing for a business trip earlier this week, my running shoes were automatically thrown in my overnight bag. I have been a runner for nearly 25 years, and running has seen me through good and bad times and helped shape the person I am today. Like an old friend, my relationship with running may change over time but I know we will always have a special bond. In honor of my love affair with Forrest Gump’s favorite sport (I maintain he loved running more than table tennis), my top 10 reasons why I think running is the best sport:
- Smartphone of fitness. Running is a one stop shop, working legs, arms (yes, I said arms), core, heart and lungs all at the same time. Cardio and toning all in one. It’s the most efficient way for me to get a total body workout, which is especially important now that I’m a working mommy and feel like I have zero time to spare!
- Practical. It is easily portable, and doesn’t require a gym membership or a class to rush off to. You can run on your own schedule, which will change over time. When leaving on a trip, just stuff a pair of running shorts, sports bra and socks into your running shoes to help save space while packing. And unless you plan on doing a ton of intense training while away, typically I don’t pack more than 2-3 running outfits for even the longest of vacations – wash and reuse people! If you want to get fancy you can get a GPS sports watch, but honestly there are so many apps out there now, you don’t need it. Also, take that smart phone people – great from a safety perspective and can also help you find your way back if you make a wrong turn. Pop in at a local running shoe store to get fitted for the right sneaker for your foot strike and gait.
- Solo or Social. Whatever your preference, you can find what works best for you. I often like to run by myself to decompress and meditate, without so much as music. Other people thrive on working out with others, and there are running groups out there for all levels and types of runners (again, pop by your running shoe store and you’ll likely get a list of local groups… or just find some via social media). Ideally I like working out with one or two close friends that I can chat with and won’t judge me if I have to hock a big running loogie (sorry, sometimes it happens), taking my dog along with me, or pushing my jogging stroller with my little dude in tow (I also love the fact that I don’t have to sacrifice time with him or working out – jogging stroller offers me the best of both worlds!)
- Fosters Goal Setting and Confidence. Running is a sport that easily lends itself to goal setting. First it’s running a mile, running for 5 minutes, then it might be the corporate 5K, a 1/2 marathon, or that crazy marathon that your friend “made” you sign up for. Personally I stink at running shorter distances, but I’m pretty good at marathons, so I enjoy long distance running more than short ones. Picking a race, a distance, or a time as a goal and working toward that goal is great way to build a sense of accomplishment outside of school, work, relationships, etc. Setting and achieving goals, even small ones, is a great way to boost your self confidence.
- Easily Adaptable. At some points in my life I had more spare time than others, so it was easier to train for a marathon when I could afford to easily run more than 100 miles in a month. Now as a working mommy, I don’t have much time so I try to do more frequent shorter runs to get my heard and lungs going just a little bit each day, and then I try to amp it up a few miles on the weekends. While I was pregnant and right after having my c-section, I couldn’t run and instead chose to walk instead (and it had the added bonus of being easier on my joints). Just walking or running 2 miles every other day can have a great impact on overall health.
- Helps you feel better. Running consistently helps me maintain a happy healthy weight, and it also helped me shed the more than 50 pounds I gained over my pregnancy within 16 weeks after giving birth. Walking or running just a little bit every day can add a boost to your metabolism (which is even more important as you start to age). And on a bit of a healthy/not-so-healthy note, I’ve always found that running is a fantastic way to sweat out a hangover and recover more quickly (along with water, LOTS of water…)
- Exploring. Running is great way to keep up with your workouts while traveling, and explore a new place at the same time. When I studied abroad in law school (back in the archaic days before smart phones), each time I visited a new city I would grab a map and ask someone who was local where a good place to run might be. It is a great way to quickly explore some sites you may be interested in visiting later, and discover some more things you didn’t even know you wanted to see. Now you can just grab your smartphone and just wander away! Btw, running past George Clooney’s house on Lake Como is my favorite travel run. 🙂
- Zen. When I am running my brain goes through a detox, where all the clutter of the day is categorizes, my inner peace reset, and life is put into perfect perspective again (which is part of why I enjoy running on my own so much). I think running is a fabulous way to relax and decompress. Exercising regularly is shown to help reduce stress levels, improve mental health, and help make runners happier people (your body releases a ton of endorphins, so there is a physiological reason).
- Longer Life. Running can be hard on the joints, I readily admit that, but the pros still far outweigh the cons for me. Running and a generally healthy lifestyle helps keep the heart and lungs strong, and I have read that regular runners can lower their risk of death from cardiovascular disease by nearly 45 percent. If running isn’t for you, walking has so many of the same benefits. After having triple bypass heart surgery over seven years ago, I could probably count the number of days on my two hands that he hasn’t walked at least 2 miles a day – and he’s fit as a fiddle today. You don’t have to be an ultra marathoner to reap the benefits of walking and running, a moderate schedule will have lots of the same benefits.
- Everyone Wins. While running isn’t thought of as a team sport, you have the comradely of a team in every other runner. Go to any 5 K or marathon and you will see runners cheering on other runners, from the sidelines, during the race, and nearing the finish. I love nothing more than seeing someone who has struggled with fitness, or someone who is just catching the running bug, succeed and meet their target goals. Just because you want to hit a certain time, distance or speed doesn’t preclude you being genuinely happy for someone else who has also done the same. I love the fact that runners are one big family, cheering each other on, supporting one another, and helping each other over the finish line.
Hit the trail soon!