Running is a unique beast… you either love it or you hate it. There is no in between. Usually.
In college I lived for my long runs. I would wake up on football Saturdays and run 17 miles while other college kids were doing kegs and eggs… I never said I was cool or smart. After I graduated and started working, I loved those early morning runs as the sun was coming up before work. Living downtown Baltimore there was nothing better than running along the water in the Inner Harbor. Time to clear my head, and get ready for the day.
Unfortunately for me I used running as a way to play the scale game; I would weigh myself before a run, then after, and watch the numbers go down week after week. And not in a good way. It wasn’t until these past few years that I started to readjust my relationship with running, and I did that by reassessing my health goals, and by researching what running does to your mind and body: the good, the bad, and the sweaty!
And be sure to check out my post on my favorite activewear gear for that next run or workout too!
Studies show that running can improve your reasoning ability, your cognitive performance, and even spark creative thinking!* So if you’ve ever gone on a run before work, or a meeting then you probably know this feeling: a bit of clarity. You’re able to work through things just a step quicker than you normally do? You can thank those early morning miles for that!
I’m sure we’ve all heard of the “runner’s high”? It’s not a myth! German research has pinpointed a spot in the brain that releases natural opiates, giving you all the happy feels, especially at a moderately challenging pace. Think: tempo run. What was it that Elle said so eloquently?
Exercise gives you endorphins; endorphins make you happy, happy people just don’t shoot their husbands!
So for the safety of all husbands out there, maybe we all should go on a run every once in a while 🙂 There also isn’t a huge downer either! So unlike coffee that you might need to replenish over time because the caffeine wears off, if you run regularly it will reduce your stress and elevate your mood more in the long run! Some studies have even shown running to be more effective and helpful than antidepressants!*
Prefer interval runs? Awesome!! Studies have shown those gems to control ghrelin, the “hunger hormone”, and make overindulging less appealing.
Running can also be linked to increase brain tissue volume, which seeing as we begin to lose brain tissue in our late 20’s, we need all the help we can get! Regular exercise is known to increase the hippocampus which is the part of the brain linked to learning and memory. So what does that mean in the long run? Pun intended. It could also decrease your likelihood of developing dementia.
Let’s just say the mental benefits are undeniable!
Now, I’m not gonna lie, I’m not a huge fan of what running can do to your body. i started feeling the effects on my knees and hips after college and just knew that I was too young for my joints to be feeling the way that they were. But I couldn’t get the calories out of my head; meaning, I knew how many calories I can burn by running x-amount of time, and I wanted to burn those bad boys! What I know now is that there are healthier ways to burn those calories, or lengthen your body, or lose weight that might not be as bad on your joints.
Now, I’m not going to deny the cardiovascular benefits that we all know about. We have heart rate zones for a reason, and running is a form of cardio for a reason! But anyone who has done super long runs knows the effect that it can have on your body. Now, some people have the body type for long runs, but many don’t. But the BIGGEST factor behind running pain is lack of training in other areas; meaning, you still need to weight train! When you run, you use your core, you use your back, and you use your upper body. So unless you are appropriately training the rest of your body, your body won’t be able to handle the impact that running entails.**
Now there is research that says that the act of running is not the culprit of knee pain, but that it is the technique of how someone runs. I cannot argue with that one bit. I am the first person to cringe when I see someone doing a move in the gym incorrectly, just knowing that if they keep doing it they are going to be paying for it in a few years.
In my opinion, if you do one thing long enough that involves that kind of impact over and over, you’re going to feel it over time. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t run at all! I mean, I just spent over 5 paragraphs talking about the mental benefits of it. What I encourage is moderation, and complimentary exercises: yoga, megaformer workouts (insert the [solidcore] shake here), weight lifting. Find a good balance of everything to keep your body healthy and make your fitness a full body experience.
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*8 ways running stimulates your brain: Runner’s World
**What 6 Joint Docs Say About Running: Everyday Health