This year I decided to try and make running a part of my daily life — if I am being honest, I was finding that my lack of lower body endurance was affecting my Sunday league soccer performances and I wanted to do something about it. However in the process I have actually come to enjoy it; once you get your body up to speed with the demands of regular running, it becomes a mental challenge more than anything. The days when I run the fastest and the farthest are the days when I am completely dialed in and not even paying attention to my time or distance travelled.
I usually do 5-10km runs, 3 times a week: it’s the distance and frequency that I have found to be manageable and sustainable. Running has become one of my favourite tasks of the week; I hope the benefits and tips below can motivate you to start running too.
The most obvious benefits of a consistent running practice are physical. Running pushes your cardiovascular, respiratory and muscular systems and increases their level of stress tolerance. When I first started running earlier this year I was absolute trash and could barely run 2km, however with time your body can better handle the demand. Running improves lower body strength and endurance, which are important in having a well balanced system, and moderates your body weight as your body adapts to the stress of regular running. I have found my weight to be healthier and more stable since I started running.
Running also has many under-appreciated psychological benefits. Personally, I find it quite meditative, and do my best running when I am relaxed and not thinking about running at all. It has also been reported to improve mood and sleep, and reduce cognitive decline from aging. No matter what age you are, you can derive some psychological benefit from running.
There are a few things that I learned the hard way that might help you get started.
Load Management: once you really get going, you feel like you can and should be going farther and faster. I have learned that this can be a mistake, as you leave yourself susceptible to injuries and burnout in the future. It is of course important to continue to increase your distance or pace as things become easier, however it should always be a program that is sustainable over the long term. There is no difference in distance run per week between three 10km runs and five 6km runs. Your distance and frequency objectives should dictate your goals, however they should be something that you can continue to do without fear of burnout. It is also important to listen your body, and decide if and when runs should be skipped to deal with any niggling injuries or soreness. Running through pain up to a certain point is fine, and perhaps necessary, however if you feel like you are on the brink of injury, give it a rest.
Stretching / Foam Rolling: stretching and foam rolling, as most people who play sports know, is absolutely key to injury prevention and performance optimization. I personally deal with recurring Achilles tightness, however if I religiously stretch and foam roll before and after runs, respectively, it is not an issue. If I neglect to do those things, it gets progressively worse and leads me to having to skip runs for recovery.
Consistency: the single most important thing required to improve running ability is consistency. It doesn’t get easier, you just get better at it, and you don’t get better unless you get in those runs. Especially the ones you really don’t want to go for.
“Someone who is busier than you is running right now.”
In conclusion, most people can and should run. It’s good for you and if you stick with it long enough, you will go one day for your daily 5km run and find yourself enjoying it.