I began running in my early teens and remember it being cold wet and miserable with my teacher shouting at me as I ran past him in a cross country race, something I guess you, as BMF members, can all relate to!
After I left education I joined the forces and started to get serious about my running, leaving the cold muddy fields behind I turned to the roads and the longer distances, performing at various events from 10km to Marathons. I left the armed forces in 2009 and since then I’ve spent almost every day teaching people how to run. Whilst, on the face of it, I show them something physical – training techniques, strength exercises – they actually get a lot more than this out of running.
Most people would hazard a guess that my clients’ goals vary between wanting to run faster, getting fit, and losing weight. However, my personal experience of running, and that of training my clients, has opened my eyes to the many other benefits it holds. It provides a sense of fulfillment, of achievement. It provides social opportunities, stress relief and quiet thinking time away from a busy home life.
It would be hard for me to prioritise the benefits in order of importance, I think there is room for all of them in their unique way and the importance depends very much on the individual. Having experienced them all in certain times of my life, I personally think that running provides whatever you need, exactly when you need it. You just need to listen to your body and recognise what it is telling you. If work is unusually stressful why try and complete a 10k personal best, why not just get out there and lose yourself in your run?
The above benefits focus on the mental side of running, but along with this running will give you some fantastic physical benefits. Cardiovascular health is greatly improved through running by increasing your heart rate and working the heart muscles on a regular basis. Improving you immune system, running increases white blood cells and these are the fighter cells in the body, which will combat the early stages of diseases like diabetes and cancer. Bone health is significantly improved by running regularly. Any weight bearing exercise will increase bone density and prevent injury and the onset of osteoporosis. Lastly and probably most important, running will increase your lung capacity. During running, your lungs work together with your heart and circulatory system to provide oxygen to your working muscles for energy production, increasing the volume, rate and exchange of gasses to keep your legs going at faster rate.
As you can see running has numerous benefits both mental and physical, so next time your run takes you up a steep hill or work is proving tough and holding you back from getting out there, remind yourself of how good you’ll feel afterwards.