A lot of my colleagues run. I keep seeing running statuses of some friends on facebook. Some of them do marathons. My students are picking up on the reoccurring hype too. The municipality of my city is targeting the youth nowadays to join in with the (highly sponsored) city-run.
I should be happy. It’s great how people grow enthusiastic in any field of sports. And I want my students to exercise, live healthy.
But I’m not sure about running. I’ve learnt running isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and I have toned down on it. I love running but not how it tends to turn me into a ‘Corpse Bride’ and how it will make me use a walking stick in 20 years or so.
So I’m not going to stimulate my students to jog or run. Not without informing and advising them thoroughly.
A bit like what I trying to do here now..
Please do run. But be informed and keep your balance, baby! ; )
Physical and mental benefits
Running is probably the easiest, inexpensive and effective way to keep a strong heart (and vascular system: cardio) and burn calories. Running has a lot of physical benefits, but its the mental benefits that truly makes you feel good and addicted to it. Running can be close to meditation. It truly frees your mind, body and spirit, when you reach that high (if you run: you’ll know what I mean. If you don’t run yet; well, you’ll know what I mean). Life seems so much simpler when running. You can just envision yourself running away from the bullshit around you and getting back to the core YOU. You feel your legs just going on and on, like your heartbeat, your breathing… even running through wind, rain (“nothing can stop me!”). It’s just you and your body working hard like a glorious machine (well, it IS).
And it’s so practical: You can go as far as you want (depending on how much time you have to spend). And can go whenever you want; the forest or beach is always there when you need it. Only thing you have to do is take yourself to it (if you live in the middle of the city center like I do). And run.
Oh wait. Don’t forget your running shoes. They’re a primary necessity next to your phone, earphones, house keys, bottle of water, pack of dextrose, nightlights, extra vest and a whole bag of other stuff you might need while running ; ).
Seriously though. If you never tried running; start by buying good running shoes. It’s an investment for your body. Especially your knees.
Unfortunately there’s more to look out for besides the shoes.
While I loved running AND the fast results it was giving me (bye bye fat), I also started to notice it was ‘bye-bye muscles’. Apart from that ‘deal-breaker’, I started to realize how many people in their 50’s and 60’s I know who loved running are close to needing walking sticks now. Some of them just jogged for the daily morning exercise, others did the hardcore marathon running. And now nearly ALL of them have had to drop their favorite sports due to ankle, KNEE and hip troubles (some serious). It makes other sports (tennis but also yoga, even golf) virtually impossible for them to do too.
I love the freedom of moving my body. I love working that ‘glorious machine’. Of course I know that, with age, the body slows down and you have to accept and give in a bit, including the sports. But not being able to do hardly ANY exercise at the age of 55 is just wrong. Honestly, it scares me. Especially when it’s because of an activity you once considered a very healthy thing to do. That must be so very frustrating.
(Am I a hypocrite? -I know doing weights has the same risks: yet, I see more 50+ people in gym then 50+ people on the jogging-trails?).
A lot of scientific research has been done on the whole jogging/running craze; the long term benefits vs detriments. All the contradictory information makes it difficult to figure out whats best. In the end, I look at the people around me and see running (daily and/or long distance) hasn’t done them any good (of course, there are always exceptions). My personal experiences have made me decide: I don’t believe in long distance running anymore.
For those who don’t already know it: the reason why running (or jogging) damages joints is mainly because they get a little ‘punch’ with every running-step you take. Joints have cartilage and little ‘pillows’ of fluid built in between to enable movements to be smooth (think of oil in the engine) and to prohibit the ends of bones hitting each other on higher impact. Jogging and running create continuous impact -not only in the joints of your lower body but also your spine.
Doing a lot of higher impact movements, consistently, for years, will first strengthen joints but eventually make it deteriorate (and natural aging count with the years of jogging). It’s the strengthening vs erosion of the joints that make running a benefit vs detriment.
Critics also point out how running raises the cortisol levels in your blood. Cortisol is a stress-hormone: the body has a natural balance of cortisol and melatonin (as I explained in my other post ) but the body produces loads more when we are in ‘stress’ situations. It used to enable us to run extra fast and far from danger (predatory animals); nowadays we stress about other things (with the same effect: raised blood-pressure, etc). Our ‘healthy’ running activates the stress-hormone production in the same way. When the body works too fast (‘overcapacity’), it needs more energy and oxygen than the natural blood-flow can actually can supply. To keep going, our body creates those prehistoric ‘stress-hormones’ which act by mobilizing energy from storage to muscles. It’s why running can ‘burn muscle’ besides fat. There’s another drawback: to enable the body to use all the energy it needs ‘to survive’ (keep running) it shuts down metabolic processes such as digestion, reproduction, growth and immunity. All of this accelerates aging. Something we don’t want.
My opinion is clear: I think running can seriously damage your body in the ‘long run’. But on the other hand, I truly believe it’s one of the best ways to lose weight. And it’s so good for the mind and heart. Running has too many benefits to just drop it all together. The disadvantages come from walking on hard ground (asphalt) and overdoing it: long distances, too much sprinting and having no fat left to burn. So the word BALANCE is a very important one here: please do run, enjoy it, feel the high and enjoy nature while doing it (important for city-people like me). But don’t go into the extremes. If you want to run, please take my advice:
–invest in running-shoes. Go to a specialist store -it will probably cost you an extra 5-10% on the price of the same type and brand, but it’s worth it. They’ll measure your weight, the way you walk and run and the overall measurements of your feet (not only the length) to give you a good advice on the shoes that truly suits you (grip, comfort, durability and most important, the type of sole built to balance out impact on your joints –has to do with your overall size and type of running you want to do). DON’T buy on-sale running shoes. DON’T buy random sports-sneakers. Remember your investing in the protection of your joints.
– DON’T jog/run on asphalt (hard, concrete, brick) roads. It heightens the impact on your joints. Please just completely avoid those roads for running. Go for ‘nature’: sandy beaches and dunes (good for the calves when running in dry sand!), or wood chopped/earth paths in forests. If in a huge city, far away from beach or forest: go to the park and run NEXT to the park-path (on the grass). =>>> More about running on trails here
–DON’T overdo it. Run smaller distances (max 5 km) with some intervals (slower jogging combined with small sprints). Once a week really is enough imho. Especially when you do other sports on a day-to-day basis.
-Start slow to warm up. End slow to cool down.
–STRETCH before and after
-enjoy : )