Image credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/sunset-men-sunrise-jogging-39308/
As far as I am concerned, 2020 has definitely been a year that forced me to challenge myself and try things I'd never thought I'd willingly try. It all started with staying at home. When taking care of my health became a priority, cabin fever no longer had the luxury of kicking in. Luckily, I was still working. As a bonus, I had a chance to watch nightly opera streams, courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera, which has definitely helped me preserve my sanity during these tough times. However, the transition from working on my feet to working from my armchair meant that I was barely moving. In the beginning, I was scared to go outside, even for groceries, fearing for my health and for the health of those dear to me. Consequently, I started quickly gaining weight, and I didn't like it. I was already doing HIIT and cardio workouts at home 5 days a week, thanks to Fitness Blender, which would normally keep me active and healthy, but with minimal physical activity to accompany that, I wasn't making much progress. That was when I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone and start running.
It wasn't easy, I won't lie. When friends told me I'd get a runner's high, grow to love running and even enjoy it, I was skeptical. In the beginning, all I could do was run for less than 5 minutes, huffing and puffing, with my whole body feeling like it was on fire. It was torture. There was no way I could ever like it. I endured it. That was the best I could do. Having never been a quitter, I kept going. Slowly but surely (running just a mile every day for the total of 12-14 minutes per session), I started discovering amazing benefits, which I want to share with you, hoping to inspire you to hit the ground running as well:
1. Visible and feel-able fitness benefits. Not only did I lose weight (16 lbs over 4 months - and counting) and toned up my leg muscles, I was also able to increase my speed and endurance. As I've mentioned earlier, I started with just under 5 minutes (one lap around the nearby park) and slowly built it up to 3 laps (the equivalent of a mile). My original goal was to keep building it up to 2 miles, but I found that I was most comfortable with 3-4 laps a day, and I didn't want to over-exert myself. At the same time, I noticed that I was running faster, shortening my lap time to just over 11 minutes (which is, by the way, not great, but I'm happy with it anyway, since it's faster than I was able to run when I first started). I also noticed that my breathing became more even when I was running, and I was able to pace myself better. As a result, running became less of a torture and more of a fun activity for me.
2. Bye-bye pain. Before I started running, I experienced pain in my heels, for unknown reasons. At first, I attributed it to working on my feet, but then I wasn't working on my feet anymore, yet the pain didn't go away. When I first started running, my feet still hurt. However, I noticed that they hurt less after running. Eventually, the pain went away completely, and my feet didn't bother me anymore. According to all I've read online about running, it strengthens your bones and joints because every time you run, you put a lot of pressure on your legs and feet, so your body responds to that by adjusting. It works in the same way your immune system does: the more stress it endures, the stronger it gets.
3. Fresh air dose. Isolated inside my home, I only went out for groceries or medicine as needed, and regular running sessions gave me a great excuse to get out of the house and breathe some fresh air. I even got a runner's tan as a result of running during lunch breaks in the middle of the day. Even though I didn't enjoy running, I did enjoy being outdoors in the sun, and it motivated me to keep going.
4. Break for my tired eyes. Spending hours in front of the computer, I felt tired and sluggish towards the middle of the day. My eyes would start hurting, and my energy levels would plummet. Going outside for just 20-30 minutes, which allowed me to get to the park, run and return home, gave my eyes and mind a nice little break and allowed me to recharge and return to work with newfound enthusiasm, as a happier and healthier version of me.
5. Active Meditation. Being an active person, I always find it more helpful to move in some way to clear my head when I'm anxious or need to think something through instead of staying still and breathing. Prior to running, I achieved that through walking or biking, activities I'm used to that don't require a lot of effort on my part. Never have I ever thought running would have the same effect on me, but it did! It all started with just trying to distract myself from the physical discomfort running caused. Before I knew it, I started using running to clear my head and unleash my creative energy, thinking up some new projects that didn't come to mind when I was cooped up inside with my computer. And yes, writing this post was one of those projects as well.
6. Motivation to eat less. In addition to moving less, eating more definitely contributed to my initial weight gain, so I made it my goal to eat smaller portions and avoid baking. Whenever I felt like indulging in some kind of unhealthy food or snack, I reminded myself that a cup of ice-cream equaled to another lap around the park, which I didn't look forward to. Eventually, I no longer craved sweets as I used to. As my weight went down, my motivation increased even more.
7. Quick and Efficient Calorie Burn. Running is a strenuous type of exercise, and it burns lots of calories in a short period of time. When I skipped too many running sessions during the same week, I noticed that my weight loss was minimal or non-existent. When I ran as scheduled, my weight loss was consistent. Though I believe that running alone might not have been enough, it worked wonders in combination with my regular exercise routine.
8. Sense of community. Running every day at the same time, I kept seeing the same faces of runners, walkers and phone talkers. At times we even waved and smile at each other as we passed by. Just the other day a neighbor I hadn't known before stopped me and asked me if I still went running. I'd changed my usual running time from morning to afternoon, and she no longer saw me during her morning walks. Becoming a runner helped me connect with people in my community even without talking. All it took was a smile and a silent nod of agreement that we were in this together: improving our health, preserving our sanity during these tumultuous times and doing whatever it took to keep us going.
With all this said, if you're still skeptical about the benefits of running, I get it. You're in the same boat I was in when the thought first crossed my mind. After all, not everyone is a runner. I certainly hadn't been. And I certainly am now, to my own surprise, and I do find it enjoyable, to my own disbelief. However, if you have been wondering about whether you should hit the ground running, give it a try. Start slowly, noticing what running does to your body and consult your doctor if you have any health concerns or doubts. After all, the only equipment you need to start running is a good pair of sneakers and a nice dose of motivation. And even 10-15 minutes of running a day can make a huge difference in your health and well-being.
#staysafe #stayhealthy #takecareofyourself