The physical and mental benefits of running

Mental benefits

Running reduces stress by boosting levels of serotonin in your brain and creating a more positive mood.

Self esteem is improved and goals are achieved through running. Runners realize a greater sense of self-reliance and accomplishment. In other words, running provides an individual with an all natural, drug free, power-packed ego boost!

Running fights depression with the brain’s release of beta endorphins. These are neurotransmitters made in the pituitary gland that can reduce pain, boost the immune system, and bring a greater sense of well being. These “miracle” compounds have eighty times as much pain-easing effect as morphine.

Runners can enjoy a sense of freedom, by forgetting about troubles and feeling the wind in their hair. They can control their own destiny, as they alone make the decision to run as fast and as far as they want!

Running sharpens focus and improves mental stamina, by giving circulation a boost and increasing the flow of blood to the brain! 

Social circles can be widened through running by joining a group or a club of fellow enthusiasts.

Lastly, running helps to improve appearance by getting the blood pumping which creates a healthy glow and by reducing the waistline. The bottom line is, when we look better, we feel better!

Physical benefits

In addition to the psychological benefits, running has so many physical benefits that it is hard to know where to begin.

As mentioned earlier, running helps to keep weight under control. With the exception of cross-country skiing, running burns more calories than any other physical activity!

Cardiovascular health is greatly improved through running by increasing your heart rate and working the heart muscles on a regular basis.

Running can increase HDL levels, which improves overall cholesterol in the body.

The immune system gets a boost through running with an increase in white blood cells. These are the fighter cells in the body, which can combat the early stages of diseases like diabetes and cancer.

Running also improves bone health. Weight bearing exercises increase bone density and prevent injury and the onset of osteoporosis.

And finally, running improves lung capacity and promotes better breathing which enhances general overall health.

 

How to go from couch potato to motivated runner

Set goals.

After the initial ???starting out??? period, set realistic goals for yourself. Goal setting involves making a personal investment, and when achieved can greatly enhance motivation. However, you want to be careful not to move too fast. Be patient with your mind and body!

Chart your progress.

Sometimes it helps to have a visual aid. Cut out a picture of your ???ideal runner??? and tape it to your cupboard or refrigerator, with a chart for your distance and times. Actually ???seeing??? progress is a great way to maintain motivation!

Tune in to your body.

Experiment with different times of the day, if possible, to find the time when your body performs most efficiently. This can be very different for some people, and is one reason that many are not successful. If you are trying to run in the wee hours of the morning, and your peak performance time is late afternoon, then you will feel tired, sluggish and far less motivated.

Equip yourself with the right tools.

Comfort is the key above all else when you are just starting out! Visit your local running store for advice on the proper gear (shoes, socks and other clothing) for your running level. Make sure that your shoes and socks fit properly, feel great and that all of your clothing is weather appropriate. Add a pedometer, a water bottle belt, or an IPod into the mix if it makes your run more enjoyable.

When you hit a rut, shake things up!

Sometimes it just takes a tiny change to recharge our motivation levels. Chart a new route or switch to a treadmill for a change of pace. Try running with a partner or alone, depending on your current circumstance. Load some energetic new tunes onto your iPod or check out a new pair of running shoes.

Exercise your body, relax your mind.

Try interrupting your running week with a day for yoga, tai chi or meditation. Not only will this help to break up the monotony and improve your focus, but a little less stress never hurt anyone!

Staying motivated to run is a long-term process, but just starting is the hardest part. Everyone has their own unique formula to stay motivated, but with consistency and attention to the ideas above, the experience will be much more enjoyable.

To Run Better, Start by Ditching Your Nikes | Wired Science | Wired.com

How to Run Barefoot

If you???re interested in trying out barefoot (or nearly barefoot) running, keep in mind that it will take your body some time to get used to it. Here are some tips from the experts to get you started.

  • Start slow, with quarter-mile runs at most, and build up very gradually.
  • Listen to your feet. Don???t try to run with the same gait you use in shoes ??? shorten your steps and land on the forward part of your foot.
  • Keep your head up and your body vertical. Your feet should be hitting the ground almost directly underneath you, not in front of you.
  • Ankle and calf strength is key to avoiding injury, so consider Ferber???s four-week barefoot strengthening program before you start (.doc).
  • Keep barefoot running to no more than 10 percent of your weekly regimen, especially at first.
  • If you???re running completely barefoot, run on a mix of soft and hard surfaces to give your feet time to toughen up.

Finally, don???t try this if you suffer from diabetes or another condition that would affect your ability to feel and respond to sensations from your feet.

???Like any part of your body, you have to build up very, very slowly,??? says Lieberman. ???If you really pay attention to your body and build up slowly, you???ll be fine.???

For more advice and information, check out Barefoot Ken Bob and Barefoot Ted???s websites, as well as the barefoot running forum on the Runner???s World community site.

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Then there’s the secretive Tarahumara tribe, the best long-distance runners in the world. These are a people who live in basic conditions in Mexico, often in caves without running water, and run with only strips of old tyre or leather thongs strapped to the bottom of their feet. They are virtually barefoot.

Come race day, the Tarahumara don’t train. They don’t stretch or warm up. They just stroll to the starting line, laughing and bantering, and then go for it, ultra-running for two full days, sometimes covering over 300 miles, non-stop. For the fun of it. One of them recently came first in a prestigious 100-mile race wearing nothing but a toga and sandals. He was 57 years old.

Running barefoot, anyone?