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In Praise of Running: A Personal Reflection

Domingo, 1 de Mayo de 2016

Read our May article.

Being a runner is something I’m extremely new at; in fact, to say I am “a runner” feels downright dishonest. I’ve been on four runs, and only one of these exceeded 30 minutes in length. And, when I say “runs,” what I really mean is a few minutes of running followed by almost the same amount of time catching my breath, repeat cycle, until I get back home and collapse on the sofa. Yet, as a student of mine - a keen runner, someone who has definitely earned the title - told me, all it takes is a couple of times out there pounding the concrete, and you can legitimately call yourself a runner.

And there’s some pride in that. There are hundreds, probably thousands of articles out there on the subject, and the pleasures and benefits of regular exercise. Like most people, I knew all of these things before I finally dusted off the trainers I once wore to the gym long ago and fished out the shorts and t-shirt that I’d bought at some earlier, optimistic moment. “You just get a pair of decent running shoes, and you go,” people say. I knew all of these things, but it wasn’t until I actually went out and took that first step that I really assimilated it: it really is as simple as that, and there’s no reason why you, or I, or anyone isn’t able to start getting a bit healthier.

It isn’t that I dislike doing exercise; more that as time has gone on, I’ve found myself doing less and less of it. My friends and I would spend long summer afternoons in parks playing football and throwing frisbees as kids. We skated and surfed and swam and played tennis, we rode mountain bikes and BMX. Yet as much as I loved doing all of these things, I’ve always been happier with a book in my hands or a film or TV series in front of me, and that’s certainly been the case in recent years. When people tried to encourage me to do more exercise I joked that I preferred exercising my mind, thanks.

Doing some exercise is, of course, important, but once you’re out of the habit, it can seem a difficult thing to return to. In that respect it’s like anything: like cooking healthy meals, like studying, like learning a language. But in the short time I’ve been running I’ve observed several benefits, and I can only imagine that they increase and become more noticeable over time. Here are a few of them:

  • Sleeping better

I sometimes have trouble getting a good night’s sleep, and it’s difficult for me to spring out of bed and start making the most of the day. But since going for a few runs I’ve found I’m sleeping better as a result of wearing myself out. Not to mention…

  • Having more energy

On top of finding it easier to fall asleep, the rush of endorphins that exercise results in mean that I’m more energised and generally more competent during the day.

  • Being in better shape

I should note here that these benefits - especially this one - are, without a doubt, exceedingly obvious. But when discussing the idea of doing more exercise with a friend the other day, we both mentioned that the idea of being in decent shape shouldn’t be dismissed as an unobtainable idea - it is, in fact, an achievable goal. “Imagine being able to take your top off at the beach and not feel a slight pang of shame,” we said, followed by: “Imagine wanting to take your top off at the beach because you’re proud of your body and the way you look.” Both of these feelings would be new for me.

  • Cutting out out other bad habits

It is early days for me, as a runner; I can’t swear that my new, healthier routine will continue indefinitely, though I hope it does. (It will require some serious discipline.) But another unexpected benefit is the impact running has had on other areas of my life. There are things I need to work on moderating or cutting out entirely - like smoking - and the simple fact of doing exercise means that I’ve already started doing that.

So, the idea behind this article is, I suppose, to speak to the people who have never been particularly inclined towards exercise, have fallen out of the habit, or to those for whom it’s a bit of both. “You just get a pair of decent running shoes, and you go,” people say. Honestly, they’re right.

“If one could run without getting tired, I don’t think one would often want to do anything else.” - C. S. Lewis

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