There’s no doubt about it, running is tough. It requires mental motivation to get up, brace whatever weather faces you, experience potential pain, frustration or injury. And, then you wind up exactly where you started. So, what exactly is the point?
“When I’m not running I find it hard to focus at work, difficult to resolve decisions at home and I’m just more grumpy!” Alison Johns, a runner of 10 years tells us. And she’s not alone. More than two million people in the UK find enough reasons to get themselves up and running more than once a week.
But how does running help you score the goal for ultimate, allround health? Here’s how putting one foot in front of the other can improve your overall fitness…
RUN TO… Keep your heart healthy
Heart disease is often thought of as predominantly a male problem, yet women are three times more likely to suffer from it than they are from breast cancer. So, running’s ability to look after your heart has to be number one on the list of healthy rewards.
Former sprinter Sam Clayton, says: “Your heart beats on average 100,000 times a day, sending 2,000 gallons of blood around your body. Every time you increase your heart rate when you go for a run, your heart has to pump blood at a faster rate, creating numerous benefits for your body, including a lower resting heart rate.
“When running, I go into a meditative place psychologically and feel like I can just keep going; finding this spot, through consistent training, means you can build distance easily. Improving endurance like this will help your heart become stronger, making everyday tasks easier.”
RUN TO… Lose weight
When it comes to women and fitness goals, weight loss usually features heavily. And, running comes in as second to none on this score.
Personal trainer Papillon Luck (papillonluck.com), tells us: “Those yet to catch the running bug may assume it has got to be the most tedious and martyrlike way to shed the lbs, but actually it’s anything but dull when you learn how to train properly.”
Papillon advises that for real results you must incorporate high-intensity interval training/: “HIIT elevates your heart rate, helps increase your metabolism and propels your body into it’s anaerobic, fat-burning zone. It’s quick, it’s tough and it gets results in a super-impressive time compared to jogging at one pace for longer in the aerobic zone.”
RUN TO… Improve bone strength
Bone density is not something people tend to worry about until later in life, but building it now could stave off problems down the line. Weight-bearing exercise can help – running included.
Physiotherapist Tim Allardyce (surreyphysio.co.uk), explains the science at play: “Bone density is the amount of mineral matter that’s contained in your bones. And the good news is that running increases it. The areas most affected are the tibias (shin bones) femurs (upper leg bones), hip and spine. Research has shown that bone density decreases with immobility.
“A normal, healthy person should see an increase of around 2-4 percent bone density from regular running (around 10-20k per week) over a six-month period. Athletes can have bone densities of up to 20 percent more than the average person. But, the key is not to over do it, as you’re likely to suffer a training set back or injury if you do.”
RUN TO… Tone up
Blasting fat is one thing, but toning up has to be the greater aim for the more discerning fitness-gal. Whether it’s bingo-wing-paranoia or wobbly-thigh-induced-depression, running’s your solution.
Running specialist Lee Saxby (vivobarefoot.com/uk), tells us: “Humans were literally born to run and our unique anatomical and metabolic structure has been formed over two million years of upright, bipedal running. Consequently, the best way to tone up your body, especially the stubborn abdominal and gluteal areas, is running, because these muscle groups have evolved specifically to cope with the loading forces generated when you run.
Lee says jogging or walking are other, but slower, ways to tone: “Walking or jogging slowly do not stimulate the metabolism or the anatomy as much as running, so they have to be performed for a longer duration to achieve an equivalent toning effect.”
RUN TO… Achieve your goals
Sometimes you can just tread water when it comes to training, which can lead to a fitness plateau. But, there’s nothing like committing to an event to focus your mind and increase motivation.
Personal trainer Tom Marien (oneelement.co.uk), says: “To ensure goals are successfully realised, they must be both achievable and realistic. Visualisation is a brilliant tool for motivation and should be used for both working towards and achieving your goals. I ask people to see themselves training, picturing the colour of the grass, imagining people that will be there and visualising the feeling of training hard and enjoying it. It can also help to make the goals public by sharing them with friends.
“Speed is another factor that can improve your fitness results. I use 100m sprint-based sessions, where clients are given a minute to sprint 100m then take the remainder of the minute to rest; the faster they run the longer the rest.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Running Can Improve Lymph System Function: You might not know what the lymph system is, but you’ve probably experienced swollen glands when you’re ill; that’s the lymph system – well, a part of it. The whole structure is made up of a network of organs, fluid, vessels and ducts that run all over your body. It’s vital for your immune system, as the lymph fluid circulates infection-fighting white blood cells, helping you to avoid illness.
The lymph system is smart, but it doesn’t have its own pump. Stimulating it via cardio exercise, such as running can increase its performance by up to 30 percent, meaning you’re less likely to come down with illnesses in the long term, meaning less time off training – it’s a win-win!}