Running has always been my choice for a good cardio workout. I feel like I get my entire body moving, not to mention the delicious endorphins that put me in a state of euphoria, known as “the runner’s high”. I felt great today after completing my 10-mile run.
Running is a great form of exercise for physical and mental wellness. Physically, it is an excellent way to lose weight, build muscle mass and strong bones, when coupled with a healthy diet. It works almost every muscle in your body below your face (unless, of course, you are cringing the whole time!) and gives you maximum return on calories expended (roughly 500/per hour depending on your weight). Running helps to lower blood pressure and improve the elasticity of your blood vessels, including those in your heart. Psychologically, it allows stress reduction, increased happiness, relaxation, and better sleep. It helps you build willpower, perseverence, and consistency in your goal setting – qualities that you can definitely carryover to the rest of your life. You can read more about all the benefits in Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running, by Danny and Katherine Dreyer.
Running is also a relatively inexpensive means of exercising. After all, the only thing you need is the beautiful nature outside your door and a pair of sneakers……or do you? The latest hype in the runner’s world is barefoot running, a concept I’m a bit skeptical about. The latest research, conducted by Daniel Lieberman, Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard, took a population of runners from the US and Kenya and identified different running patterns. Lieberman and his colleagues found that those people who ran with shoes landed on their heel first, putting a greater load through their bodies, thereby increasing risk of injury. Those that ran barefoot, landed on their mid-forefoot first, allowing for better agility and shock absorbance. I’ve had many people ask me my thoughts on this, and I think more research is needed – especially, to include people like myself, who have no foot arch and, thus, severly pronate (inward-rolling ankles). I don’t think I could run without my orthotics supporting my arch and placing my lower body in adequate biomechanical alignment. For me, I am still able to land on my midfoot by tilting my body slightly forward when I run. I do, however, have friends who have bought the new “barefoot running shoe” and claim it is great. They report a lighter feel to each step, as though they are gliding over the pavement. Bottom line – see if you can borrow a pair of these “barefoot” covers and try them on a treadmill before making the big purchase! Also, you would want to know how much cushion each specific one has, especially if you’re a trail runner.
Shoes or no shoes, I still think running is a wonderful way to build stamina – physically and mentally, on and off the course. I’ll be participating in the Disney Princess 1/2 marathon in Orlando in two weeks. See you there – I’ll be the one with sneakers on!
Deepali’s piece of wellness: whether you run, jog, or walk, fill your wellness quotient by doing at least 30 min of aerobic activity/day. You will reap more benefits than just having a fit body!