Yes, running for exercise will give you a rockin’ body. Running has many amazing and obvious benefits like improving cardiovascular health, blasting calories, helping to maintain a healthy weight and raising endorphin levels. Running will no doubt help you fit into your skinny jeans.
However, during my years as a runner I’ve discovered 10 TOTALLY UNEXPECTED ways that running improved my life.
1. You will experience peace and quiet.
I love running by myself. No kids or spouse to nag me. No urgent business or household chores to attend to. I am blissfully alone with my thoughts and hopes and daydreams. I can brainstorm and plan and problem-solve with no interruptions. For a mom this quiet time is a little piece of heaven!
2. You will experience the wonders of nature.
I’m not an outdoorsy girl, so running forces me out of the house and into the sunshine. Actually it forced me to endure weather conditions of all sorts. Brutal winds (always in my face, mind you!), rain, snow and sleet. Without running I probably wouldn’t be aware of the subtle changes in seasons, the smell of blooming trees, the shadows the sun creates on the pavement as it crosses the sky. Only a group run or a race on my calendar could drag me out of bed to witness the sun peeking over the horizon at the crack of dawn.
3. You can choose your own playlist.
There is nothing better than plugging in my earphones and rocking out to my favorite tunes. At home my background music is either the hubbie’s TV or the sounds of the kids’ video games. Running is time for me and MY music. Creating playlists for runs and races is one way to hear those guilty pleasure songs that I would never admit to listening to!
4. You will conquer your fears.
Being a runner forced me to conquer some of my biggest fears. I really dislike driving to new places because I always get lost (yes, even with a GPS), but I had to woman up to find my way to group runs and races. Before my first 10 mile run I was absolutely terrified of running that distance (it seemed so FAR), and I experienced the same terror with my first 20 miler and full marathon. But I survived. Running has given me many opportunities to face my fears and become a stronger person.
5. You will experience wildlife up close and personal.
Like it or not, running outdoors offers a variety of interesting animal encounters. Deer, squirrels, birds, dogs, cats, geese (ever dodge goose poop??), bunnies, wild turkeys, grasshoppers, turtles, bugs of all sorts and, oh yeah, skunks.
|Mr. Skunk was less than four feet away from me on a narrow path in Oceanside, California. Scared the crap out of me!|
6. You will have opportunities to travel and explore the world.
Running has allowed me to explore new neighborhoods and cities. I’ve drooled over mansions in expensive neighborhoods and I’ve run past homeless men sleeping in the streets. I’ve run the Las Vegas Strip and a beautiful biking trail in California. I’ve jogged through streets and parks in Ohio, Missouri and Kansas. Running offers a unique perspective because you are traveling sloooowly through an area. Running gives you lots of opportunities to reflect on unique sights you might otherwise miss.
7. You will experience guilt-free eating.
A foodie at heart, one of the biggest perks of running is deciding what I will eat to refuel afterward! Whether it is barbecue after a half marathon, or a greasy (and delicious) McDonald’s bacon egg & cheese biscuit after a long run, it is always a pleasure to enjoy my food totally guilt-free! Indulge a little too much? Just go run a 10k and knock those extra calories to the curb.
8. You will make new friendships and receive free therapy!
Chatting with friends, old and new, on training runs is great therapy. You will be amazed at the personal topics you will cover on a long run! You will meet lots of like-minded running souls through group runs, in clubs and at races. You’ll find new running friends on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Running friendships, and the therapeutic conversations you’ll have, are to be treasured.
9. You will experience the joys of racing.
After my first 5k I was hooked. Whether you race for fun or competitively, it is an amazing experience. I had more than one occasion of crossing a finish line in tears because I felt, for the first time in my life, like an athlete. Racing will challenge your body and your spirit. Oh, and collecting medals is fun too!
|I love adding to my collection of medals!|
10. You will gain immense personal pride.
There is a feeling of accomplishment after completing ANY run, whether it was effortless or whether it was a struggle. I went from unable to walk to the mailbox without huffing and puffing, to running crazy long distances. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever predict I would become a marathoner. There is unparalleled satisfaction in saying “I’ve run 26.2 miles.” Running will give you an incredible sense of personal pride. Running will challenge you and reveal your inner strength.
Running has been an incredible blessing in my life. Sadly that chapter most likely is over (due to bone-on-bone arthritis which is a story for another day), and that fact depresses me to no end. Still, I am able to be active in other ways. I can rock a kettlebell workout, kickbox and bench press. However, I’ll always be a runner at heart and though I may not run for chocolate anymore, I’ll workout in other ways for chocolate (ha!) and I will choose to be thankful for the time I spent as a runner and for my ability to be physically active.