We all like to run for our own reasons, some like the challenge of pushing themselves to achieve another goal of increased distance. Some have taken up running to get themselves to a better place physically. Some to lose unwanted pounds. Some to run just because people who know them think its completely out of character of the “couch-potato” they used to be. Others who want to become one with the road, or trail as they climb over that next rise.
Whatever motivated you to begin running, it doesn’t really matter, does it? You just run, because that’s what a runner does, maybe not every day but 2-3 times a week is about the norm for a dedicated person who laces up their shoes, grab an easy to carry Water Bottle to stay hydrated, and heads out for a run. There is just something about getting in that zone that seems to wrap around you as you focus on the simple task of putting one foot in front of the other in a measured cadence that your body adapts so seamlessly.
But did you know that running on a regular basis can help with one’s ability to focus, vanquish stress and help improve your mood or even your outlook on life? It may seem obvious, to those that run on a regular basis that as you push on through a long run, you find yourself veering between sensations of agony and elation, that running can have a huge effect on your state of mind has been studied to see how the combination of physical, strenuous activity, can provide a catalyst that creates a euphoric state of mind. Now, this is not just one runner’s opinion shared with another. There is a new study, conducted by West Michigan University, that shows that running quickly for half an hour improves “cortical flicker frequency” threshold. This is linked to the ability to better process information.
Keeping yourself on track as you tackle your training runs is important. After all, each run is part of the overall goal you’ve set for yourself to achieve. Monitoring your steps to completing each run and knowing just how well your doing can go a long way to your meeting your current goals and then providing the right motivation to set new ones. One that is part of my skin that never leaves my wrist is the Garmin Forerunner 235 GPS Running Watch. With the built-in, accurate GPS functionality that Garmin has excelled in since the 1990’s, along with the cutting edge Strapless Heart Rate monitoring functionality, the Garmin Forerunner 235 is made for any runner looking for valuable feedback during a run or post run in order to stay on track of their progress.
Two other studies, one from the Lithuanian Sports University and the other from the Nottingham Trent University, show that interval running improves aspects of “executive function”. This includes the ability to marshal attention, tune out distractions, switch between tasks and solve problems.
Among the young people studied, measurable gains were clear immediately after 10 minutes of interval sprints. They also accumulated after seven weeks of training.
A study led by University of Arizona’s Professor David Raichlen ties in with these results: there were clear differences in brain activity in serious runners, compared with well-matched non-runners. Prof Raichlen’s was a preliminary study, but if corroborated in the future, it will lend fresh weight to the idea that running can be a form of moving mindfulness meditation.
Brain scans show that meditation and running can have a somewhat similar effect on the brain; simultaneously engaging executive functions and turning down the chatter of the default mode network. Again, this seems intuitively right: in the midst of a run, you are likely tuned into your bodily state, and conscious of your breath. These are all key aims of mindfulness-based practices.
Lacing up your shoes and going for a run could, therefore, be a way to reap some of the psychological benefits of mindfulness. All of this might start to explain why some people find that running, like mindfulness, can be a useful way to overcome stress and depression. This statement has been going around for a while now, “What you choose to do with your body will, inevitably, have psychological consequences.” If you think about it, this is a very true statement. After all, how many decisions have been made based on what you or your friends and family perceive when they look at you, at the shape your body’s in. After all, hasn’t that been a great definer on why a lot of people elect to lose weight, and some of those have found justification in the sport of running!
Running can do more for your mood than smooth out stress. Some lucky souls gloat about their experiences of the “runner’s high”, which, they claim, is a powerful feeling of ecstasy and invincibility. This has been the buzzword of exercise enthusiasts for the past several decades. To exercise, specifically running, even a brisk walk can provide you with that endorphin boost. Which for some is just the “kick” they need to keep lacing up their running shoes a couple of time each week.
So, there you have it. You always knew you just plain felt better after you accomplished your daily/weekly runs. That feeling of gratification that you succeeded can stay with you all day long and if cultivated a couple of time each week, should be just enough to help you get over the bumps that you may happen to run into over the course of your daily life.
So, if you happen to see me running up there ahead of you on the path, just know that I’ll probably have a nice smile on my face, enjoying the run!