Workout Wednesdays: Running 101

Exeposé Lifestyle online (23 October 2013)

The words “going for a run” seem doomed to spark terror into the hearts of most students. However, despite the negative connotations, running is a highly effective way of improving fitness levels, burning calories and gaining muscle tone. And it’s not all about the health benefits! This homage to running aims to spell out the many reasons for getting out there and pounding the pavements on chilly Exeter mornings, and to persuade would-be fitness fanatics that getting started really isn’t as daunting as it seems (promise!).

The Benefits of Running:

1. Improving health and fitness.

Ok, so this is a bit of an obvious one. As with most forms of aerobic exercise, running is a great way of improving heart health, reducing risk of heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure. On top of this, regular workouts of the muscles and bones reduce their weakening with age, meaning you’re less likely to suffer with osteoporosis. Running also boosts the immune system (good for fending off that infamous Freshers’ Flu).

2. Faster metabolism

Even more excitingly, the increase in lean muscle as a result of regular running speeds up the metabolism, meaning your body uses more calories even when at rest. So basically, you can eat more without putting on weight – magic!

3. Good mood booster

Good news; the advantages of running don’t end with fitness improvements! Let’s start with mood. That pumped-up feeling at the end of a sprint finish isn’t all psychological – running releases endorphins (feel-good hormones), which create a sense of exhilaration and well-being. Running is said to make for happier, more relaxed individuals; studies have also indicated that running promotes longer and more restful sleep, and can reduce anxiety.

Even more promising for us students, the improvements in circulation mean nutrients are transported around the system and waste products flushed out more efficiently, leading to clearer skin (yay!).

4. It gets you out and about

Most Freshers reading this will appreciate the total fish-out-of-water feeling of being in an entirely new city, without the slightest clue where anything is. However, personal experience over the past few weeks has taught me that venturing out on a few jogs towards the centre of town has given me a definite advantage over my flatmates when it comes to drunkenly deciding the way to the taxi rank after a night out, or locating Topshop on a Saturday shopping trip. Getting to know the city also helps with that dreaded homesickness; mastering the roads simply makes you feel more at home in a new city!

5. It gets you motivated

Going out for a brisk jog in the morning means you’re out and about, and ready for the day ahead – definitely preferable to rolling out of bed 10 minutes before that lecture and spending the morning in a bleary-eyed daze, no? It’s amazing how much more awake and “In the zone” you feel after a good run.

6. Set your own goals!

One of the really liberating things about running is that you’re the one leading the class! Running is a way to do exactly how much you want to do, and as often as you want to. And the beauty of it is that it really is limitless! Download an app for your smartphone – I would recommend Strava Run, or Nike+ – and you can plan your routes, track your progress, and compete with other runners in the area. Once you see those kilometres stacking up, the self-esteem and motivation really begins to shoot skywards. Seeing exactly where you have run on the map also allows you to plan your next route to go that little bit further next time, and further… your only limit is your energy levels! (and the number of hours before that next lecture).

7. I ❤ Me

This leads me perfectly on to my last effort to nudge readers into those running shoes. Because there aren’t many feelings quite like the sense of achievement and exhilaration when you reach a goal you have set yourself. Whether it’s running 10 minutes without stopping, accomplishing a sub-hour 10K, or reaching a distance you never thought you’d be able to, the boost in self-confidence remains with you long after that rewarding post-run shower (and cake). And there really is no need for expensive equipment or specialist training – a decent pair of running shoes and a desire to improve your fitness are all you need to crack on and get out there. You’ll almost definitely surprise yourself!

Things to Consider

As with all aerobic exercises, warming up and cooling down properly are essential to prevent muscle damage and injury – have a look online for some good stretches to reduce those aches and pains the day after. It’s also important to keep energy levels up – going for regular runs will mean your body’s calorie requirements will increase, so upping your intake is vital if you don’t want your weight to decrease. Again, the internet offers a wealth of information on nutrition for runners, but if in doubt, speak to your GP. And of course, don’t overdo it! Overworking your body can lead to muscle damage. Crank up the pace and distance at a rate your body can cope with, and if your legs are screaming at you to stay put one morning, there’s no shame in giving yourself a break!

Finally, this may sound silly, but be careful when planning routes:

• Avoid running alone in secluded areas

• Always stick to well-lit routes when it’s getting dark

• Always tell someone where you’re going and give a rough idea of when you’ll be back

• It’s wise to carry a phone on you, as well as some cash, in case of emergencies

Apart from that, you’re good to go!

Image: Pixabay

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