Why Going on a Run Can be Fun! (& Beneficial)

When you think of running, do you imagine sweat, pain, exhaustion, and overall misery? Yeah, I used to think running was all of that, but ten times worse. Believe me, I was the last person who had any personal strength and discipline to actually get dressed and go on a casual run.

Then, I decided spontaneously to enter the “running realm” and join my high school’s cross country team. Pretty bold move if I do say so myself. But, it’s true!

While I had grown up in various athletic programs, running was my least favorite thing. I had formed this association with running as a punishment. I mean, isn’t that true for a lot of young athletes? You run sprints when you aren’t paying attention to soccer practice. You run a mile in gym class for fitness tests. You run suicides in basketball when you perform poorly during a game.

So, it’s not all that surprising that so many people have just adapted to classifying running as this painful, potentially punishing, activity.

I urge you to change this association and give running a try. If you think I’m just one of those crazy people who treat running like a cult– please push those thoughts aside and go for a jog. It has so many benefits and can actually be pretty fun!

Personally, I think there is no better feeling than when you finish a run. It doesn’t have to be a super long, competitive race. It doesn’t even have to be your personal best time. Each time I finish any form of running I feel like I have completed a huge accomplishment and can conquer the world. It’s literally that powerful.

For sure, I have had some bad runs where I feel like I’m literally dying and each step I take is just as dreadful as the last. Sometimes I want to quit when breathing is unbearably heavy and my legs feel like lead.

Nonetheless, I run because of the finish. Because of the feeling of pure accomplishment and empowerment.

The physical benefits of running are pretty much a given. But, did you know running is also proven to be great for mental health?

Running can help alleviate anxiety, decrease symptoms of depression, and even aid those who struggle with substance abuse. Studies have shown that running and other forms of aerobic exercise can be as effective, if not more, as medication for mental health-related conditions.

Often times people will use the term “runner’s high”, and honestly it’s pretty accurate to describe the sensations of running. Running not only releases endorphins, which are chemicals of the nervous system that relieves stress and pain, but also endocannabinoids. David of Raichlen, Ph.D at the University of Arizona studied endocannabinoids which are the “substances that bind to the same receptors in the brain as THC, the primary substance responsible for a marijuana high”. Raichlen concluded that a similar release of endocannabinoids coincides with running as well. Therefore, it is safe to say that this "runner's high" is somewhat comparable to that of a marijuana high, even if just for the short-term.

Personally, one of the biggest benefits of running, for me, is the confidence boost. When I’m in a good routine of running, I feel a lot better about myself. I prefer to schedule my runs in the morning and start a fresh, new day with productivity. Then, throughout my day every accomplishment seems to pile on top of my greatest, earliest one.

After a run, I have so much self-pride that I feel the urge to tell absolutely everyone about my running! I contain so much confidence that it radiates and I truly feel on top of the world.

One of my old cross country coaches used to ask the team to say to ourselves during our tough runs and races, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

While this phrase is from a children’s book about a little engine, it really applied to not only my running but the rest of my life. I found myself running up tough hills, through intense heat, and challenging courses with the little voice in my head preaching “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” and although it may seem a little strange, it really pushed myself beyond belief.

I find myself in other events through the challenge of life telling myself the same exact thing. Sometimes I’m overloaded with so much stress, worry, and self-doubt. Sometimes I have temptations of quitting my commitments, schoolwork, etc. But I find that little voice and I use it, in all situations.

That little voice not only gets me through those hard runs but all the hardships that I face with intense confidence. And I credit running for that, completely.

Although I pushed it aside earlier, physical health is an immensely important benefit of running. Harvard Health Publishing announced that those who run on a regular basis have higher chances of a longer life. Even just “five to 10 minutes a day of low-intensity running is enough to extend life by several years” as stated in their report.

Being a runner doesn’t mean you have to be a marathon competing, crazy dieting, star athlete. Being a runner means you take the time out of your life to run at a pace that is good for you.

Anyone can do it, even me, someone who used to gag at the thought of getting out of bed and going on a quick jog. Now, I’m the girl who gets ready at the crack of dawn during my summer vacation to go for a run before the rest of the town even wakes up. It’s definitely been a long, hard journey, but one that is so worth it.

So lace up your sneakers, put on your workout outfit - let’s go for a run!

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