I was recently asked why my "25 Rules for Good Health" doesn't include any rules on running? first, let me tell you that I love running. I believe that it is one of the best things to do to keep in shape. There is nothing like the runner's high you get after a work-out or a big race. I was a runner in my mid to late 30's. I would still be running if not for the wear and tear on my body. A lot of this was caused not by running, but by other factors such as my size and weight, over training not strengthening my muscles, and not having proper form. God bless the runners whose bodies can take the stress. When I go on my morning walks with my dog there is a man in his 70's or 80's. It's hard to tell his exact age because he's in great shape. He runs every day. From watching him I can see that his mile splits are still good at between 10 and 12 minutes. Studies have shown that as we get older running is one of the best ways to slow the aging process. After age fifty it has been found that runners have fewer disabilities, a larger span of active life, and a reduced risk of early death. The key words are "active life." I've know people who lived to be a hundred, but the quality of their lives over the last twenty years was poor. They were often sick, had limited mobility and spent the last few years of their lives being cared for in nursing homes. Sometimes the quality of life, and how active you are as you get older are what's important.
I didn't include running specifically in my rules because some people through disabilities or other factors cannot run. Some of us as we age aren't lucky enough to be able to keep running. Many people have taken up lower impact, aerobic exercises such as swimming or biking. My knees are feeling better since I started building muscle strength in my legs to give them more support. If I can lose 20-30 more pounds and reach my target weight, I may give running another try. My 25 rules are meant to be a starting point and a guide. Rule #12 says "walk before you run". The goal is to start slow, take small steps, improve your health and then if you can, start a running program.
There are many benefits to running which you can attain at any age, including:
1. Weight loss as well as maintaining your current weight. Running is one of the best fat burning aerobic exercises. It also helps to boost your metabolism and lessen your appetite.
2. Prevents Muscle and Bone loss. As we age, unless we exercise we will lose muscle and bone mass. We can slow and reverse this process. Any weight bearing exercise such as running along with weight training will increase our bone density as well as our lean muscle mass.
3. Helps fight disease. By strengthening the heart and lowering blood pressure, running helps to reduce the risk of stroke and heart attacks. It also helps with the early stages of osteoporosis, diabetes and hypertension.
4. Helps to maintain and improve overall health.. The healthier you are the better your body is able to fight off illnesses and diseases. Running also helps to raise the levels of good HDL cholesterol, improves lung capacity and function, reduces the risk of blood clots, and boosts our bodies immune system.
5. Psychological benefits. We've all heard of the "runners high." This is a feeling of euphoria or happiness caused by a release of hormones called endorphins which our bodies produce during exercise. Running can not only relieve stress, but improve our overall mood. Running has often been used as a therapy for those who are clinically depressed.
There are other benefits, including: Stress relief, the building of confidence and self esteem, learn to focus by training your mind, and the improvement of coordination.
The secret being a successful runner is to remember a few simple things.
1. Relax and have fun.
2. Start slow (remember everything in baby steps).
3. Combine weight training to help support your joints.
4. Know your body. Train hard, but slow down when needed.
5. Learn to breath properly.
6. Vary your distances and speeds. Use interval training as well as distance running.
7. Eat right.
9. Pain is a signal to slow down.
10. Run not only alone, but with others.
Here's a little bit about my running days. I loved running, trained hard and ran in many races. I had some talent, But have always been a big man with big bones and a fair amount of muscle mass. All my races were run at a weight of between 205 and 215 pounds. Being 6' 1" you can see that I was a little bit stocky.
Over a three year period I ran over 50 races. The other day while rummaging through some of my old things I came across a chart with my races run and times. Here are my best times for each race.
* Remember, I was running these races at a weight over 200 pounds. Actually some of my times were decent.
1 Mile: 5:18
5 Miles: 32:54
9 Miles: 63:52
10 Miles 71:12
Half Marathon: 1:39:23
Here's a little insight on some of these races. The 1 mile run was in a race called the Spooky Sprint. in York Pennsylvania. It was a race run before a Halloween parade in front of almost twenty thousand people. It was run at night on a slightly downhill course, in cool weather. I might have run a little faster, but I missed the 3/4 mile mark which had someone yelling the time. I came around the last corner with plenty to give figuring I had a quarter mile to go.
The 10 mile race actually had a division for people who weighted over 200 pounds. I weighed in at 208. It was called the McPortly competition. I passed a lot of heavy people. I came in third place and won 25 cents per pound in prize money.
The half-marathon was actually the longest race I ever ran. It was my absolute physical limit. To you people who can run marathons and ultra-marathons; I salute you. Keep up the good work. When I was running this half-marathon I actually pulled my hamstring at the 12 mile mark. All you runners know that I finished the race. After 12 miles of torture nothing would stop me. I hopped over most of that last 1.1 miles.
To all you runners. Keep running. Keep coming back to my site, and in the comments tell me about some of your races. Maybe I can reminisce. Hopefully I can get back on the road again.