The many benefits of running

As a form of exercise, running demands minimum effort but gives maximum returns

Running does not require any serious training and can be enjoyed indoors and outdoors practically without any equipment.

Right from the days of the Vedas till today, there is enough evidence to suggest that we all have a finite number of heartbeats. On a logarithmic scale of heart rate vs life expectancy for mammals, only humans are an aberration. Besides modern medicine, our ability to think in the abstract as well as analyse our surroundings has led to a higher life expectancy. 

We are a young population, given the age of the universe. The early years of our modern lives, we were into excesses. We wanted to enjoy larger homes, bigger cars, fatter wallets and trophy families. Gone are those days, we have woken up, albeit rudely, to a realisation that any further depletion of internal and external resources will lead to a swift extinction of our species.  

While delving into our footprint on the environment is meant for another day, what we have realised is that the mind and body also need to be nourished and exercised. This is not only to meet with the gruelling demands of our day but also to keep our mind away from the myriad distractions around us.

As a form of exercise, running is the most natural and easiest.  Like walking, it is an extension of one’s natural abilities.  It, per se, does not require any serious training and can be enjoyed indoors and outdoors practically without any equipment.  While any other sport requires you to have access to a pitch or court along with balls and rackets, running requires a pair of shoes, and sometimes not even those.

As with any exercise, running exercises your lungs, heart, legs, hips, shoulders and the core. Most people are under the impression that running is all about legs. Just like in a car, it is mostly the engine (heart) and then the wheels (legs), the same is true with running.  The biggest benefit goes to the heart. When you run, due to kinetic motion, you carry almost three times your body weight and hence all surrounding muscles are activated. The shoulders support your neck and prevent it from wobbling, the hips support the legs from impacting the wrong way and the core gets activated to balance the forward thrusting momentum. It is a complete exercise. As you run longer and faster, the lungs and heart get into a rhythm and just like a well-oiled machine, perform more efficiently. Those particular organs get better with practice and hence a runner is able to run even further and longer as he/she practises more.

With the heart pumping efficiently, your resting heart rate comes down. It is said that the legendary tennis player Bjorn Borg had a resting heart rate of 45 BPM.  Given the theory we spoke of earlier, you can imagine the increase in life expectancy of a heart pumping more efficiently. Most elite athletes have low resting heart rates.

Ease into it

The common mistake that we often make while taking up running is that we set very stiff targets for ourselves. Imagine, you have to cold start a car on a wintry morning after a month. Most likely the car won’t start. And if it will, the inside of the engine will be ruined due to lack of use. Similar to an engine, we have to warm up not only to each exercise routine but to a rigorous sport.

Our advice to novice runners is to start with something which is manageable. It can be as little as 100 metres, 2 mins, or even a combination of walking and running. As you get comfortable and better at smaller distances, you will be able to increase the distance. Trying to run a 5K from the word go is a recipe for disaster. It will leave you panting and demotivated. Joining a running group is a good motivator. There are several available across all cities in India. With like-minded and similar-fitness-level friends, one is able to easily get into a routine rhythm. Groups usually have established coaches who are able to monitor your run regime.

Running essentials

It is important to have a good pair of running shoes, especially shoes which can withstand the Indian road conditions. 50% of the runners get injured during running, thus selecting the right pair of shoes is of utmost importance. So, ensure that you try the shoes in store and maybe even walk with them for 5-10 mins. The shoes should have adequate cushioning, you should feel the cushion. They must be slightly loose in the front in order to allow your toes to wiggle and move while running. Stifling shoes will lead to blisters. Always try running shoes with the socks you would otherwise wear for running. Sports socks are thicker and will fit and feel different than formal socks.

Above all, while running, enjoy yourself. Soak in the morning sun, the cool weather, the peaceful roads, the lush gardens and your solitude. Running is a great way to discover new cities and disconnect from the modern trappings of technology.

(The authors are exclusive distributors of Brooks Running)

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The many benefits of running

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