By David Nogel: I.S.S.A. Certified Personal Trainer, I.S.S.A. Certified Nutrition Coach, Runner
One may find it interesting that so many people love running as much as they do. While many people are trying to find any reason to be motivated to get exercise or movement at all, there are hundreds of people running on their own free will. Some runners will go three days a week, some four, some even run every day. So what is it about the sport (or hobby) of running that gets people so hooked? Most would consider running a rather uncomfortable activity, especially for those new to it. There must be some rewarding factor that leads to hundreds of road races run every year, with activity and an avid community in just about every city. The answer can become rather subjective as many people have varying reasons for doing so.
When people start running early on, a couple common reasons include trying to get healthier, and for the sake of competition. The health aspects are a very common reason for people to get into running, and require little explaining. Running is the exercise with the fastest rate of weight loss, has massive aerobic benefits, and drastically decreases the risk of heart disease and various cancers. With that said, most of the younger crowd of runners comes from a more competitive mindset. While early in life, many kids are concerned minimally about specific issues concerning health. Joining track or cross country is often a way that kids express their competitive spirit. For anyone who has experienced joining a running team, especially out of competitive nature, it can be a very humbling experience. While one may advance to the next level of education ( and therefore competition), they’ll be hit with a barrage of faster runners in a far more competitive environment. This- in a hurry- can make a runner realize that there’s always a bigger fish in the water, and a faster runner on the track. Countless runners go from running at the front of every race, to forgetting what it feels like to win. This can leave this runner in search of the reason they started in the first place, or rather, a reason to continue. However, for as many runners quit, more and more will continue to run.
After running for some time, runners may discover other, deeper reasons to continue running. Many realize the benefits of running as a means of mental health. It feels good to stay grounded, to be outside, or to just explore. Sometimes, running just feels good. There is science to back that too. Running is a stressor that helps our mind learn to cope with stressors in our day to day life. Running helps regulate hormones too in doing that, and by maintaining a healthy weight, our brain function is better. Another benefit to running often is a development of discipline. Remember the statement about runners running every day? Well, believe it or not, very few of those daily runners actually enjoy the run every day. Many enjoy it half the time, some enjoy it 90% of the time, maybe even 99% of the time. Very few runners will never have that off day where they just don’t want to get out and move. When motivation isn’t there, discipline is the deciding factor. Many runners discover that those days when you just don’t want to go- maybe even “can’t” in your own mind- those are the days that create breakthroughs. If you can break through that wall and get out and do that run, that’s where magic happens. A lot of people discover that, and that level of investment within themselves. That consistent self improvement is worth the effort. The feeling of accomplishing something you never thought possible is unmatched.
After years of improvement, we often need to look for what other reasons are out there. After all, it’s impossible to improve forever. Yet, any open running event will be full of dedicated masters athletes of all levels. What keeps these people running, at times active in the sport for 40+ years?
As runners, we don’t always even know what keeps us running. It could be the community. Countless friendships come from the sport. If you’ve ever done your local 5k, you’ll know that the last people to get across the line get just as much support as the first. It is by far the most welcoming and peaceful sport of any- especially over team sports. In team sport the hope is to have a good day, and for the opposing team to have a bad day. In running, you typically want everybody to have a good day. You just want to have the best one!
Running is even deeper than that for some people. It can almost be spiritual. The greatest way to find balance. A balance of order and logic, yet unpredictability and chaos. Running has countless reasons for its massive presence. What’s your reason for running?
Photo by: Ketut Subiyanto, obtained by Pexels.com