There’s nothing more annoying than a smug runner preaching about how the benefits of running, but here goes…
I’m a fair-weather runner for sure. I would watch with admiration and horror as the truly hardcore donned their winter gear and hit the streets in the icy, subzero Chicago winter to get in a morning run. Doing that always felt like some form of torture to me, and I could never bring myself to get up before work in the freaking dark and head outside for some exercise. I’d resign myself to weekend walks and that was pretty much it until the snow finally melted and the days got longer.
My new California life has eliminated snow and ice as an obstacle to running (yay!), and I’ve been doing it consistently for quite some time now. For me, it’s perhaps the most important key to productivity and overall well-being. Here’s why:
#1 – Running Helps with Mental Clarity and Focus
For me, the mental benefits of running kick in about 10 minutes into my workout. I start to feel that blood pumping and those voices flowing, and it feels like my brain moves up a couple of levels in clarity. The colors outside seem brighter, and all those little to-do list items that had been gnawing at the edge of my consciousness fade into he background.
I know that I am calmer, make better decisions, and think better when I run. This effect lasts both during and for hours after my run, and when I’m in a consistent groove of daily running, it basically lasts all day.
#2 – Running Connects Me with the Outdoors
I love being outdoors, and I love doing long walks. Running outside for me connects me with nature and the elements. I don’t mind if it’s raining or windy (just no snow please!). I feel more rooted on planet Earth when I get out and go for a run. I know that sounds hippy-dippy, but hey, I’m living in San Francisco now! What do you expect?
I get super antsy when cooped up inside. I’ve always been that way. Looking out the window is a mild form of torture for me. Getting out in the elements soothes that restless part of my soul.
#3 – Running Leads to Better Sleep
My sleep is deeper and more rejuvenating when I get regular physical exercise. It’s another one of those things that I don’t necessarily notice all the time, but when I’m running consistently I fall asleep earlier and sleep more soundly.
#4 – I Make Better Food Choices When I Run
I crave junk food less when I’m working out. Isn’t that strange? That regular physical activity makes me more in tune with what food will really sustain me. I’m much less likely to pig out on pizza when I know that I’ll be running later. That “healthy food” switch in my brain gets flipped off if I’m not working out regularly, and I find myself eating without thinking, noshing on bags of chips and cookies. I’m much less likely to do that when regularly running.
#5 – Running Promotes Idea Synthesis
I love working on some project for a few hours in the morning and then heading out for a run. About ten minutes in, I start to feel ideas click together in interesting ways. Some of my most creative moments in life come about halfway into a run. While I typically listen to music when running, I’ve actually started to turn the music off about halfway through and let my mind wander. At least half of the time, I come home with the solution to a problem on which I’ve been gnawing.
#6 – Running Contributes to My Overall Well-Being
When I quit running of ran extended period of time, I forget just how much better I feel overall when I’m doing it. Those Chicago winters were a great example—it was so stupidly painful to go outside, and after a few days of not running I’d slide back into non-workout life.
When I’m regularly running, my joints feel better, my mood is lighter, problems in my life seem more manageable, and I’m more likely to smile. It one heck of a mood balancer for me. My energy level is higher overall and lasts throughout the day.
#7 – Running Gives Me Big-Picture Perspective
I tend to be more of a Type A personality, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Running is great for helping me to ease off on the emotional gas pedal and put things in perspective. I see a few extra miles down the road after a good run.
#8 – Running Promotes a Feeling of Being in Control
I put myself in the driver’s seat of my life when running. It feels good to do something proactive, and it gets me making more proactive decisions in general. It helps to keep me from feeling overwhelmed when life gets insane.
Do you run? If so, does this resonate with you? If not, is here something that works in a similar way to keep you sharp and focused? Let me know!