Thursday, May 7, 2009

Running—Does a Body (and Mind) Good

I've been running for a long time now. Why did I start? I guess at first it was for the physical reasons—kept me lean and was good cardio. Also, because it was cheap! As a college kid, I didn't have tons of money at my disposal, and all I needed to run was a pair of running shoes (back then they didn't cost $100+), some shorts, and a T-shirt. So I ran. Wasn't very good, but I started to see the positive physical effects. I was toning up, my endurance was building, and I had more energy in my everyday life. I was hooked. 5 and 10Ks were weekend staples (back then race registration was only $10-$15 including the T-shirt). Never placed, and was always at the back of the mid-pack, but I loved it!

Beyond the physical benefits, for the first time I felt a part of something, something pretty cool—the running community. No matter what your level, if you run, you're a runner, and you're accepted. I can't remember which elite marathon runner said it, but what he said has stuck with me over the years. He said that he had the upmost respect for the everyday runner who takes 5 hours to complete a marathon. He couldn't image the commitment and endurance it took to run for that long. That kind of mutual respect is what abounds with runners. No matter the level, you can relate to (at least on some level) what the other runner (novice or elite) is going through.

If you've been running for any length of time, you've probably realized that running provides much more than just the physical benefits. Once you get past that initial pain of getting your body used to running, you begin to realize the mental benefits of the sport. What other sport allows you time to reflect, think, dream, and/or meditate all in a 30-minute run? I use my runs to clear my head, work through problems, ponder the future, or just appreciate the beauty that surrounds me on many of my running routes. A lot of old baggage is left on the trail after one of my runs. My load is lightened and I feel refreshed. Ironic, huh? To feel refreshed when I'm soaking wet, smelly, and salt incrusted, but that's exactly what I am. I also feel a sense of accomplishment, not only for the physical exercise, but for the decisions I've made, plans I've worked out, ideas I've thought through, or problems I've solved.

Not only can you use the mental side of running to achieve your own personal state of Zen, you can also use it to improve your running. Most of us probably aren't going to be elite runners winning Boston or Chicago, but we all can improve. Many of the limitations we have as runners are self-imposed. We think we can't so we don't. One thing running has done for me is build confidence. This confidence has helped me achieve things in running I thought I never would like achieving a sub 20-minute 5K at 42 years old! That same year I set a PR for a half marathon at 1:30:47. That's no world record by any means, but it showed me that if you believe in yourself and trust your training, you can achieve goals you once thought were unattainable.

Running can definitely help you push through those self-imposed barriers. The confidence that running provides can also spill over into other areas of your life—family, work, school. There are lots of books available that teach you how to run or train for specific races, but if you look hard you can also find some great books that help you understand and benefit from the mind-body-spirit connection that running can provide. Listed below are some of the books I highly recommend:

Running Within by Jerry Lynch and Warren Scott—A guide to mastering the body-mind-spirit connection to the ultimate training and racing.

Once a Runner by John Parker—"Perhaps the best novel ever written about running. There are parts of Once a Runner that are pure poetry. I have never read descriptions of what it is to run and race as accurate and compelling as Parker's."—Tom Jordan, Track & Field News

The Runner's Guide to the Meaning of Life by Amby Burfoot—The author shares what 35 years of running has taught him about winning, losing, happiness, humility, and the human heart.

Running The Spiritual Path by Roger D. Joslin—A runner's guide to breathing, meditating, and exploring the prayerful dimension of the sport.

Running - The Sacred Art: Preparing to Practice by Warren A. Kay—The author takes you on an exploration of an often-overlooked facet of the sport: running as an intentional spiritual practice.

Running With the Buffaloes by Chris Lear—A season inside with Mark Wetmore, Adam Goucher, and the University of Colorado men's cross-country team

Brain Training for Runners by Matt Fitzgerald—A revolutionary new training system to improve endurance, speed, health, and results.


Running Through Life said...

Runner Dude,

Thanks for the book list. I just printed it off and will be heading to the library soon.


Unknown said...

I too am printing off this list and heading to the bookstore! Thanks for sharing.

Marci said...

I have seen Once A Runner sitting there at the local bookstore... and now after reading your post... will definitely have to pick it up and read it!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Running Through Life and Amanda! Let me know which ones ya'll end up reading. They're all good.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Untpawgal02! Once a Runner has become a cult classic with runners. It was originally published in a very small quantity back in 1978. It became so popular but hard to find, I saw one for sale on Amazon a few years back for $100! Luckily they just recently republished it so we can all get a copy! That books is actually a novel, but it's great!

Trish said...

Hey there, just found your blog and love your honesty about your running. I too am a life long lover of running, nothing else compares to it. Still love to race

Jessica Lane said...

Well said, Runner Dude. Everything that you mentioned about running I thought, "Yeah! That's why I run too!" And you're very right about the running community. No matter what your pace is, everyone is a runner and EVERYONE is accepted. That's why I love it! Kudos to getting out there and just running. Also, congrats on shaving time off of your races. I need to gain some speed. Good post!

RunnerDude said...

Thanks Trish! Enjoyed reading your blog too. Congrats on the Master's Degree!!!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Jessica Lane! Thanks for the support! I'm enjoying reading your blog as well. Sorry about your cups.

DNLeeper said...

Wow. Thad, this entry on your BLOG was probably the best yet. Well, other than the piece on me. But, seriously, very strong message in that one. The respect that everyone has for each other is unreal - and I respect HIGHLY those people that go out there and run the 5-6 hour marathons. I was one of them at one time... and, as we all know, the marathon is "typically" the easy part - its the training to get there that is the challenge.

RunnerDude said...

Hey DNLeeper! Thanks Neal! Glad the posting hit home for you. You're the inspiration though. Unbelievable how far you've come with your running in such a short amount of time!

Ms. V. said...

Great list!!

I love The Quotable Runner too. Very handy before a race.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Ms. V.! How could I forget The Quotable Runner?! Thanks for the reminder!!