Now that was many years ago and I can honestly say that I’ve had an off and on relationship with running ever since. However, lately it’s been one of the activities that I’ve come to value a great deal in my life, and today I’d like to share with you my 5 top reasons why.
1. Simply, because I can - Anyone who’s been through any type of surgery, lengthy illness, or major injury can perhaps relate to the feeling of having taken something for granted that was previously performed so automatically. Never a second thought about getting around with independence and ease, whether it be walking, running, or even driving, until it typically comes as a surprise out of nowhere that it’s no longer an option. However, once recovery is achieved there is no greater feeling than being able to return to doing something whenever and wherever you want, and if you’re really lucky, at whatever pace you want again. It really causes you to stop and view your freedom and mobility, among other things, in a bit of a different light.
2. For my mental health – Research, time and again, has revealed that running, along with other forms of exercise, promote physiological changes in your brain that include “neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain, that energize your spirits and make you feel good.” (1) I find it allows me time to recognize and process my triggers and stressors, and convert them into time spent re-fueling and healing through the self-care of a simple run. I’m also motivated knowing that running:
- releases hormones to elevate my mood
- increases my breathing rate which means increased oxygen supply to my “gray matter”
- is my chance to do something proactively to manage stress, anxiety and ward off the symptoms of depression beyond the dependence of medication alone
3. For my physical health - Working my way to 55 this coming year, I’ve become increasingly aware of the need for even more focused attention on my cardiovascular health. The fact that running, allows me the opportunity to take an active role in managing my:
- blood pressure
- and in reducing my chances of some forms of cancer,
4. To set an example – Who else can join me in saying that it’s not always easy to walk the talk, or in this case…the run. If you’ve ever tried to convince someone to stay healthy, while at the same time not putting in the best effort yourself, I can tell you that it just doesn’t work. Of course there will always be what might seem like more important things to do than getting out for a run, or for any other form of moderate to vigorous exercise for that matter, but as your children get older and you start to experience them following your lead, do as I say and not as I do just won’t cut it. While sometimes it can take a ton of effort both mentally and physically, being consistent with running has been something that’s helped me feel that I’m doing my best to be the change I would like to continue seeing in my family. Now one of the best things that has come about by putting in the extra effort, is that at some point a transition has taken place, and now my family has become my biggest source of support to help keep me accountable. When you eventually find your husband, who has never considered himself a runner, saying that he’s looking forward to our run at the end of a long work day, you realize it just all balances out in the end. To top it off, when your teenage daughter lets you include her in signing up for a 5 k run as a family activity, even when she feels that running is not quite her thing, well I’m going to take that one and just run with it! Nature vs. nurture, whether running or any other regular activity, family will tend to follow suit in living a healthy lifestyle in the long run. Is anyone else getting a kick out of my run puns or is it just me?
5. To support a worthwhile cause –Last but certainly not least, when you know your actions and efforts are not just for your benefit, but are also helping to support others in your community, it’s a win, win. So one way our family has discovered that works to maintain some momentum and accountability in our training, lies in setting some realistic and worthwhile goals to keep us on track. For instance, we were recently among the many that took part in the Annual Heartbeat Run & Walk, with funds raised this year going toward the Saskatoon Children’s Hospital (3), a cause that not only our city, but our entire province and has been privileged to see come to fruition. Registering to run for a cause continues to have rewards for us, far beyond setting personal bests, and I’m hopeful that our team of family and friends that continue to join us in this endeavor, will continue to grow over the years to come.
In closing, I suppose I should confess that when it comes to me and running, to this point it’s been outdoors or nothing, and since I consider myself a fair weather runner I typically pack in my runners for the winter. Now that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy our great Saskatchewan winter, it just means that I trade in my runners for a pair of cross country skis and look forward to enjoying Saskatoon’s beautiful golf courses from a different perspective. Having said that, for some reason our daughter is now trying to convince us that signing up for a run in the snow would be fun. What have I done? Wish us luck!
What’s your activity? Whether it’s running, walking, dancing, cycling, skiing, swimming or all the above. Whatever it is that keeps you interested to keep you active, just get out there and do it! You, and your family deserve it!
~ Elizabeth Stefanyshyn-Alonso PT