Why do you run? What drives you to lace up your running shoes and head for the trails? We all need a reason. The simple motivations—such as better fitness and weight loss—are great for getting you out the door once. Or twice. Or for a few weeks. But to stick with a training regimen, to persevere when it’s raining or cold, or you’re tired, or (cross your fingers) you’ve already reached your original goal, you need more than simple reasons. You need great reasons. And this chapter has those to spare. First, you’ll see that you aren’t just improving your cardio or dropping a couple pounds; you’re rebuilding every cell in your body to be better than it was before. Next, you’ll be amazed at the lifelong benefits, both physical and psychological, that accrue with every workout. Finally, you’ll discover what millions of runners have already found: just how much fun a good running program can be. You are motivated. You proved that by opening this book. You crossed the threshold from thinking about a new fitness plan to putting that plan into action. That was the hardest step, and now that you’ve taken it, you’re already on your way to building a better running body.
WHAT’S RUNNING MOTIVATION?
Running motivation is the daily impetus that keeps you moving forward in a training program. There is no single, universal motivation for all runners. Motivation is fluid; it is constantly changing. Most runners use whatever works for that day. And then whatever works for the next. Today, you were motivated to open this book. Tomorrow, what you read in these pages might spur you to lace up your running shoes and go for a short walk or jog, or to perform ten minutes of body exercises, or to prepare a healthier meal. For more advanced runners, you may discover within these pages some aspect of training that you’ve overlooked—rewiring your nervous system or improving elastic recoil or increasing cardiac output—that may motivate you to try a few new workouts in the coming weeks. Lao-tzu wrote, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Your journey began with the motivation to open this book. It continues with the next step you take.
WHAT ARE SOME SPECIFIC SOURCES OF RUNNING MOTIVATION?
The first rule of running motivation is to take it one workout at a time. Successful runners understand two things: 1. There is never a perfect time to start a running program, so don’t wait until you’ve mustered the motivation for long-term training before you begin any type of training. 2. The only workout you must perform is the next one, so that’s where your motivation should be focused. Today, you don’t have to generate the motivation to accomplish all of your fitness goals. You don’t have to complete an entire twelve-week training program. You don’t need to lose ten pounds. Or race a 5K. Or conquer the marathon. You only need to complete today’s workout. Tomorrow’s workout can wait until tomorrow.
Use motivation to fuel your training, but don’t become fixated on fueling motivation. Too many runners try to jump-start their enthusiasm by training too hard, going on crash diets, or buying expensive gear. Slow down. Fitness is a lifestyle, not a protein shake. The best way to maintain long-term motivation is through steady training success. Don’t incinerate motivation with a onetime rocket blast to the moon.
At the same time, understanding the enormous benefits of a long-term program will provide you with a bountiful source of motivation to drink from each day. Would-be runners are often shocked at just how extraordinary the benefits of a smart, well-rounded training program can be. It’s not hyperbole to say that you won’t just be building a better running body; you’ll be building a better you.
Every runner has heard the veiled admonition: “Aren’t you afraid you’re going to ruin your knees?” No, we’re not. That’s because running is good for your knees—and just about everything else. “Running improves your blood pressure,” says Dr. James Fries, coauthor of a 2008 study from Stanford University that tracked 528 runners and 423 non-runners beginning in 1984. “You’re less likely to get blood clots and varicose veins. Bones become stronger and denser. It’s a treatment for osteoporosis. It prevents fractures of the hips and spine. The ligaments get bigger and stronger—they protect the joints from wobbling, which is one thing that causes joints to wear out. Lungs get stronger.
Our physical reserve is greater.” Other conclusions from the Stanford study include:
- Runners suffer fewer disabilities.
- Running delays age-related disabilities by almost two decades.
- Runners are seven times less likely to require knee replacements.
- Runners are less likely to suffer from cancer.
- Runners have fewer neurological problems.
- Running doesn’t increase hip, back, or knee problems.
- Runners are half as likely as non-runners to die early.
Running isn’t just good for your health; it will trigger a positive transformation of your body beyond anything you dreamed possible.
Don’t believe reports that claim exercise won’t help peel away the pounds. Running burns approximately 100 calories a mile—doesn’t matter whether you jog, run, or race that mile. Generally speaking, if you burn 3,500 more calories than you eat, you’ll lose a pound. But here’s what’s amazing: Running leads to weight loss beyond what’s predicted by calorie counting. A 2012 study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory compared the weight loss of 32,216 runners and 15,237 walkers. Over six years, the runners averaged 90 percent more weight loss than walkers for the same amount of calories burned. And a lighter, leaner you isn’t the only benefit of weight loss. Shedding pounds makes you a faster runner, and that’s without having to improve any other aspect of your fitness.
They say stress kills. But before it kills, it does lots of damage along the way. Stress lowers immunity, increases inflammation, slows healing, decreases bone density, decreases muscle mass, increases blood pressure, increases fat, and intensifies blood sugar imbalances. So when we talk about “stress relief,” we aren’t merely referencing reduced anxiety. We’re talking about a full-body protection plan. Think of stress as your body’s version of termites. Think of running as the exterminator. In addition, running increases endorphins, improves sleep, and can serve as a time for tranquil reflection and meditation.