How To Make a Running WorkOut a Good Thing
I’m sure by now you are well aware that running is one of the best forms of aerobic conditioning for your heart and lungs. Thus, it’s one of the best ways to stay in shape and lose weight. What you may not be aware of is that too much running, when it becomes an addiction, can actually weaken your body and oddly increase body fat. This post examines the line between a dedication to running for health and a dangerous exercise addiction that could destroy your body. Since you’re reading this post, it’s safe to assume that you’re already interested in running. You may have already laced up your running shoes a fe
w times and hit the pavement. Great! Now it’s time to know how to make a running workout a good thing. You’ll understand how to run for the right reasons. This means you’ll want to avoid these four Mistakes.
[Linking Excessive Running to Excessive Benefits] Mistake #1: This is just another way of saying overtraining can lead to the exact results that you don’t want— athletic performance collapses, leading to all sorts of fitness and health troubles including fatigue, unwanted chronic injury, and an odd condition known as “skinny fat”; skinny in appearance but with increased total body-fat mass. This is due to subsequent loss in lean muscle, you will be more prone to injury since the body will have less anatomical support structure for proper movement.
What Dancers Can Teach Us
Some useful information can be gleamed from the Ballet world to understand what overtraining does. Megan Richardson, an athletic trainer specializing in dance medicine at New York University’s Langone Medical Center and in private practice, explains that every time you exercise, you are breaking down the muscular tissues.
This breakdown, followed by a rest period, causes the muscles to rebuild and become stronger. “When we are doing too much exercise and don’t have enough rest periods, or enough nutrition, we don’t get that rebuilding,” she says. “All we get is breakdown.” The result is weaker muscles and a higher likelihood of injury. Dance Magazine . 91.2 (Feb. 2017): p46.
Here’s what you have to think about. Running should, because of all its benefits, be a fun and positive endeavor. The key is to make sure you have created a running plan that is motivating, enjoyable, and healthy. You can only do that by ridding from your mind the misconception that overtraining will lead to massive benefits. It will only break you.
[Managing Depression] Mistake #2: This is another big and common misconception, simply because running has also been reported to alleviate stress. In fact there’s a term called the runner’s high. It is used to describe a euphoric state which is experienced by anyone engaged in strenuous exercise. [sup]
This phenomenon was first reported in a group of long distance marathon runners who reported that they felt “so good after the event as if they had taken some psychedelic drug.” Recent studies have in fact confirmed that most runners typically report being happier and feeling less stressed from the grind of daily life. That said, lessening stress is not the same thing as managing depression.
Here is how to best understand the point. Imagine that you have just been in a big argument with a friend, a real blowup. You decide to go for a mile run and afterward you feel a lot better. The next time you get into a similar argument it takes 2 miles to feel as good as before. You then find yourself increasing the milage to feel the same sense of relief as you did the first mile. In short, running hasn’t really addressed the underlying issue that has caused your despair. If you’re unhappy, running may help to ease that feeling but it won’t get rid of it. As stated, running has great health benefits. However, it should not be used as a coping mechanism for something like depression. Don’t get me wrong. Running can indeed lessen the chance of depression. However, for those already experiencing depression running isn’t a sufficient answer.
[Running Out of Fear] Mistake #3: This point is related to the one above. Does the saying “you can’t run away from your problems” sound familiar? Diana Israel is a psychotherapist and psychology professor at Naropa University, Colorado.
She is also a former competitive athlete and the executive producer of “Beauty Mark” a film about self-image and self-acceptance. In an article for The New York Times, she states:
“When we exercise despite injuries or well past complete exhaustion; when we hear a monologue in our heads that we are lazy, incapable, unworthy; when we can’t pause to enjoy a day of rest or redirect ourselves to other self-renewing activities–we are engaging in obsessive behavior. If we are focusing more on the regimen of exercise than the pleasure we get from it, then that’s addiction.”
So Run For Pleasure And Not Out of Fear
[Not Knowing Why You Run] Mistake #4: Why Run?
Ask anyone why they run and you’ll hear a variety of answers including, but certainly not limited to:
- Because it’s fun
- It helps me sleep
- It’s my stress reliever
- Because my doctor told me to
- Because my husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend does
- To lose weight
- To control my blood pressure
- To keep my metabolism humming
- To increase/maintain my hormones/libido
- To be part of a community
- It’s the fastest way to burn the most calories
- Because you don’t have to join a gym
- For the runner’s high
- To avoid cancer/diabetes/heart disease
- Because my friends do
The list could go on and on. The point is that everyone has a reason to run. Before you begin running it’s important to find your reason. You can have many reasons of course and like many your reasons may change over time. However, if you try to start running without a reason, it’ll be difficult to stay motivated. Running because you think you should usually isn’t enough to get through the first mile. Worse, running because you are afraid will add to your unhappiness. This won’t be your worry since you have read this post.
I like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.
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1. Hinton ER, Taylor S. Does placebo response mediate runner’s high? Percept Mot Skills 1986;62:789-90.