Non-runner's guide to running and why you need to do it.

If you are reading this, the chances are, you are not a runner. Well, in full disclosure, neither am I. I have been running for the past 30-plus years and until the last few, I have only run to stay in shape. I never liked it, I just did it because I had to. If the only reason I can convince you to run is because you have to, that is something I can live with. But, my hope is that I can convince you to like it (whether you like it or not).

The Benefits of Running:

  • It's Convenient - the most convenient form of exercise.
  • It's Inefficient - And that's what makes it so good for you.
  • It works - You will lose weight and become healthier.
  • You will not only live longer, but you will live better (or at least healthier).
  • It can be fun (no, really).
  • Studies show, It's not bad for your knees (well, not as bad as you have been led to believe).

It's Convenient
Running is the simplest form of exercise out there. It requires no equipment, and the only gear is a pair of running shoes. Biking requires that you have a bike that is in good condition, and swimming requires a pool (usually). Kayaking? You get the idea.

It's Inefficient
That's what burns so many calories, almost twice as many as walking. And the calories keep burning, whether you are running uphill, flat, or downhill. Nothing burns those quads like running downhill, whereas, biking gives you a free ride when you are going downhill (that's what makes it so fun). And those gears, they are there to make the ride more efficient. The more efficient the exercise, the less calories that are burned, and the more fun.

It Works
Studies have repeatedly shown that consistent running of any distance and any pace correlates to less body fat and improved overall fitness. I don't even think I need to argue this one, do I?

You Will Live Longer
Studies have repeatedly shown that the level of cardiovascular fitness, in general, and running in particular, is directly related to an increase in longevity. Not, just a longer life, but a healthier one as well. I will refer to these studies in my Adventure Life posts on aging (Spring Chicken) and fitness, and will directly move those links right here in the near future.
  • Link One
  • Link Two
It can be fun
I have to be honest - I have been running for the last 30 years and for about 25 of those, I really disliked running. I did it strictly for weight control. But for the last 6 years I have been running on the beach (barefoot) and on trails (more like small mountains) and with a small group of like-minded individuals, and I can say that I really do like running. Not every moment of the run - there are plenty of spots that are intense and discomforting, but that tells me I am putting in the proper intensity.

It's not bad for your knees
To be clear, this claim does not apply to those that may have degenerative or structural damage to the knee itself, but it is important to distinguish between structural damage and soft tissue ailments. Many forms of knee pain can be attributed to muscular tightness or injury, and in these cases there are many work-arounds that will keep or get you running.

The most important tip I can give
Ok, so if you are still with me, than I can give you one more bit of advice (I think it is the most important) - Don't give up so soon. In my experience, there are two levels that your body will try to attain while running. First is during the run itself - you need to get through the warm up phase. When your body goes from a resting state to an elevated state of exercise, there is a physiological spike that occurs and it can feel painful. But, your body will settle into a more comfortable pace in due time, but many beginning runners quit before they get through this warm-up phase. If you start with an easy warm-up, you will have a better chance of getting to a more comfortable pace.
Second, you need to give your body a chance to recover and acclimate to this new level of physical exertion. I have heard too many times that people start running, but they quit within a couple of weeks due to the pain (I would call it discomfort) that they are experiencing. Again, I feel that if they were to stick with it for just a couple more weeks, their bodies just might get acclimated to the point that they could continue.

Some more thoughts:
2014 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology about the association of running with mortality had a pool size of 55,137, adults ages 18 to 100, and, over a 15-year period, almost 3,500 deaths to “work with.” Compared to non-runners, the study found that runners had a 30 percent lower adjusted risk of all-cause mortality and a 45 percent lower adjusted risk of cardiovascular mortality. Most significantly, the benefits seemed evenly distributed among runners of all levels, from the sub-6-minute-mile super jocks.

Still not ready: