Run for Your Life


That’s how I used to feel after a day commuting to and from work.

Before the pandemic, I spent 18 days a year travelling to and from work.

My job has mental challenges, but the physical drain of the journey and stale office culture made me wonder how much longer I can go on.

For years when I arrived home, I tucked into dinner and TV — not a recipe for longevity in life or career.

But running became my saviour.

Three times a week, I venture into the great outdoors and run, sweat, lose my breath and strain muscles. It’s wonderful.

I need to run.

I would never have thought running had the power to change my life, but it has. Neither did I consider it would become a cure for anxiety, writer’s block and a weak knee.

And when an injury takes me off the road I get jealous when I see other runners.

When I developed plantar fasciitis (inflammation and pain in the bottom of the foot), it was agony. The agony prevented me from running while I experimented with various cures.

I got to the stage of almost being tempted to swerve the car just to bump another runner a little because if I can’t run, nobody should.

But back in reality, I followed all the stretching exercises, changed my footwear and learned to warm up and cool down. Discipline got me back to running and reduced my chances of being arrested for GBH.

Maybe you think you’re too old or too heavy to run. What would the neighbours say when they see the ambulance coming to collect you 200 yards down the road?

It would be best if you cast such fears aside. Yes, you’ll find it easier to run if you lose a little weight first, and please consult a doctor if you have any medical conditions, but don’t miss out.

Running is transformational and free (mostly).

Download a ‘Couch to 5km’ app, purchase lots of hi-vis clothes and a super bright head torch for nighttime runs and get out there.

After six years of running, I can testify to the following life-enhancing benefits.

  1. Less Stress

Running reduces the feeling of stress.

After a stressful day, a run will cause your body to release endorphins, the feel-good hormone. Endorphins are nervous system chemicals that block pain or arouse pleasure in the body. You’ll lift your mood, and your stamina will improve.

80% of stress is self-generated, and a run will help you reflect and give you some me-time to sort issues out in your head.

2. More Brains

I discovered podcasts, audiobooks and music streaming thanks to running.

For several hours a week, I combine fitness with learning from experts. Audio teachers taught me how to build a website, how to use social media, how to stop using social media, and all while I run.

Recent playlists include Ringo Starr’s greatest tunes and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, Gregory Porter, and Billie Eilish.

3. Improved Shape

If you’re careful about what you eat from day to day, running will remove fat from your body and tone your muscles.

You may, however, end up heavier because muscle weighs more than fat. Your face will look leaner, and your legs will become firmer. Running provides body sculpting for free.

4. Mindful Peace

It’s not always necessary to run with headphones. If you’re not in learning mode, use the opportunity to enjoy the present moment.

Enjoy your surroundings, feel the ground beneath your feet and the breeze in your face. Enjoy deep breaths while your whole body works. These are times not to think but just be. You may find creative ideas will come to you more often.

5. Form Good Habits

As you become stronger, you’ll walk and take the stairs more, not because you feel you should but because you want to. You’ll park the car far from the shops and eat less junk.

These changes will come because you’ll not want to undo the good you achieve on run days.

6. Healthy Heart

According to the British Heart Foundation running, like most vigorous exercise, will improve your heart rate and help you live longer.

An average adult range is 60 to 100 beats per minute. 60 or lower at rest is best and implies a more efficient heart.

My Apple Watch reports 70 bpm as I write this post, so I have more work to do. The Health app says my average running rate is in the high 150s. I would prefer low 150s, but that’s hills and post-injury runs for you.

7. Less Pressure

Running or other forms of physical activity can reduce your need for blood pressure medication if combined with a healthy lifestyle because exercise helps arteries stay elastic.

Some people inherit high blood pressure but can still minimise medication through exercise.

8. Positive Posture

As long as you don’t run bent over, running will strengthen your core and abs. More muscular legs and abdomen will help you develop a confident body posture and reduce back pain.

9. Less Weight Loss Obsession

Running can increase body weight because muscle grows, and its density is higher. That’s good. When you realise you can increase your weight but be fitter at the same time, you’ll drop any obsession about weight loss because you’ll feel healthy.

Check your Body Mass Index (BMI). The UK’s National Health Service recommends for most adults, an ideal BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9 for a healthy weight.

10. New Scenery

Keep alert out on the road and enjoy the surroundings. Pick different times of the day and keep active in all seasons.

If you vary your runs, you’ll enjoy the beauty of sunsets, the light of a full moon and the occasional shooting star. I enjoy them all.

11. Gratitude Time

If scenery isn’t enough, running provides a window to reflect on the day just passed or the day to come. You can reflect on the people you care about and develop a sense of thanksgiving for all life has to offer.

Running can make you happier and healthier.

12. Self-Belief

When you’re out on a solo run, your thoughts and plans come together in your head. Energised, you’ll replace the beliefs that hold you back with feelings of achievement.

Anything is possible.

After every run, I feel like a new person — like I could do anything. It’s what makes running so addictive.

13. Beat Disease

I rarely get a cold or flu whereas I used to get one with every change of season. Running will strengthen your immune system when combined with a healthy balanced diet.

14. Rain Lover

We tend to avoid the rain.

But if you’re a fair-weather runner, you won’t be able to maintain a regular pattern. Running in the rain can make you feel alive.

In one winter I went out in the snow, under a full moon and stars — I didn’t want the run to end.

15. Brain Lover

You’ll become more intelligent.

There is a link between physical fitness and better brain function. Research has shown the brains of those who are fitter perform better—time to outsmart your friends.

OK, I admit intelligence is relative, but every brain cell counts.

16. Improved Joints

Running can enhance joints and their agility.

You can avoid an orthopaedic surgeon if you warm up to prevent muscle injury and wear high-quality shoes — but don’t be obsessive or force yourself to run every day.

17. Reduces Cancer Risk

The USA’s National Cancer Institute and others claim there are significant research levels to support the case running or other forms of physical activity can reduce the risk of colon, breast and lung cancer.

We can all but hope.

Would you have believed running can do so much for your mind, body and soul?

Whatever you do, don’t feel you need to practice for a marathon. I run 5 km to 7 km with no intention of going further, nor do I get focused on beating my personal best. Consistency is more important.

Running is fun.

But I admit, I may have exaggerated the part about rain.