For some reason, about 2 weeks ago (give or take a few days) I decided to try my hand at running long distances. To be completely honest, I've never liked running. I could physically DO it decently fast (I ran sprints in school track teams) but I never particularly liked it. I just ran track because I was fast, got asked to, and I like winning...and fervently turned down any attempts made by coaches trying to get me to join the XC (cross country) teams. Hell No...endurance running has never been fun for me, not to mention I've had exercise induced asthma since I've been 11.
So I have no idea what came over me not too long ago to put on my most minimalist of trail running shoes (that I usually use for hiking), open the front door, and just go. I think part of it was realizing that very soon, I'll be training people in the art of physical fitness. It would feel hypocritical to call myself a decent trainer when I knew deep down I hate running and had never gone more than a couple miles before stopping. So I laced up and decided to jog the 1.5 mile loop I usually walk my dog on around the neighborhood. It went alright...though I haven't been a runner for long I was at least still in shape from the amount of hiking, climbing, lifting, and spinning I do...so the form wasn't amazing, I wasn't the fastest, but I finished. The second day I tried again, this time 2 loops (3 miles). Third day, same thing, 2 loops, 3 miles...kept on like that almost every day and next thing I know by this week it went from me "getting my run over with" to me looking forward to it.
Two days ago after a day of partying, too much beer, and unhealthy food it was night time when I got home. I decided to lace up and go on a light jog (it's become a habit already)...2 laps became 3, 3 became 4...I finally got that runners high (endorphin and serotonin rush in the brain) I've heard people talk about. It was euphoric, and amazing, and made me feel like I could run forever. If only my legs would let me. I ended up doing 4 laps...6 miles that day, and mentally craving more by the end of it. I was NOT expecting such a drastic mental shift so fast. What started as just a way to relate to/ understand training clients who were runners or wanted to run, quickly became an extremely enjoyable pastime with a ripple effect of awesomeness that spilled over to other areas of my life. I absolutely love it.
I did expect maybe some slight physical changes, but not much, since I hike ~10 miles a week anyway. Even though it's still early in the (running) game I'm already noticing a tighter core, tinier waist, and more solid thighs. It's the mental effects that really have me hooked though. As a lifelong insomniac on the days I run I actually can sleep somewhat decently, without a sleep aid. I'm strangely more energetic (I researched why, exercise actually provides us with more potential energy on a cellular level - interesting stuff, but that's another post altogether :) ), more productive, have better posture (this comes with watching your form and correcting problems in it as you run), in a happy and relaxed mood all the time, and I just all-around feel healthier. It even helps with ADHD symptoms and makes it easier to focus on one thing at a time (probably because running forces you to concentrate on one thing).
The best physical adaptation was just that: feeling and seeing my body adapt to endurance running, actually being able to do distances and terrain I never thought I could before. A couple short weeks ago I was definitely in shape, but not a runner by any stretch of the imagination. That first 1.5 mile loop burned, and sucked, and included a little walking because I couldn't jog it all in one go. Yesterday I ran 9 miles, and instead of wishing it was over the whole time I loved every minute of it. That's a big leap in just 2 short weeks. According to most fitness literature, it takes about 4-6 weeks to see results...so there is more awesomeness to come. My ultimate running goal is to be able to trail-run Mt Wilson to the observatory (about 8 miles of straight uphill mountain running).
I never thought I'd be saying this, but if you have ever had any curiosity about running...try it. Running does a body good, and it's cheaper than therapy. Put on your most appropriate shoes and gear, play your favorite music that gets your blood pumping, and get outside. See what you're made of...you might be pleasantly surprised at what you find.
It has been quite a while since I've had a chance to post! School is back and session, and I'm going through the training to be a Personal Trainer too. I do have to say the curriculum is a lot more in depth than I expected...which is awesome. Anyway, I've been learning a lot of interesting things about fitness, nutrition, and how it effects our bodies.
1. Music is Power: In a way, it literally is. Studies have shown that people who work out while listening to music improved their performance by up to 15% compared to working out without music. Listening to music can help people in multiple ways, but two of the big ones are: avoiding mental exhaustion and (depending what type of tunes you sweat it out to) stimulating adrenaline production.
Music breaks up the monotony of a workout, especially long endurance training cardio sessions. Keeping yourself mentally stimulated and getting enjoyment from the music makes the entire workout more enjoyable. Multiple studies (and common sense) show that the more a person LIKES their work out the more likely it is they will stick with it long term. As far as the adrenaline goes, some music - especially with heavy basslines or fast BPMs - can stimulate adrenaline.
2. Mind over Matter: Mental exhaustion is a real thing. Long before people get physically exhausted in a workout, where their body cannot handle anymore and needs to stop, they get mentally exhausted. Mental exhaustion is something that can be adapted to and overcome (for longer and longer amounts of time) with integrated training. Once you realize that it is possible to keep going past the point where your mind tells you to throw in the towel it becomes easier to learn the signs of actual physical exhaustion and listen to those instead. Mindset is a huge part of everything in life, exercise included. Doing something mentally draining before a workout actually hinders your workout. Same with feeling extreme disdain for workout our, or feeling intimidated by it.
Something that helps me a lot when I'm tired or things start getting boring, is remembering what I'm doing is a choice, and the benefits of it are worth it. Going from a mind set of "Ugh I have to do this" to "I'm CHOOSING to do this." is a small, easy shift of thinking that can have big impacts.
3. The word gym comes from the Greek word "gymnazein"... which literally means "to exercise naked". Maybe that explains the people with no shame who lurk in every chain gyms steam rooms from time to time.
4. Exercise is more effective at increasing your energy levels than caffeine. Exercising does amazing things for energy because it does it at a cellular level. Increased demand on your body to produce energy (like for cardio exercise) makes the mitochondria in cells produce more energy, which stays readily available. The more consistent you work out, the more mitochondria get produced and the cycle continues.
5. Men who work out with a female partner are shown to lift heavier weights and get better results. This is most likely due to our social tendencies as a species more than anything. Humans are social creatures, having other people around who have similar interests serves as good motivation. Also, no one wants to look weaker than other people around them.
Exercise and fitness are so multifaceted, and have some kind of effect on so many different things, sometimes in surprising ways.One thing for sure though, it's always beneficial. Get it in!