Benefits of Running for Women – For Your Body, Mind, and Soul
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Running is bad for the knees.” I experienced knee injuries in high school from years of dance training and used this phrase as an excuse, yes, an excuse, to avoid running.
The truth is that this statement has never been scientifically proven! In fact, there are so many reasons to run and benefits of running that we should all get moving more often. Let me outline some main benefits I have found to be quite amazing.
Body – Physical Benefits of Running
The leading causes of death in the world are cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes. Running is quite arguably one of the best ways to exercise your cardiovascular system and promote a healthy heart. This does not mean you need to hit the pavement or treadmill for hours to strengthen your heart or that you need to be the fastest runner. Just ten minutes of low impact jogging per day will positively impact your long-term health.
It is a myth that running is bad for your knees (or hips or ankles or elbows)! It is a fact that running will strengthen your bones and muscles; in addition, running will also strengthen your cartilage that cushions your joints and increase flexibility in your ligaments to prevent injury.
Now, let me emphasize some physical benefits that are greatly enticing for us women.
Healthy-looking skin!! Running increases blood circulation which can alleviate those ugly varicose veins. And, it tightens the skin so we say goodbye to cottage cheese thighs! Also, a good sweat unclogs pores and detoxifies the body providing us with the healthy “glow.”
Sleep! Some may argue that runners sleep better simply because they have exhausted their muscles and burned hundreds of calories. To be fair to this argument, I know that I have experienced those days myself. However, women are multi-taskers and to be so, our minds are constantly stimulated which means some of us just have a hard time settling our mind down for the night. A good run promotes mindfulness similar to meditation so we can cognitively bookmark our to do lists and enjoy a restful sleep.
Oh yeah, eating chocolate is recommended! I once had a coach tell me that I should drink chocolate milk after a long run; milk, for the protein and calcium…chocolate, for the taste. Come to find out much later that chocolate has great muscle recovery benefits and antioxidants that reduce stress. Sounds like a win-win scenario!!
Mind – Mental Benefits of Running
I went through a few very tough years in my adulthood. I left behind a faith I had practiced all my life and soon after went through a divorce while also raising a toddler. Needless to say, there were several moments of anger, confusion, desperation, fear, sadness, loneliness, and a broken heart. The only thing that would give me clarity and balance was going for a run and escape.
It’s nearly impossible to run and cry or feel sorry for yourself at the same time, and it’s no wonder runners often say that they go for a run to clear their head. Neuroscientists have proven that vigorous aerobic activity, such as running, sends extra oxygen and blood flow to the part of the brain that manages concentration, creativity, and decision-making. A mental benefit of running is essentially, a brain boost!
Most runners don’t run for health reasons. They run because they find it enjoyable and they want the “runner’s high” that makes them feel so good. For me, the dream to lose weight from running died a long time ago. It is just a bonus when I lose a few pounds in the process. When I feel the runner’s high, I feel accomplished and focused and sometimes I feel invincible!
Soul – Emotional Benefits of Running
Runners of all shapes, colors and sizes are a community! I could be running around my neighborhood or along the bike trail and I always pass other runners who wave or smile or give a friendly nod. A little human contact and positive energy is great for your soul.
On race day, most runners are not there to be competitive with each other, they are there for the social experience and the accomplishment (a.k.a. the t-shirt and medal). Running alongside hundreds to thousands of runners is so much fun! High fives and thumbs up signals from complete strangers are quite frankly some reasons I keep signing up for races. I want to be around the people that truly “get” me.
Running builds character and confidence. It’s one of the few sports where your competition is yourself. Runners are always tracking their times, distance, and pace and aiming for their PR (personal record). During the process, we are reminded to be patient because it takes time and effort and commitment to build muscle and endurance or recover from an injury. We are constantly reminded to be humble as we watch other runners run faster or longer than we can. As we progress in our running and attaining our goals, we create our best selves within our souls.
Motivation – Get Inspired
You are obviously interested in running if not already a runner or you wouldn’t be reading this entire article. However, it is very important that you determine your WHY; your purpose to do what you are doing and to keep doing it.
One of my favorite quotes is “It doesn’t get easier, you just get better”. Running will test your limits physically, mentally, and emotionally but that is how we grow. Limitations only exist if you allow them.
No matter your pace or strength, those 5-, 10-, or 20-mile training runs physically break you down and challenge you mentally. Running can be monotonous and boring as you repeat the same motion one step after another until you reach your finish.
Whether you run for 10 minutes a day or a couple hours each week, find your motivation, and I promise that you will reap the many benefits of running in your body, mind, and soul.