Running : The Counter Intuitive Work Life Hack

How the “Couch to 5K” running programme has helped both mental and physical health during a year of lockdown

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Stamina

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of running — your stamina will improve very quickly — mine did — which has a direct effect on how long you can concentrate during the day. Your brain uses far more energy than any other part of your body, so training your body to provide more energy is a simple enough “hack”.

Diet

Several years ago I read an observation from a fitness instructor that I’ve never forgotten. While commenting on their diet, they admitted that because of their job — and the amount of fuel their body needed to do that job — they got to almost eat whatever they wanted.

Skin

I have to admit this was a surprise when I started running and is somewhat counter-intuitive. You might think that sweating while working out will result in terrible skin — and you would be wrong. Working out actually releases dermcidin (I read about it) — an anti-microbial peptide. It means the more you sweat while working out, the more healthy your skin becomes. Who knew?

Blood Pressure

Another counter-intuitive one. You might think that running would increase your blood pressure, and you would be right — but over time, it lowers both your resting and active blood pressure. Of course, you need to start out slowly if your fitness level is low, but over time the results will be remarkable.

Bones

A study in 2019 discovered that high impact exercise increases the presence of “bone formation markers” — signs that your bones are strengthening themselves. I suppose it makes sense if you think about it — in the same way that muscles tear down and re-build, bones do the same thing — just much more slowly.

Energy

If you’re feeling down or fatigued for whatever reason, running is an excellent remedy. The physical exercise releases endorphins from your brain — the magical mood-altering chemicals that we interpret as pleasure and happiness. Sure, you might feel like hell while out running — especially during your first few runs — but the rush afterwards makes it more than worth it.

Core Strength

Although subtle, running engages your mid-section and improves your core muscles — which naturally improves posture, and protects against the secondary effects of bad posture, such as headaches, and back-ache. You only have to talk to anybody that has experienced a bad back to know how debilitating it can be — both physically, and mentally.

Sleep

It stands to reason that if you burn your body’s supply of fuel during the day, you will sleep better. Your body will crave sleep because it will need it to recover — especially in the early weeks. Your muscles and tendons will need time to repair and rebuild in-between runs — and sleep is the natural “system down” mechanism built into your body.

Stress

While there is a mountain of anecdotal evidence regarding the stress-relieving symptoms of running — mostly tied to breathing and rhythm — there are some significant scientifically measurable effects too.

Self Esteem

No matter where you are in your running journey, the knowledge that you have done something positive about your health is powerful. You don’t need to advertise it on social media, or any of the fitness tracking apps either — the knowledge that you are doing something for yourself will pay dividends. The first time you tell somebody you can’t make it to somewhere because you’re going for a run will be a proud moment.

Written by

Software and web developer, husband, father, cat wrangler, writer, runner, coffee drinker, retro video games player. Pizza solves everything. jonbeckett.com

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