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Each Step of the Run

Mountain Trail RunEach step of the run is a stride toward a better life. Run to live. And run for fun. The destination and purpose of running lie in the journey. It’s the act of running not the results that stimulate the senses.

One runs for the sheer joy of running, because it feels good and provides a sense of freedom. Running connects the runner with the surrounding landscape and creates a state of bliss unmatched by other sports. Off-road running where there are no vehicles or bikes is best and is fine training for a multitude of other sports.

Some prefer the solitude of running alone along dirt trails through mountains, woodlands and prairies along side rivers and streams, wildflowers and wildlife waiting to be discovered. Environmental stimuli enhances the solitary running experience, though some people prefer to run with a partner or partners. Stimulating scenery inspires the imagination at the same time legs continue turning over and over as if on autopilot.

Running is terrific mental and physical exercise that offers great benefits at little cost. Running can be punishing. When the body is pushed too far too fast, inflammation and injury defeat the health and fitness benefits of intelligent running. Rather than push through pain and risk injury, listen to your own body and encourage others to do the same.

Physical fitness is one benefit of running. There are also cognitive, spiritual and emotional benefits that are just as valuable and, to the runner, even more evident.

Many runners feel joyful and euphoric when running long distances and endorphins kick-in to create a “runner’s high,” the altered state brought about by a release of endorphins in the brain, which stimulate senses and heighten awareness. Not every runner experiences a runner’s high, but those who do may find this experience addictive.

Runner’s high is a natural process in which runners may experience an elevated mood change. Mood shifts associated with the chemical release of endorphins in the brain may be subtle or pronounced, ranging from feeling good to dull pain, sometimes enabling runners to push through pain and causing injury.

Cross-training helps prevent injuries and provides athletes with alternative forms of exercise during rehab if they do become injured. Cutting back on total weekly running mileage in pursuit of other sports, being happy just to be outdoors running injury free, and deriving satisfaction from physical, mental and emotional well being is an invaluable aspect of a good life.

Competitive and recreation athletics are not mutually exclusive, but the personal intention of the athlete is crucial to the training regimen. One popular endurance training technique called “LSD” (long, slow distance) is a good way to train for those without the benefit of professional coaching. Speed drills, hill workouts and interval training with heart monitors can improve performance. Some runners prefer running barefoot or with minimalist shoes to develop proper form. Without proper form the minimalist approach can lead to injuries, particularly for heel strikers. Proper form improves efficiency, conserves energy and lowers risk of injury.

Daily exercise, particularly running has an energizing and calming effect on everyone, creating in some a relaxed mind, a Zen like state sometimes referred to as “the zone,” an experiential state of enlightenment. In the zone one can lose track of time and space, as if existing in another dimension. Running can be a form of meditation, ideas and solutions appear without conscious thought, creativity and problem-solving become effortless, new insights come. After a run, one may be physically exhausted yet mentally and emotionally charged up. That’s how you know it’s been a good run.

Running can be a lifetime sport that transcends the finish line. The journey lies with the action of each stride, not the destination. How one experiences the moment of each step matters more than how fast is the journey.

 

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  © 2013 Anne Wall, All Rights Reserved.

 

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