I started running in 2018 when I came to Japan. I hardly knew anyone, the closest gym was a 40-minute drive away and I thought running would be the best way to explore the abundance of nature that was around me.
Before then, I didn’t run. Ever.
Even in the gym, I’d choose to walk uphill over running because I didn’t want the sound of my feet hitting the treadmill belt to be too loud. I thought it would annoy people and, most importantly, draw attention to my weight.
If I couldn’t run in the gym then you know that running outside was a definite no-go. I was self-conscious about passers-by seeing (and being horrified by) my jiggly body, judging me for running too slowly and, the big one, breathing.
I’ve been self-conscious about heavy breathing since my very insecure and cringey teens. If I’d walked upstairs and there were people at the top, I’d hold my breath so they could hear my breathlessness. I’d try similar tactics if I passed someone during exercise.
I’d dramatically sigh, yawn or hold my breath until I was out of range; which would then obviously lead to an even bigger breath, as my lungs hauled in as much of that essential oxygen as they could. LOGIC!?
And I did this because I thought that if people heard my heavy breathing they’d think I was unfit.
The funny thing is, it’s not just me. So many of us feel self-conscious about seeming unfit to other people, so it makes sense that exercising in public could be nerve-wracking.
“The rest of us seem to view it as some sort of indication that we are “out of shape” or something to be embarrassed or ashamed of. So, instead of giving out body what it needs, we suppress the natural desire to suck in more air and I think that is holding us back from reaching our full potential.”
Exercising is hard and being in a position where people can see us struggling can be uncomfortable. But there’s a reason that we’re struggling and there’s a value to that struggle that’s rare to find anywhere else. It doesn’t matter what position you’re in or how ‘good’ you are at whatever you’re trying, what’s important is that you’re trying.
Most of the time people are going to feel motivated by you or be too bothered about themselves to worry about you for too long. The only people who are going to react negatively to your efforts are uncomfortable with some part of themselves.
We all get a bit competitive at times. Effort can breed insecurity in others and that is not your problem. Unless the person is someone important in your life then it’s nothing for you to worry about. If it is someone important, maybe they’re putting you down persistently or just becoming a consistent negative in your life, then, by all means, check them on it. Either way, don’t hinder your own progress for anyone else.
Put your headphones in, look straight ahead and put one foot in front of the other; before you know it you’ll be lost in your own mind anyway. I pushed my insecurities aside to start running and I’m really happy that I did. If you need some more reasons why you should give it a go, then lucky you – we have a list!
If you’re already a runner, did you know your chosen exercise had all these benefits?
Cheap and Accessible
Unlike a gym in my town, toilet paper in quarantine or emotionally available men, places to run are easy to find. You can run almost anywhere and you don’t need to make a big investment to start off.
A decent pair of trainers is often enough for most people starting out with that usual 5km running goal. As you progress you might want to upgrade to running shoes, get an armband to hold your stuff or one of those fancy runner’s water bottles with the handles but, as I said, it’s not necessary.
All you need is your body, the ground and some energy to get yourself moving!
Change of Scenery
Instead of staring at the same four walls doing home workouts, or watching your face get redder and sweatier in the gym mirror- go out for a run. The change of scenery, to your local park or forest trail, will do you good. So will the vitamin D.
I’ve already mentioned the importance of variety in fitness. Repetition is boring and you can switch up more than just your exercises. Exploring different routes and finding your favourite is a good way to break repetition and it turns your workout into a mini adventure!
Bonus hint– I wouldn’t recommend starting off with insanely steep uphill runs, I’ve been running for a while now and I still hate those. Find a route with lots of downhill slopes and get yourself excited to run again and feel like Sonic the Hedgehog!
I’d love to see your favourite running routes- send me a picture of your best route on my social media!
Being active looks good on you!
Confidence from running comes from different places. Maybe it’s the pride that comes with beating your personal best, going running in the rain or when you push yourself to go that little bit further. It could be the changes to your appearance or your new status of ‘runner’. Maybe it’s a mix of all of them.
Either way, you’re going to feel self-assured. Just think, you’ve got Money playing by Cardi B and your feet are hitting along to the beat. Your legs are propelling you forwards as you sprint downhill; the wind is flying past your cheek and at that moment you realise that your body is a powerhouse. You’re already an absolute machine and realising it is going to fill you with confidence.
“You can be a thousand different women. It’s your choice which one you want to be.”
A well-known perk of running is that it helps you to lose weight. All exercise is good, but some are better than others. And by better I mean, you burn a lot of calories. What comes with burning a lot of calories? Either losing a lot of weight or being able to eat a lot of food and not feeling guilty about it!
If you’re hoping to lose weight, on top of making some dietary adjustments, you’re going to need to get your body moving. Running a few times a week for 30 minutes is going to do you wonders. Plus, there are loads of sneaky little loopholes that help to boost weight loss. For example, drinking green tea thirty minutes before a run helps to boost the number of calories you burn.
When it comes to the type of running that you should do, both sprinting and distance running have different benefits. You can read the specifics in this Live Strong article or see a quick comparison here!
It isn’t just weight loss. Running is the Fairy Godmother for your insides.
From improving lung capacity to heart health to getting that dopamine-fuelled ‘runner’s high’, your body is going to thank you. Consistent running also leads to increased bone density, which is going to be helpful especially for women as we’re more likely to struggle with osteoporosis or weak bones in later life.
“One in four women reaching the age of 90 can be expected to have a hip fracture.”
Fear not, you won’t have to wait till you’re 90 to reap the rewards of your efforts, there are some benefits that you’ll notice more quickly. Whether it’s a better night’s sleep, clearer skin or the beginnings of muscle definition, proof of your hard work will start to show on your body and that’s going to make you feel good. They don’t call it a runner’s glow for nothing!
Another big benefit to running is the effect it has on our mood. As well as aerobic exercise being able to reduce anxiety by 10%, running specifically has been found to be a godsend for all us stressheads.
Rhonda Patrick makes this easy to understand in her conversation with Joe Rogan. I’d recommend the video, and Dr Patrick’s social media, to anyone interested in the science behind running.
“I feel like if I go for a run if something’s bothering me or if I’m anxious I always feel better, 100% of the time. Like there’s not a single time I go for a run and I’m like “Damn I feel worse, why did I do that?”
-Dr Rhonda Patrick
There’s definitely something in running that just chills us out. It helps us sort out which thoughts are worth worrying about and decide how to cope with the important ones.
I completely agree with Dr Patrick in that there hasn’t been one run that I’ve come back feeling worse from. I’d say that running is my way of meditating, it’s something I prefer to do alone and it leaves me de-stressed and refreshed every time.
Another area that Dr Patrick talks about is the effect of running on memory. Running helps memory and when you run determines which area of your memory it helps.
Running before taking in information boosts your short term memory and running after taking in that information improves your long-term memory. So if you want to remember that annoying thing your boyfriend did for a long time, make sure to go for a run after it happens. But let’s be honest, you’d remember that anyway.
So what do you think? Have I convinced you to give running a(nother) chance? Let me know and don’t forget to send me those running route photos!
“Running for Just 15 Minutes Might Give Your Memory a Serious Boost“, Runner’s World
“Sprinting Vs. Long Distance Running for Weight Loss“, Live Strong
“Exercise“, British Medical Journal
“Physical fitness is associated with anxiety levels in women with fibromyalgia: the al-Ándalus project“, Córdoba-Torrecilla et al.
VIDEO: “Joe Rogan Experience- Benefits of running (Dr Rhonda Patrick)“, JRE Report
SOCIAL MEDIA: Dr Rhonda Patrick