You don’t need to run marathons to run for health
“If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast (or slow) or how far (or how far). It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to win, no membership card to obtain. You just ran.
I have been running for 18 years. Whenever the topic of running comes up in a conversation or at a party, the first thing people ask me is, “So you run marathons? And I answer: “I run, but I don’t run. Most don’t understand, so I clarify: “I run 3-4 times a week, but I don’t participate in races or marathons. This then leads to the “why”!
I used to run half marathons and it’s great fun. But they are also useless. If the whole idea of running for health is to live a long, healthy life and be physically active, then what is important is to run. Just like you don’t need to compete in bodybuilding competitions to lift weights in a gym, you don’t need to compete in marathons to run for health. If you want to run marathons, that’s great, but you don’t need it.
You may have questions. Here are some answers.
Why should I run?
Please read my previous article on walking, take all of these benefits and multiply them by a factor of 1.5 or 2 and these are the benefits of running. There is no better physical activity. Period!
How to start?
“And yet, in the end, it comes down to one basic problem. The simple act of running! Putting on a pair of shoes, with shorts or a tracksuit and a t-shirt, without any fancy gear, getting out in the open, whether that’s in a garden or a sports track or on the road and hitting the ground , one foot after another, indefinitely, emptying your mind of all useless thoughts, zen, concentrating on a single objective; functioning.” I wrote this many years ago when I was a columnist at the Mumbai Mirror and the words still hold true.
The best thing to do is to start. Start by walking. Then every 4 1/2 minutes, run for 30 seconds, for a week or two, for about 30 minutes, 3-4 times a week. Then when you are more comfortable, do 4 minutes of walking and 1 minute of running and so on until you reach 4 minutes of running and 1 of walking. You can then increase your time to 45 minutes or 1 hour at least once a week. The trick is to count time, not miles.
What do I need?
The shoes make the difference. So it’s best to experiment, until you find the right pair.
It’s a good idea to invest in a sports watch that lets you leave your phone at home, so you can time yourself well.
If it’s unusually hot and humid, you can pack a small bottle of water if you’re running more than 30-60 minutes at a time.
What’s the best way to run?
There is no “best” way. Some swear by the forward foot stroke, some the back foot stroke, some will focus on breath control, some will worry about their arm movements… whatever. Start running first. Once it becomes part of your daily routine, you can try different running methods and figure out what works best for you.
Do I need a trainer or a running coach?
No. Maybe if you want to run a half marathon or a marathon, we can help you with a training program.
Isn’t running boring?
I listen to music when I run. Many others prefer the opposite… to be in their own thoughts during the race. I find that running, like walking, is a time for being alone… my “me” time.
Should I consult a doctor before starting to run?
No, unless you want to run a marathon.
Should I join a running group?
I will not do it. I prefer to run solo. The idea is to be with yourself. But there are some benefits to running in a group, especially when it comes to motivation and grip, so if it works for you… go for it. The important thing is to run…no matter what drives you to do so.
Today is my race day, but I just don’t feel like it
Wear your running shoes and clothes. To go out. Start walking, if you don’t do anything else. Usually once you start walking, after a while you may feel like running a bit… but even if you don’t, at least you walked…
Where am I running?
Everywhere outside. Gardens, roads, tracks. I run in and around Matunga on all kinds of roads. The smoother the concrete road, the better. Cobbled tracks and cobbled roads are the worst, as their irregularities can upset your balance.
If you have access to a beach, then there’s no better feeling than running along the water’s edge on the hard sand, barefoot.
When do I run?
In hot weather and in hot countries, circulation times are limited to periods around dawn and dusk. Around dawn in the morning is better than in the evening, if you use public roads, simply because there is much less traffic and less air pollution. If you’re running in a garden or on a track, it probably doesn’t matter. It’s best to check the sunrise time and then leave 20 minutes before dawn, or even earlier if the street lighting is good.
In more temperate and colder countries, it really doesn’t matter. Any time is a good time.
And the treadmills?
Treadmills are not natural, but necessary evils. If it’s raining or you’re in a hotel in an area with bad roads, a treadmill is always better than nothing.
Doesn’t running ruin your knees and cause injuries?
Knee injury is a myth unless you already have a pre-existing injury. And whether you’re running on mud or concrete doesn’t matter. What matters is that the track is flat, without potholes.
That’s the only excuse most people find. “I started running, but then I went on vacation…or I started traveling for work…and my schedules were all messed up, and now I’m struggling to restart.”
You must take your running clothes and shoes with you. All over. I run everywhere I go. It is also a good way to discover the city or the village. And if you’re worried about running in a new city, then walk.
Use Google Maps to find the blues (bodies of water, lakes, etc.) and greens (gardens, parks, forest trails, etc.) to guide you. Or ask the concierge or the locals.
And the dogs…
What can I say ! They are my biggest problem. They are territorial and on small inland roads they can startle you by barking, chasing and chasing you. When I come across a dog that I haven’t seen before (and yes I try to remember) I stop 50-100 meters away and walk…in front of the dog and a little beyond, then I start the race again. I have dog stories that I can go on and on.
In short… run. 30-45 minutes, 3-4 times a week, with a slightly longer run on weekends. You don’t have to complicate things or worry about running marathons or half-marathons or overthinking the process. Running plays an important role in our atmasvasth quest for long life and health.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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