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I Love Running
It’s kind of a silly thing to say. I’ve been told by many that I’m crazy when I tell them that I’ve run two marathons as well as the Goofy Marathon and a Half Challenge. If you don’t know, it’s a Disney run – a half marathon, and a full marathon in two days. If you are “goofy” enough to do both then you get an extra special medal. I completed the challenge back in 2012, and it was one of the proudest moments I’ve ever had.
Running has been a lot of things to me during my life. At times it has been a quiet meditation, or time to work out my thoughts. Other times, it was a space to bond with friends. I have made some of my very closest friendships while running miles. I’ve seen the country traveling to fun and interesting races in different states. Running has been a way to challenge myself physically and mentally, and has made me brave. I know that I can conquer anything I set my mind to, after completing 26.2 grueling miles in hot Florida weather dressed up as a running version of Rapunzel.
Plus, it’s just fun. I like the camaraderie of runners at a race, the silliness of Turkey Trots and Santa Runs, and fun t-shirts and medals. I love venturing out to new and interesting places, and getting a new pair of running shoes is like Christmas!
Things have changed over the years though. My body is different these days. I’ve had hip surgery and other life happenings that have kept me out of the running game for a few years, and my body looks and feels different from when I would spent hours on the road and trails running happily along. So the question becomes – am I still fit to run?
Some Benefits Of Running
First, let’s look at a few other factors. Running doesn’t come without its benefits. I’ll mention three:
We all like to sleep, right? Turns out that runners and other athletes are good at it. In this study on adolescent athletes, researchers found that athletes fell asleep faster, woke up less, and felt more awake and focused the next day. Sounds good – who do you know that doesn’t need more and better sleep?
Running and Chronic Conditions (Heart Disease, Hypertension, and Diabetes)
This meta-analysis in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings showed that while the specifics on types of running on chronic conditions vary, overall, runners have a decrease in all of the big three chronic conditions – heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. Findings like these have big implications for your health.
So many times knee problems are blamed on running and also on size, so you can imagine that this combination is used as warning for runners in larger bodies not to run at all.
You might be surprised by articles like this one from Arthritis Care & Research that found no increased risk of knee osteoarthritis for runners vs nonrunners, and “in those without OA, running does not appear to be detrimental to the knees.” In fact, the National Institute of Health recommends weight-bearing exercise (including running) to improve bone health and decrease risk of osteoporosis. That’s pretty fantastic. So, it might be more likely that those with existing knee problems can increase injury risk by running without proper treatment and strengthening instead of running causing the knee problems.
So Am I Fit To Run?
In short, yes. I am fit to run, and you probably are too. Runners can come in all shapes and sizes, so if you are waiting to get a “runner’s body,” look no further than your mirror. Ta Da! With proper training, most bodies can learn to run safely if running sounds like fun to you.
One of my favorite trainers to follow on Instagram, Louise Green (@louisegreen_bigfitgirl) loves to run. When asked by Runner’s World in 2017 what running has done for her, she says, “Absolutely everything! Better health, greater self-worth, a new career. Running has the power to really elevate someone – to change the way they feel about themselves. That’s what it did for me.” Read the full article here. You can also check out her 5k for Every Body training plan in her book, Big Fit Girl* . It’s a great read!
Still not convinced? Here’s a diverse list of strong women who are also fit enough to run!
How To Get Started
If you are finding yourself excited to get moving, here are a few tips to stay safe while you get started.
- Get a good pair of shoes – one of the benefits of running is that you don’t need a lot of equipment to get going, but don’t skimp on shoes. Make sure to get a pair that is made for running.
- Wear comfortable clothing – it can take some time to find the right fit for you, but find clothing that is comfortable, and doesn’t rub where you don’t want it to! Some people prefer leggings, while others like a looser fit. Wicking material can be helpful if you are going long enough to sweat.
- Start more slowly than you think you should – it’s okay to start with just 20-30 seconds of running at a time between walking breaks. You can slowly move up your intervals of running as you feel more comfortable. Running and walking is a great workout! You can find some free beginners couch to 5k programs online, or even in your smartphone’s app store.
- Be safe – bring a buddy with you or make sure you run on well-marked trails; tell someone where you are going.
- Give yourself props – no matter how much you run, how slow you go, or how much you don’t feel like a runner, YOU ARE A RUNNER if you run.
John “the Penguin” Bingham, known and loved for his slower running style says, “If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast 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 earn, no membership card to get. You just run.”
The Take Away
I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention that many types of exercise might result in improved sleep, and decreased risk of chronic conditions. Moving your body in any way is good for your health. Today we’re talking about running, because I love running. What kind of body movement do you love? The best kind of exercise is the kind that you enjoy, makes your body feel good, and keeps you coming back for more!
Niki is a Registered Dietitian and the owner of New Frontier Nutrition LLC. Niki works to help clients create a diet-free life with Intuitive Eating strategies. She lives at home with her partner, two dogs, and three cats.