We all know that running is great for the body, but are there benefits that extend into other areas? Can running have a positive effect on your character and how you experience life?
First, let’s have a look at some of the physical benefits:
- Improves joint and bone health
- Helps to reduce the risk of disease including cancer
- Boosts metabolism
Those who run on a regular basis can confirm that this type of exercise has many physical benefits. But running is also great for you mentally and emotionally, ultimately having an effect on your character. Running allows you to challenge yourself and to find and release certain individual character qualities.
Below are some ways running can help you to become stronger in both your body and mind, making you a better person. There are many veteran runners out there that can confirm how running has actually helped and transformed their characters in some form or another.
Running can help to improve Mental Strength
Many take up running after various health scares, which helps them recover or can slow down the disease process. After a while, they find that not only is it helping them physically, but there are many other rewards and benefits.
Running can help build perseverance as well as confidence, as you notice results. By continuing and overcoming the initial difficulty of developing a running routine, you feel you can overcome all obstacles.
Another example – imagine having to move from one city to another. A place where you don’t know anybody, a stranger in an unknown environment. This story will resonate with many, including Alice. Her husband got a job in another city and she had to move with him to a new and different place.
One of the things she regularly does is run and this is what helped her through the moving transition. Running had helped her build her strength both physically as well as mentally, thereby enabling her to adapt much faster and more easily.
Finding clarity when things go wrong
Running can be something that helps you cope with various life challenges. Think about stressful situations, like those who serve in the armed forces. There are many other instances where depression, stress, and anxiety can overwhelm you.
Can running help? Yes, there have been those who are going through these painful experiences but confirm that running has helped them cope.
The routine and focus it takes to run can help you to find clarity and peace in challenging circumstances. Running can become a sort of coping mechanism, which is far better than turning to alcohol or drugs.
Running helps you to adapt to change
Sometimes, you might lose control of something in your life, it could be a health issue or other circumstance. In these cases, you don’t have a choice with what is happening to you or around you. This was a case for Sarah (name changed for privacy), who wasn’t a runner, to begin with. But after suffering a health condition that caused blindness in her right eye, she decided to focus on her health more. So, she began a running routine and has kept on ever since.
She is now healthier and has even lost quite a bit of weight in the process. She also has no more health issues and has completed a few marathons since then. She is so confident in what running has done for her that she now tries to get as many friends and colleagues to join her.
Running, therefore, helps you to adapt to difficult circumstances, giving you something you can focus on. By choosing to make a positive change, you are helping to overcome any feelings of helplessness.
Confidence Boosting through running
Running is a great way to build confidence. When running, you have to set goals, and this gives you a sense of achievement when you reach what you set out to do. While running, you are focusing on yourself and on the moment. Your improved health, appearance, and mood are all confidence boosting. When you start to take care of yourself, you also become better at dealing with everything else in your life.
Running Encourages Creativity
While running, specifically on a familiar route, you can let your mind wander. This puts you in a position to think more creatively, a great way to improve problem-solving skills. Studies show that any moderate aerobic exercise increases a person’s creative potential. This can be seen directly after a workout as well as a few hours later.
So, running can, therefore, increase mental clarity and provides an uninterrupted time where you can think and come up with solutions to various problems. Many runners also claim that their thoughts feel a bit sluggish if they miss their daily run.
Form Friendships through running
We all know that running produces a feel-good mood, which is caused by certain hormones released in the body. This positive attitude and feeling can also affect those around you. You might be a solitary runner, even if it is in a race, you will notice the friendliness and support runners provide each other. You will always find a runner assisting another if the need arises.
For many, the comradery is what attracts them to running. There’s time before a race to chat with your fellow runners while waiting to start. Even during the race, you might find those who encourage you and with whom you can strike up a conversation. The entire running community is supportive, with a positive outlook, attracting many who wish to also experience this type of community.
Most runners will have experienced some challenging races, not finishing, having to leave a race due to injury even after hours of hard training. Running does have its challenges, these above as well as things like bad weather or difficult terrain. All these things can have a humbling effect, no matter what level of runner you are. Each runner has setbacks, but ultimately these difficulties help to build your strength and resilience. These hardships you overcome while running can help you with those difficulties that happen in your everyday life.
When it comes to performing your best at any sport, it takes a lot of hard work and involves a variety of training regimens. Recently an athlete mentioned in an interview, that there are some things you just cannot do without when it comes to an exercise routine. The one thing he mentioned that is absolutely necessary, is weight-lifting.
Ask any athlete and they will tell you that they include a comprehensive weight lifting routine in their exercise regimens. The reason being, an athletes endurance and prolonged existence within a sport, is directly related to their physical strength. A great example of this is Michael Jordan, who when he played for the Chicago Bulls, had his very own private strength trainer. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he remained on top of his game until he announced his retirement in 1999.
When it comes to the ordinary person who goes to the gym every day, or every so often, the same rules apply. We have to maintain our strength in order to have good posture, feel and look good. Strengthening exercises can also help us to perform demanding activities, from the beginning into old age. When we see some elderly people today, many of them are bent over, have weak muscle tone and have difficulty in performing basic movements and tasks. Getting in and out of a chair becomes a mission in itself. If we don’t look after and apply ourselves now, we might struggle with the same problems later in life.
There is one rule when it comes to weight lifting, if you don’t use it, you lose it. If you are physically inactive, as you grow older and after the age of 30, you could lose 3% up to 5% muscle mass every 10 years. This ultimately causes you to have less mobility and of course strength.
You will naturally lose muscle mass as you get older, but to improve this, we can all thankfully use our strength and weight lifting to build it up. Thus, maintaining and improving our health. Those who are elderly and have lost their strength can also improve their health by doing simple strengthening exercises.
There is really no excuse, as the exercises are easy and very simple to perform. They don’t take long to do and cost next to nothing. The one requirement necessary for success comes from you, commitment. Envision yourself as strong and healthy, then make sure to put in the effort to make it happen.
Some might enjoy the atmosphere of a gym where they can their weight lifting and exercises, but this is not necessary. The only equipment needed would be a bench and some weights and you could then easily do this at home. Every sporting goods store should have different weights available. Talk to the sales people and tell them what you are planning to do, they can then recommend what you need. You could also test out the various weights on display and pick the one you are most comfortable with.
The guideline here is, you need a weight you know you will be able to lift for 10 repetitions, with a bit of a burn near the end.
If you are a beginner, it is best to get yourself a set of weights. Women would need to get themselves a set of 1kg, 2kg, 3kg, 4kg, 5kg and 6kg weights. Men can start from 2kg and go up to 10kg. The more serious weight lifter can invest in a bench press and heavier weights.
Those who wish to work on their legs can easily get their hands on some weights that strap onto the ankles. Start out with 2kg ankle weights, one for each leg, and if you feel you can handle more, just strap two ankle weights to each leg.
The cost of gym memberships is quite high, if you purchase these few items, you will be saving yourself a lot of money. The equipment is also something you can use for a lifetime, you won’t have to keep paying for it.
The following weight lifting routine can be done once every second or third day. The whole routine will take you less than 30 minutes. These exercises can easily be done before or after you run, bike or walk. To maintain a basic level, you only need to complete one set of 10 repetitions.
Remember, as with any exercise routine, stick to your level, any exercise can cause stress to your body if you are not used to it. Start slowly and develop your strength and endurance. The effect of overdoing it is really not worth it, which can include:
- Painful muscles
- You may feel tired or even lethargic
- Overdoing it stresses the body and could make you more susceptible to colds
The best way to avoid this is to begin your workout routine with only 6 repetitions. You can then gradually increase to 7 repetitions and so on until you reach 10 repetitions. If you find 10 repetitions too easy, you can think of adding a few more kilograms. This specific routine won’t make you bulky but is aimed at toning and making you stronger.
Weight Lifting Exercise Routine for Runners
Before you begin your exercise routine, there are a few things you should take note of. Weight lifting can be potentially harmful if you don’t know how to properly perform each exercise. The best thing to do, is to ask somebody who is knowledgeable and has experience with weight lifting, let them help you with a weight lifting exercise routine before you go it alone.
- The following routine provides a weight, starting position, exercise motion/action and required focus.
- The exercise involves lifting repetitions, you begin at a starting position and will go back to the starting position.
- There are three types of weights:
- Dumbbell: a weighted object that you can easily hold, usually one in each hand.
- Barbell: a bar that is usually 5 feet long that has weights which can be added or removed on each end. The bar is held with both hands.
- Ankle or wrist weights: a weighted item that can be strapped to the ankle or wrist using Velcro.
- To begin the routine with the correct weight varies with each exercise. The main point to remember is to start out with a weight that is right for you. It must be comfortable enough to lift the weight when doing the repetitions. You should feel a slight burn or effort with the last few repetitions. You should not go for a heavyweight, which requires you to strain to lift it up.
If you really want to build bulky muscles and look like Hercules, then picking a heavyweight and straining after few repetitions, is the way to go. The routine here, however, is great for toning and strengthening muscles, without the strain. The exercises below will offer you a way to look and feel good and are easy to do.
You will notice that some of the exercises have different weights, some weighing more than others. This all depends on the type of muscle being targeted. If it’s your first time, try to test out the weights before doing the exercises. Complete about two repetitions of each exercise, which can help you feel the difference before you begin earnestly. You will then know if the weight is too heavy or light for you. Each of the exercises shows what weight is needed, for instance, light, moderate and heavy.
A lightweight is recommended for smaller muscle groups, which is about 1kg to 3 kg for an adult. The correct weight can also depend on things like age, sex and if you already have experience with weight lifting. As mentioned before, if you want to do weight lifting from home, visit a sporting shop that sells weight lifting equipment. The salespeople should be well informed and able to help you choose the correct equipment.
Are you just starting out or just coming back into weight lifting? The best way to start would be, to begin with, 6 repetitions and don’t follow up with repeats. After this take two or even three days off, then perform the exercises with 7 repetitions. Rest and then follow up with 8 repetitions and continue like this until you reach 10 repetitions for each exercise.
Thinking you can just jump into a routine, is a mistake and can cause muscle pain, especially the day after. Although, it is natural, to fell a bit of muscle soreness after beginning an exercise routine. You should look out for a sharp pain or ache when using a muscle, this means you may have injured the muscle. You should then stop doing the exercises and recover before starting over again. This time, use a lighter weight to prevent injury.
Eventually, you will become stronger and can then add more weight, but before this happens you will have to work your way up. Generally, after about several months, you have built enough strength to add in more challenging exercises and heavier weights. Although, you really don’t have to change anything, if you don’t want to. This routine is great to continue with and has less of a risk of injury and exhaustion.
In order to perform some of the exercises, you will need to have some type of narrow and stable table. You can get yourself a proper bench or you can make use of a table at home. The table has to be long enough to fit your body and also low enough so that your feet touch the ground when you are lying on your back.
Breathing is important for all types of exercises, so it is important to do the following. Breath in as you lift the weight up and breath out when you go back to the start position. Try to keep a steady rhythm as you do the exercises. Wherever the weight is, it is okay to take a few breaths before continuing. Obviously, it is not a good idea to hold your breath at any time, when doing the exercises. Remember to breath!
Arm raises – lightweights
Start Position: Hold a lightweight or dumbbell in each hand. Place the weights in front on the thighs, palms backward.
Action: Lift up the dumbbell until it’s at eye-level
Focus: Make sure your palms are down and your arms are straight
Curls – moderate weights
Start Position: Hold moderate weights in both hands next to your thighs. Palms must be facing forward.
Action: With a ‘curling’ move, lift the dumbbells to the shoulders.
Focus: The elbows should remain at your side.
Bent over Flies – Lightweights
Start Position: Hold light weights at your side with your feet shoulder width apart. Palms must be facing inward. While keeping your back straight, bend over at about a 45-degree angle. Your arms should be hanging down.
Action: Lift the weights away from the body to the side, this will squeeze the shoulder blades together.
Focus: Bend elbows slightly and keep arms straight.
Flies – light to moderate weights
Start Position: Hold a moderate weight in each hand and lie on your back. Keep arms straight above the chest.
Action: Take weights to the side and lower your arms, move arms out to the side and finally raise arms and bring back to starting position.
Focus: Bend elbows slightly
Chest Expansion – one heavyweight
Start Position: Lie on your back with arms straight, hold heavyweight with both hands above the chest.
Action: Let the weight drop to shoulder level behind the head. Lift up and back to starting position.
Focus: Keeps arms straight but you can bend them slightly.
Lateral Pull – one heavyweight
Start Position: Kneeling on the bench, hold heavyweight in the left hand. The right knee must be on the bench, place right hand on knee. The left hand must hang down.
Action: Squeeze left shoulder blade and the relax
Focus: Keep the weight close to the left side
Military Move – moderate weight – Barbell
Start Position: Sitting on a bench hold moderate weight Barbell with both hands and at chest level.
Action: Lift up the barbell until it is above your head and arms are straight. Move back to the starting position.
Focus: Try and keep your chin level and back straight.
Chin Lift – lightweight – Barbell
Start Position: Hold lightweight I barbell with both hands at the point of your thighs. Ensure feet at shoulder width apart. Palms must be facing back, with arms straight and hands less than 3 cm apart.
Action: Lift barbell up towards the chin.
Focus: Ensure elbows are bent and above the bar.
Squat – moderate weight – Barbell
Start Position: Hold Barbell at thigh level with feet shoulder-width apart. Hands should be by your inner thighs.
Action: Take the Barbell down until it’s almost touching the floor, move back up to starting position.
Focus: While maintaining a straight back, bend slightly at the waist. The movement is the same as sitting down onto a chair.
Bench Press – moderate weights
Start Position: Holding a moderate dumbbell in each hand, lie down on your back. Keep arms straight and above the chest.
Action: Bring the weights down to chest level, then move up again to start position.
Focus: Arms should be vertical, and elbows held wide.
Triceps Kick Back
Start Position: Hold lightweight in each hand, from the waist lean over about 45-degrees. Lift weight up to stomach, elbows will be sticking out behind.
Action: Move weights by straightening out your arm from the elbow.
Focus: Elbows must remain stationary.
Shoulder Shrugs – heavyweight – Barbell
Start Position: Hold Barbell at thigh level with both hands, back straight and feet shoulder width apart.
Action: Shrug shoulders or pull shoulders up towards your ears, which will lift the barbell.
Focus: Arms must hang down straight at all times.
Crunches – ankle weights for balance
Start Position: Lay on the floor on your back, knees bent, with feet on the floor. Place hands with the palms facing down onto the floor, hands must be just under and next to the butt area.
Action: Lift your head and shoulders slowly
Focus: Perform with slow deliberate movements. No jerking.
Outer Leg Raises – moderate weights on the ankle
Start Position: Strap a weight to your right ankle and lie on your left side on the floor.
Action: Lift right foot up in a wide movement. Repeat action on lying on right side with the weight strapped to your left ankle.
Focus: Make sure hips remain perpendicular to the floor and the foot must remain horizontal.
Inner Leg raises – moderate weight on the ankle
Start Position: Strap moderate weight to left ankle and lie on your left side on the floor. Left leg is straight, while the right leg is crossed over on top, bent at the knee.
Action: Lift the left leg straight up as far as you can go. Repeat action on the right side with weight on your right ankle.
Focus: Hips must be perpendicular to the floor, left foot horizontal.
Hip Extension – moderate weight on the ankle
Start Position: Bend down onto the floor, with knees and hands on the ground – ‘on all fours’. Stretch out one leg behind you, this leg should have the weight strapped on.
Action: Extend the leg and lift as far as you can go. Repeat on the other leg.
Focus: The hips must remain parallel to the floor, while the leg extended must remain straight.
Heel Raises – weight is optional
Start Position: Stand on a step or bench on your toes, with the heel off the edge. Make sure to balance yourself. Do one leg at a time, the other leg can be placed behind the ‘working’ leg.
Action: Raise your body up as high as you can go. For the first workout do 10 repetitions, follow with 15-25 repetitions. Change legs and repeat.
Focus: When you start, make sure your heel is down and stretching those muscles.
Every single long-distance runner had to start somewhere. I can certainly attest to this, my first run lasted all of 500 meters or thereabouts. This article is for walkers and slow joggers who are interested in basic fitness. This is not about learning how to win a race , but you could well learn how to enjoy regular exercise. So, if you are willing to read on, let me congratulate you on your interest in becoming fit for life.
My definition of ‘being fit for life’ is having the ability to manage the unusual physical activities without getting exhausted, sick or injured. The unusual activities could be picking up a heavy box or having to walk up 8 flights of stairs when the elevator is out of order. It could be having to walk a mile because your car broke down or dealing with the stress of a crisis.
The unusual physical activities could also include things that are fun to do but currently not possible because you are out of shape. This could be playing a game of tennis without ripping a muscle or even taking your kids on a bike ride. Perhaps even enjoying some snorkelling at the beach. Lifetime fitness has several components:
Stamina, built with walking, jogging, biking and swimming;
muscle strength, built with resistance exercises such as weight lifting;
flexibility, increased by stretching;
weight control, maintained with moderate, low-fat eating.
A regular fitness regimen would include at least three 30-minute stamina sessions per week, two short strength building session per week, at least one stretching session between each stamina session, and three low-fat meals and a light afternoon snack each day. Reading the articles in this section will start you on the path to lifetime fitness.
Before You Begin: I strongly recommend you do the following sentence completion exercise with an exercise partner. It will give you an opportunity to verbalize and problem-solve what may be on your mind about getting fit.
How it will work: Sit facing your partner. Decide who will be the speaker and who will be the listener during the first round. The speaker will complete a series of sentences that the listener reads from the list below. The speaker’s task is to keep talking for a whole minute while the listener only listens and times the minute. This is not a discussion. That comes later.
The Process: Once the speaker has completed all the sentences, then you reverse roles and the original speaker listens while the original listener speaks. After you have both completed the sentences, take about 15 or 20 minutes to discuss what you heard the other saying.
My favorite fitness activity is…
What I enjoy most about this fitness activities is…
The people that support me in my fitness activities are…
The fitness vision I have of myself when I am 75 years old is…
The ways I could integrate new fitness activities into my life are…
The new fitness activity I see myself beginning this week is…
My major concern in getting started is…
The best way to handle my concern is…
My plan for getting started is…