Why Do People Run?

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Athlete running at sunset on beach

Ever since I started running properly a year ago, I have been asked the question ‘why do you run?’ at least 50 times. There is a long list of reasons why people choose to run, varying from person to person. In this article, I’ll be exploring some of the many reasons people make running part of their lives. Hopefully, this article will help people who don’t run to understand why people choose to run, and maybe even consider running themselves.

1. Getting fit

When people write their New Year’s Resolutions down, one of the most popular is to get fit.

It’s common knowledge physically demanding activities, like running, get you fit. Benefits of improved fitness include efficient blood flow, decreasing the risk of a heart attack, controlling blood pressure & cholesterol, increasing bone density, improving your immune system and so on.

Being physically fit can dramatically improve the quality of your life and make you live longer. As running helps you achieve these fitness perks, it’s no wonder so many people run.

2. Building mental toughness

Some people need a physical sport, like running, to push them out of their nice warm comfort zones. In life, we sometimes become accustomed and used to being in an easy situation and as a result, we lose our mental toughness. In other words, we become soft and activities like running push us beyond our limits and show us what we’re capable of.

When do we need to be pushed out of our comfort zones? Say you’ve been working in the same job for years and don’t feel challenged by your work anymore. You chill, relax and coast through your workload without the need to overcome obstacles. Though this reality may entice some, the problem is such individuals have no ability to cope when things get tough. You could say these individuals lack mental toughness because they have not been challenged for so long. Say you lose your job, you might go into a meltdown and feel sorry for yourself for ages. Not able to get out of the rut. Not a happy place to be in.

However, if you regularly challenge yourself with an activity like running you are able to build mental toughness. Running can make you tired, weak and self-doubt your abilities, and it’s through these gruelling moments of training where mental toughness is built. Those uncomfortable mornings when you don’t want to get out of a warm bed, the half-marathons where you’re giving all you have to beat a personal best or even just managing to run 5 miles in one go. Whatever it is, running can always make you feel uncomfortable and challenged so your mental toughness is built. If you worry you’re getting too soft and have limited mental toughness, give running a try.

3. Losing weight

High up the resolution list, along with getting fitter, is losing weight. Many people run to lose pounds, especially if they are overweight or even obese. Running is an incredibly vigorous exercise and puts heavy demand on the body. This is why it’s so effective at burning calories whilst you work up a sweat.

Remember, running as a way to lose weight does not mean a get out of jail free card when it comes to proper nutrition. Not only is eating low quality, processed food all the time bad for your health it tends to be high in calories and make you gain weight. Even if you start running. The basic formula to weight loss is to burn more calories than you consume on a day to day basis. Sounds simple, right? Until you start counting calories you don’t actually realise how many of them exist in certain foods. 3 slices of normal bread contain almost 300 calories, for instance. Which leads nicely onto the next point…

4. Motivation to eat properly

Nobody likes putting in loads of work, only for it to be wiped out in a matter of minutes. This is what can happen if you come back from a 3-mile run, then destroy a bargain bucket of chicken from KFC. Luckily, running can motivate you to take care of yourself with a proper diet. As you’ve already put in lots of effort to run, you’ve gained momentum and have the willpower to resist unhealthy, fast foods. Most people don’t want their running to go to waste, so they make an effort to eat properly.

Personally, running helps drive me to eat properly. When I wake up early, go for my run then go to make breakfast, I’m more motivated to resist the urge to eat junk. This willingness to eat healthily continues throughout the day. As I’ve already overcome the challenge of a run, I’m already feeling mentally strong and like I’ve won a major battle. No doughnut, chocolate chip cookie, fried chicken or sausage roll is going to beat me after I’ve gone for a run!

People run to have the motivation to eat a proper diet.

5. Stress relief

Amazing if you have a high-pressure job, problems in life or just need to get away from everything for a while. Some run as a form of stress relief, and – from personal experience – it is extremely effective.

When we take part in physical activity, like running, our bodies release feel-good chemicals in the brain like dopamine & endorphins. These make you feel happy and relieves stress. Suddenly, everything isn’t as overwhelming and the mind is recharged. The stress is relieved and you’re motivated to think about and tackle your issues.

6. Meeting new people

Lots of people start running as an opportunity to meet others. The running community is friendly, open, approachable and look after one another. I know this from personal experience.

Runners meet each-other by joining clubs, groups, forums and social events. parkrun is my favourite example of the social side of running. Hundreds – sometimes tens – of runners gather in parkrun organise a free, weekly, 5 km timed run outdoors in your local community. Tonnes of runners from the local area get together, have a chat, meet one another and then run a 5k race. It’s the perfect way to meet new people and runners love it.

6. Fundraising

Lots of people begin running to raise funds for a worthy cause. Charities, social projects, homeless shelters, solo expeditions, can all be funded by entering and taking part in a race.

Of course, you might be thinking ‘why do you have to run to raise money? Can’t you just ask for donations?’ A valid question to be asking. Think about it, if somebody asks you for a charitable donation and they are putting themselves against a challenging obstacle (like a half or full marathon), you’re more likely to take notice of their campaign.

It’s nice for people to run for a cause as they feel like they are making a true difference in the bigger picture. Also, fundraising for a worthy cause can drive you to keep training and stay motivated. If you’re running for your own benefit, it’s not so bad if you skip a day of training but when you’re representing an organisation it’s completely different. You don’t want to let people down, so you stick with the training and become inspired to do your best.

7. Improved self-esteem

Some people, as a means of improving their self-esteem, start running.

Self-esteem reflects how someone feels about themselves. What they are worth, how important they are, the significance of their own lives and so on. Deep stuff, I know. If you have low self-esteem, you’re likely to think very low of your self and maybe even be depressed. Low self-esteem can come from a lack of achievement, ambition and physical activity. Not a nice position to be in, mentally.

Running can build self-esteem because it can make you feel more confident about your health, weight, appearance and sense of achievement. Having a raised self-esteem makes you more confident, happy and ambitious, and is even attributed to a higher quality life.

A sense of achievement is something I want to touch on briefly, with regards to self-esteem. Sometimes in life, it’s difficult to tell when we’ve done well at something. When we run, it’s very obvious whether or not we’ve achieved what we set out to. We either run a set distance or you don’t. The personal best is beaten or it isn’t. A fundraising target is smashed or it’s underfunded, and so on.

Setting challenges and then beating them in running gives a tremendous sense of tangible achievement, which raises self-esteem. Each achievement gives you a powerful reference of a time you’ve overcome a difficult obstacle and overcome a challenge. Suddenly, you’re more confident and you believe in yourself more not just in running but in all aspects of your life.

There you have it. 7 of the most common reasons people start running. If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends and see what they think.

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