This is an edited version of a post first published on 9 September 2013.
Women should run for a lot of things – like presidential elections, board positions, treasurer at the local sporting club.
But there’s one form of ‘running’ that doesn’t require the opinions of anybody else, or even all that much hard work: the kind that involves running around a park, on a trail, at a beach, or your neighbourhood streets.
We know running is great exercise. It’ll get you fit, help you lose weight, all those wonderful things.
But for women, I believe the real benefits in running lie elsewhere.
This weekend thousands of runners in Sydney will come together for the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival. Some will run the nine kilometre Bridge Run. Others the half marathon. And others again will go the whole way with the full marathon.
So in honour of this event and if you’d like to think about entering it or something similar next time, I wanted to share some of the other benefits of running, especially for women, as well as some tips for getting started.
Firstly, the benefits:
Personal solitude. When do you get the opportunity to truly spend some time with yourself? Running divides a small segment of your day into a period that’s all about you. Where’s Mum? She’s running. Make it your daily habit and they’ll know to expect you’ll be out.
Think up a great idea. When work is hectic and the home is a mess it can be difficult to get some ‘me time’ to think things through, come up with a new idea or even just a strategy for how you’re going to get through the day. Your 30 minute running time is a great opportunity to get that thinking done.
Get home from work, efficiently. Live within a certain radius of your office and running could be your new transport home – indeed it could even be a faster way to get home. For busy women, this is a particularly efficient way to combine transport and exercise into the same part of your day.
Explore a great part of the world. This could be in your neighbourhood, an hour’s drive away, or some fantastic trails in the country side. Get your fitness up and your weekend run can present a whole new world of opportunities for checking out new sights and sounds. Pack your sneakers while taking a business trip and use running as a means to explore a new part of a city you’d otherwise miss.
Sleep better. I took up running after suffering insomnia for years – my body simply wasn’t ready or interested in sleep of a night time, no matter how exhausted I felt. By setting the clock early, getting out of the house to hit the pavement and finding a new routine, I found bedtime of an evening a simpler proposition.
You’ll be more relaxed. For one, you’re sleeping better. You’re working off that excess energy and anxiety, finding time for yourself and easing into your day in a way that’s all about you.
Get set for the day. Run first thing in the morning, as the sun comes up, and you develop a whole new sense of the morning’s possibilities. There’s no easing into the work day or waiting for the coffee to kick in when you start with a run. You’re awake and ready to go.
Release the pressures of the day. If you’re more of an afternoon exerciser, the pre-dinner run could provide the time you need to release all that tension from the day, shrug off the worst of it and kick up an appetite for a healthy meal.
Catch up on the news, chat shows, audio books, interview programs. Podcasts were made for running. Need a business update but don’t have time? Coordinate it with your daily run – that’s exercise and getting informed at the same time. Never find time for a full news bulletin? Have it download to your iPhone automatically and take it out on the road. Alternatively source podcasts covering interviews with people who inspire you and you’ll run up plenty of kilometres in no time. Try the ABC’s Richard Fidler’s Conversation Hour or BBC Women’s Hour for some great starter content.
Not currently a runner and want to get started? These tips may help:
- Download the Couch to 5k Running Program.
- Enter a race – such as the 9km Blackmores Bridge Run, find a training program online and get stuck into it.
- Schedule running time into your day – and that may mean putting it in a diary. If you can’t find the time, create it by getting up an hour earlier.
- Plan to go for a walk (easier to get motivated when you’re starting out) and then run a small portion of the route while you’re out and about.
- Go short before you go long. Fitness Magazine recommends beginners aim for twenty minutes, three times a week, and gradually increase from there (that may mean running 4 minutes, walking 1 minutes until you make the full time and eliminating the walk breaks as you go)
- Find a fellow starting-out running buddy. Agree to meet at a certain time of a morning and you won’t be able to get out of it without seriously letting them down.
- Don’t run in the rain. If the weather’s terrible, give yourself a break.
- Treat yourself to some nice running clothes. Not actually necessarily, but at least you’ll look good.