Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Like it or not, Running is Good

I hate running. Before I got serious about Martial Arts training, I was always involved in running-based sports. Even then, I hated running. In soccer I loved the goals, in football I loved the tackles and in rugby I loved the chaos. Unfortunately, having believed that I escaped those long and boring running drills, I find myself on a strict running program. What went wrong?

Good for Character
The least satisfying reason (but kind of true) that anyone has ever given me to encourage me to run is that it's "good for character". I can see that, but it's too weak to stand on its own. They say that while you are running, you're alone with your thoughts and that you work a lot of things out. I agree, but some would argue that they have a porcelain seat that does the same... All joking aside, I have experienced that during my last run. Also, the simple act of doing something you don't like because you know it's good for you teaches discipline and develops character. I planned this whole article on my last run! I treat it as a meditation in motion.

The Best Ones Run
There has to be something I'm missing if all the most impressive human specimens in the world include running into their lifestyle. Obviously, it all makes sense in context. In the military, you wake up and start running before you even have breakfast. Fighters run everyday while preparing for a fight. Just about every athlete of every sport uses running, if for nothing more than a warm-up to their training program. At it's simplest, a good run will get the blood flowing and the muscles warm to allow someone to push themselves to their limits with reduced chances of injury.

Reading up on all the benefits of running was the worst thing I ever did. Even after all this time, they're still coming out with new health benefits to running! This is a curse, because you can't unlearn these facts and if you hate it like I do you're stuck. I'm coming back from two consecutive knee injuries and I was told that running on grass (never pavement, kills the back and knees) would strengthen my legs and greatly reduce the chances of re-injury. So that's one point I can't shut down. It strengthens the heart, literally making it bigger and stronger. This greatly reduces your chances of heart-related illness. Another benefit (among hundreds) of having a strong heart is that it can hold more blood, which means that under duress, you will have an easier time regulating your blood temperature and keeping your cool. Another point I can't deny, even though I tried... Being able to control your breathing is one of the most important skills a person could have. This is something that I would like everyone to be comfortable with. I've been through some pretty sticky situations and if it wasn't for all the patient instructors who taught me how to get a grip on my breathing, I would have screwed it all up. Your breathing, heart rate and mental state all go hand-in-hand under stress. Once you control your breathing, your heart rate regulates and then you don't feel like you're drowning anymore so you avoid panic and make calm, calculated decisions. Unfortunately, one of the best ways of practicing such an important ability is through running...

Well, there you have it. Runners of the world, you win. There are far more benefits and reasons to run, but it's too upsetting to go any further. I hate but love it at the same time. I have to admit that every time I go out there and go 10% further than the last one, run a little faster, go a little longer or do that extra lap I feel good. I feel lighter on my feet, my breathing is solid and I'm just in a better mood since I included running into my training regiment. I fought it for years and lost, running is too good to not have in your life. Whether athlete, fighter or just a health nut, give me 10 laps.

Next: To continue on this "running" theme, we will discuss breathing drills from Systema that can increase your performance and train you to control your heart-rate. Square Breathing coming soon!


Questions? Death threats?

"Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle: when the sun comes up, you'd better be running."