Running, my medicine, my therapy. It’s been nine long months since I last hit the pavement running. While I know it is important to stay active while pregnant complications from my first pregnancy kept my feet well planted. It is hard, trying and challenging for me not to do the very thing that keeps me sane. Nine.long.months. But I’m back in action, slowly and shurely, one foot at a time my body is running again.
My motivation is sanity. It is MY time. The time for me to refresh, regroup and de-stress. And while I know it doesn’t replace a therapist, it is still my time (with a dear friend because it is always better to run with a friend) to laugh, possibly cry and motivate one another to keep stepping, to keep running, to keep breathing. I run because I love to run.
It isn’t always easy, it isn’t always fun. It is hard to roll out of bed after multiple mid-night feedings. It is hard in the bitterly cold wind, yet it is so good for my body and more importantly for my soul. I don’t run to win or to lose weight. I run because it fuels my body in ways nothing else does.
Running is a choice. It is a mentality, a mind game. If you don’t want it, it won’t happen. If you don’t like it, it won’t happen. As with anything, you have to set yourself up to succeed. Most importantly, you have to believe you can. And while I’d like to say everyone can run, sometimes it is best if you just simply don’t.
Here are five reasons you shouldn’t run:
You have adrenal fatigue or an unmanaged auto-immune disease (1).
You are sick.
You have an injury.
You haven’t been getting enough sleep.
You are on the verge of a burnout.
All five reasons are times in which your body is considered “under” stress. Stress is reason enough for you not to run as it prevents your body from functioning at it’s prime. This is due to the spike in cortisol. Cortisol is our stress hormone usually acting in a fight or flight response. In the short-term cortisol is very beneficial. The problem arises when cortisol turns from acute to chronic. When we have a constant stream of cortisol in our system from our ever-stressed, fast-paced lifestyles, this constant stream of cortisol can and is wreaking havoc on many people’s health. The whole-body process, mediated by hormones and the immune system, identifies cortisol as a major player and can in the long-term have lasting implications on our mental health as well as physical health (2).
For instance let’s isolate body weight since so many people begin running with the final goal of weight loss. If you are running to simply lose weight, don’t get your hopes up, especially under the top five reasons why you shouldn’t run. Here’s why, repeated elevation of cortisol can lead to weight gain through visceral fat storage (that’s the dreaded tummy fat), causes blood sugar-insulin problems by consistently high blood glucose levels along with insulin suppression leading to cells that are starved of glucose. The best way to regulate cells in need of energy, by sending hunger signals. Along with these intense hunger signals, cortisol also has an effect on appetite (2). It makes your cravings for high-calorie foods increase. Sounds like a plot for weight gain, hormonal imbalance and intense cravings, also known as a recipe for disaster.
Not to mention an increase in cortisol also has an impact on your immunity leading to a greater chance of contracting a virus or bacteria and of course injury.
YIKES! So you may be wondering why any of us should run? First of all it is important to note that I by no means am putting down running or exercise in general. We should exercise daily. But we must remember that our motives matter and our mindset matters. We need to reverse the path of destruction chronic cortisol has led us on. The best way, to manage stress and work to reduce the stress load on your body both physically and emotionally. How do we do this? By diet and lifestyle of course.
How Exercise Fits into a Healthy Life
If exercise isn’t a part of who you are, and you haven’t built that habit, I encourage you to find something you enjoy doing. If you hate it or feel defeated before you begin, more than likely it will always be a challenge for you to get out there and do it. Plus constant negative thoughts is also considered “stressful” to many, which of course leads to a spike in cortisol. But with all of that said, it still doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something because it is hard. Even for those people to which fitness is a part of their everyday life, it doesn’t come easy or “naturally.” It takes work for everyone, it is challenging, but isn’t that what exercise is suppose to be? I challenge you to stop resting your identity in excuses. No one has enough time, or is fit enough, or small enough. Have the confidence to know your health is more important than any excuse you can give yourself. Most of the time, the hardest part is putting on your shoes and stepping out the door.
Most importantly remember, exercise is a key factor in our overall health. Your overall daily activity level is more important than a 30-60 minute workout. Steps matter more than time. Moving constantly throughout the day is more beneficial to overall health than one intense workout followed by a sedentary lifestyle (3). Moving matters, period. While not everyone should be a runner, we all should be active. Find something you enjoy to do and do it! Be active, constantly. It may not be easy at first but it will be beneficial. The work will pay off and you will soon realize how strong and energized you can get. Choose to move regardless of if you are a runner or not. Believe in yourself and trust in your bodies strength. Your body can do far more than you believe it can.