Okay, I know it doesn’t really look like I’m loving it in that photo, but it was during my Boston Marathon qualifying run, which felt like my entire body was getting a root canal. Extreme endurance races notwithstanding, I dig being rapidly bipedal, and this is why:
Want to get in shape, perhaps lose some weight? Running can get you there. I’m a forty-something family guy with a lot of time pressure, and when it comes to burning off calories to achieve my “four-pack” abs, nothing beats the burn rate of running. Well, burpees do, but who can do those for more than five minutes without wanting to start looking for a noose and a stout rafter? Just FYI, burpees don’t like you either.
Running gets a bad rap. People think it makes you into a scrawny waif-creature like the guy who got sand kicked in his face in those old Charles Atlas ads. Yes, if you’re competing in marathons and never do any heavy lifting, someone could perhaps tie a piece of string to your belt and fly you like a kite on a windy day. But if you have the good sense to lift something heavy, regularly, running isn’t going to cost you muscle. (Well, maybe a bit, but that’s covered in another article.)
Weightlifting gave me muscles. Running helped strip the fat off them (although I’ve admitted that gym culture is good for developing a weight loss mentality). Here is why I love to run, and why you should too.
I love to eat
This is one of the reasons why I love to run, because it is one of the most time-efficient calorie-burning exercises around. When I run, that food I eat gets burned off as heat energy. If I didn’t run then this food would end getting stored as an unhealthy blob around my midsection, covering up my abs. Running many miles played an significant role in my weight loss, and it’s what helps keep me slim. If you want to slim down without starving yourself, running is a good way to go.
Yes, I always say that lean bodies are made in the kitchen, but with running you have a larger daily burn so that you can eat more while still being in a caloric deficit, and this means that your diet is more sustainable because you don’t end up feeling like you’re starving.
I love to be outside
Regardless of my home country’s weather extremes, there is something invigorating about spending time outside, especially if you’re sweating while doing it. Whenever I need an excuse to get outside the running shoes are sitting there asking me to strap them on. The opportunities to be outside and running abound. If I drop my kids at a birthday party, I run. When I take them to a karate class, I run. When I wake up early and everyone else is asleep, I run. When TV sucks, I run.
When I want to, I run.
I love to explore
When I travel, running gives me an opportunity to get up close and personal with my surroundings. I’ve run through the Rocky Mountains, on islands off the coast of British Columbia, along dirt roads in the BC interior, on ice-covered pathways along Lake Michigan, down Maui and Mexico coastlines, barfed up a lung running at 8,300 feet in Vail, and taken in the view running past pyramids in Guatemala. I’ve also circumnavigated Disneyland, seen my share of Washington, DC, explored Halifax, run along the Italian side of the Adriatic Sea and become familiar with the parks in Germany.
All of this, I did on foot. Running.
I love using my time efficiently
While running is an enjoyable activity, it is also a tool for getting and staying in shape; a tool that works incredibly well, providing a huge return of burnt calories and improved fitness in a short period of time. For anyone looking to achieve a high level of fitness, running is a great choice.
I love to challenge myself
Running allows me to race. It allows me to measure time vs. distance. It allows me to see what weather extremes I can handle. It allows me to push myself to do it even on days that I don’t feel like it. Even when everyday life has become a grind, running always provides a feeling of accomplishment. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is the most challenging physical thing I’ve ever done, and while it was also brutally painful, it gave me an idea of what I’m capable of.
It’s nice to know you have the ability to dig deep when the situation demands it. And the post race beer always tastes awesome.
I love doing what my body was meant to
Evolution programmed my body to run. My ancestors had to chase down prey on foot in order to survive, sometimes stalking it for hours or even days. Nowadays we can just drive to the grocery store, so I get to do my running without having to carry a spear with me.
Running reaches deep down into something primal inside of me. It says, “Yes! You are supposed to do this. You are supposed to be good at it. The survival of your genes depends on it.”
I love not dying
Running keeps my weight down and my cholesterol, resting heart rate and blood pressure low. It keeps me healthy and will extend my life, regardless of what some click-bait bro-science article on a how-to-steroid website tells you.
One thing I don’t love is the way running makes me smell. My wife doesn’t love this either, but that’s what showers are for.
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James S. Fell is an internationally syndicated fitness columnist for the Chicago Tribune and author of Lose it Right: A Brutally Honest 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind, published by Random House Canada. He also interviews celebrities about their fitness stories for the Los Angeles Times, and is head fitness columnist for AskMen.com.