“The Why of Running: It’s More Important Than Where You Go”
GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: KAREN BRESNAHAN
Karen Bresnahan is a professional writer, photographer and artist from Boise, Idaho. She is a former competitive swimmer, and has enjoyed running, cycling and working out at health clubs for many years. She is published as a feature writer and photographer for the Valley News in Meridian, ID, and the Owyhee Avalanche in Homedale, ID.
Karen is a small business owner and is currently working on developing a web portfolio of her creative work, which includes Romantic Idaho Weddings, KBLifelines positive quotes, and Idaho Naturals Desertscapes artworks. She enjoys writing stories that feature interesting people and health and fitness topics. Her goal is to motivate, educate and inspire others through her writing and photography. You can connect with her through email (email@example.com) or on Twitter (@idaho1111) and connect with her on Google+.
Life is about gaining experience. As a species, we humans thirst for adventure, for learning, for beating the odds. As individuals, we thirst for accomplishment, for that exhilarating feeling that makes you say, ‘Yes! Life is worth living and I am an important part of it.’
If you ask anyone why they are a runner, they might look at you dumb-founded, as if to say, “Are you kidding?!”
A personal decision
There are a ton of reasons why people run and it can be a very long list, depending on who you ask. The reasons might include things like weight loss, better endurance, muscle building, to set goals, to train for races, to be healthier, to have fun with friends, to workout with a partner, for stress relief or just for the heck of it. But, one thing you can be sure of, running is a very personal decision. Each person decides to run for reasons of their own. The bottom line is that people run for the same reason they climb mountains: because they can.
Running has been a part of my life for years. I am not a competitive runner, and I have no shiny medals to prove what I have done, but I can testify from my own experience that running has helped me reach many personal milestones, so the medals I carry are hidden inside myself.
I’ve used running as a way to compliment other workouts. Twenty years ago, when health clubs first became popular, I quickly learned how good it made me feel when I could workout. After joining a club for the first time, I lost a few inches and dropped 10 lbs in two weeks and from that day on, I was hooked! I camped out twice a day at the club and made it part of my daily routine. I did a combination of cardio (bikes and treadmill) a quick run through the weight machines, ran a short distance, and ended my workout with a swim. Then I jumped in the hot tub as my reward. I was in hog heaven (as we Idahoans like to say)!
Once I got into the routine of going to the health club and running, it all seemed easy. I felt fantastic. For a little bit of effort, I saw instant rewards. But, if I broke my daily routine and skipped a few days, I noticed immediately a drop in my energy level and endurance. My workouts and running efforts were like a healthy addiction! I had to keep going.
I am a very goal oriented person, so I like to see short term results. That’s why I like running, because you can use it for short term goals, as well as long term ones. I don’t have a lot of patience to hammer away at something for a long time. You won’t see me competing in a marathon, but you might see me in a sprint race! I have to see my goal in front of me and drive myself hard to get there.
Over the years, I found running to be a fun sideline to my health club visits. I found beautiful places to jog, like through the city parks or along what we call the greenbelt, which is a paved trail that runs alongside the Boise River. Surrounded by trees, and sunlight and watching people float the river, or just out having fun with their children and friends on bikes and on foot, is completely enjoyable. Recent studies show that running in beautiful places actually increases the effectiveness and overall benefits of it for both physical and mental conditioning.
Running has been a great stress reliever for me. Along with miles and miles of riding my mountain bike, running has helped me face some serious emotional crises, like when I was going through a divorce, or when my teenage daughter went through drug rehab. I have survived some difficult situations, because I was better able to deal with the pressures and let off steam while pounding the pavement.
The why is important
Ultimately, the “why” of running is more important than anything else. This is the same idea that participating in a race (or sporting event) matters so much more than who the winners are. People who run know this to be true. If you are running, you are already a winner, because you have chosen a goal and are working toward it. This life lesson is something a parent hopes to teach their children every day. I know because I have raised three, and they all participated in sports.
Running is a fantastic way to test your inner beliefs and learn to have confidence in yourself. Whether it’s a large goal, like competing in a Triathlon, or a small one, like running once a week, you will find your goal to be attainable, because it is all about believing in yourself and demonstrating your mental power. I believe every person is much more capable on a mental and spiritual level than they realize. Your body is the servant of your mind and what you do physically demonstrates who you are and what you are made of on the inside. This is why running is such a personal thing. You can do it very seriously, as part of a training program, or you can just do it occasionally for fun and companionship.
Good for your brain
I strongly believe that running is like anything you do in your life. It is a way to connect with yourself on a deeper level. Running involves repetitive motion, which acts like hypnosis, allowing your brain to switch to another, more deeper level. You have time to think, time to unwind, time to relax your thought processes. We all know that intense exercise of any kind is good for your brain. It’s good because you actually think differently than if you just sat around and did nothing.
When you run, you get the blood flowing throughout your body, making your heart work harder, and triggering the important release of feel-good hormones in your brain, like Serotonin, Dopamine, Adrenalin, and Testosterone. And these chemicals are like mental boosters that give you a surge of energy that helps you work hard, focus better and come up with creative ideas.
I have used running to meet short term goals like weight loss, because I can see faster results than if I just do other exercises. Running allows me to feel ‘like I can get there,’ no matter what my goal is.
I’m like the little train from a classic children’s story that sings, ‘I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,’ all the way up the steep mountain,’ then whistles, ‘I know I can, I know I can, I know I can,’ all the way down the other side!
Running helps you let go of negative energy and build up your stores of positive energy because your brain is working better. Who says you can’t run away from your problems? In some ways, you literally can!
Like Karen, we all have a store to share as to why we run. You can check out our ongoing series of First Mile features, and, if you are so inclined, we’d love to add your own story to this collection!
– Jenny told us how she is successful in her Casual Running adventure, even though she admittedly was not the biggest fan of running.
– Carly shared with us why she wants to be a runDisney Princess, and reminded us of the importance of setting personal goals and sticking to them.
– Jennifer is a mainstay of the Casual Runner Team, but she had to start somewhere. Here is her first mile story.
– Mike also had to start somewhere. As we mentioned above, it took him several times of trying and failing before he was able to succeed in his goal of becoming a Casual Runner, Here is his story.
– Starting from a different point of view, Steve, ran his first mile, and never looked back.
– In sharing her first mile story, Jen helped us understand the way we view ourselves as runners and running itself.
– Ryan’s compelling first mile involved conquering some personal challenges.
– Allison inspired us by sharing where she found her own inspiration.
– Kari’s first miles and race experience were unique and personal, and serve to remind us that we all have unique experiences and stories to share.
– Tony took a different route to Casual Running and made it his own.
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