Born to Run

By Cynthia Dagenais

Running on concrete pavement

Running on concrete pavement

It’s April at Marist College and the students emerged from winter hibernation to go outside to enjoy the sunny weather.  Something about the weather makes students either sit around and be lazy, or play a pickup game of Frisbee.

However, if Frisbee, lacrosse, tennis, soccer or baseball aren’t your preferences for outdoor activity, try running around Marist’s hilly campus.

To some, the idea of running for exercise or leisure might seem intimidating or torturous if you are not a member of the cross country team, but it doesn’t have to be.  According to the Runner’s Guide website, running regularly can improve cardiovascular health, reduce aging, help you lose weight and boost your mood.  Unlike other sports, running can be done alone, with a partner or a group, so running can be both healthy and fun.

Sarah Parsloe, a sophomore distance runner for the Marist Cross Country/Track team, started running in seventh grade as a way to meet people.  She still believes that running is a great way to have fun while staying in shape.

“Although I grew to love the sport itself, my major motivation is still a social one. It’s amazing what conversations you can have in between snatched breaths on a ten mile run,” Parsloe said. “Runners are a community, one that doesn’t end with college. We continue to run in our graying years, meeting each other in local road races and sharing the thrill of the run.”

Running is an aerobic activity, meaning it requires oxygen to produce the energy to carry out the activity.  According to Articles Base, aerobic exercises lower blood pressure and decrease resting heart rate.  It also increases maximal oxygen intake, number of capillaries, fat-burning enzymes and the number of mitochondria. In other words, running can greatly improve cardiovascular health because it lets the body take in more oxygen than a non-aerobic activity.

Looking to lose weight before bathing suit season? Running burns fat quickly because it requires a lot of energy.  According to Fitness Programs for Life, in order to lose weight while running, a person has to burn more calories than consumed.  This website suggests slowly changing diet and lifestyle while slowly increasing distance.  The more distance a person covers while running, the more fat they will burn, and the faster a person runs, the quicker they burn fat.  Though fad workouts such as yoga or Pilates may be in vogue, running burns more calories than either of them in a single workout session.

Running not only improves a person’s physical health, but also psychological health. Studies have shown that running can alleviate stress and give a bad mood a boost.  According the Runner’s Guide, running releases endorphins, a type of hormone in the body known to make people happy and euphoric, which gives off what many call a  “runner’s high.”  This natural high can result in an improvement in mood.

Besides turning a frown upside-down, running can reduce stress.  One reason is that instead of letting the stressors take over, the act of running allows the individual to focus on the task at hand.

“Running comes with unexpected side effects,” Sarah Parsloe said. “Training teaches you self-discipline, a skill that has helped me in my academic life. Also, I’ve found that the best way to alleviate the frustrations of a bad day is to pound them out on the track.”

Now that final exams are around the corner, a run could relieve the building stress.  Never taken a run before? No worries, here are a few things you should know before starting.

First, invest in a good pair of running sneakers.  The shoe size, foot shape, weight, extent of foot movement and budget are all factors a runner needs to take into account before purchasing a pair of sneakers.  Different types of feet have different needs, so runners should purchase the “shoe that fits” to prevent injury and be comfortable while running.  Time-to-Run suggests that beginners buy cheaper shoes to start, because those who are just starting out do not put as much mileage on sneakers as a novice runner.

Sneakers: The only tool needed for running.  Buy the shoes that are right for you.

Sneakers: The only tool needed for running. Buy the shoes that are right for you.

After putting on your new kicks, warm up and stretch out before running to prevent injury.  The sudden jerking and movement from running can cause injury to muscles and joints during exercise if they are not prepared for strenuous activity.  Stretching increases the muscles’ efficiency during the run and reduces soreness that can occur after running for the first time, according to Marathon Training.  Warm up before stretching to help circulate the blood through the muscles.  The increased supply of blood makes the muscles warm and more pliable and thereby reduces strain on them when stretching, according to 24 Hour Fitness.  The warm up can be jumping jacks or a light jog for 5 to 10 minutes before the stretch.  Click here to learn how to stretch properly.

Are you ready to run yet?  Slow down there, you are not quite at the finish line yet.  A key element to a successful run is to drink lots of water.  Hydration is very important to any workout, especially running. The body sweats to cool down the inside, and fluids need to be consumed in order to perform that function.  Two to 3 cups of water or more should be consumed up to 2 hours before a workout.  Replenish fluids every 15 to 20 minutes of strenuous exercise to stay hydrated, and keep drinking water after running.

You’re all set to go, but where should you run?  The good thing about running outdoors is that the possibilities are limitless.  Parsloe suggests running on a trail in the woods.

“Woodland trails are the ideal running terrain. They provide beautiful scenery and a variety of hills, flats, sand, gravel, and wood chips. Though they are more physically challenging, they are far less mentally taxing than the repetitive circle of the track,” Parsloe said. “There is a primal feeling to trail running that cannot be found under the fluorescent lights of a stadium or gym.”

Marist’s track team does its distance runs through Poughkeepsie, within some of the local parks such as FDR, and across the Mid-Hudson Bridge.  Though Marist does not have a track of its own on campus, Parsloe said that the team would “definitely” like to have one installed.

“A track would prevent injuries that result from running across campus on hard concrete, and would subtract 20-40 minutes from practice time,” Parsloe said.

Now that you have the knowledge and tools, go running past your lazy classmates laying out in the sun.  Once you’ve started this new and exciting workout routine, how do you stay motivated?

“The trick to running is consistency. Yes, it will hurt at first. But if you find a place and a time when running works for you, doing it regularly will eliminate the initial aches, and you may find you really enjoy it,” Parsloe said.  “Also, find a running partner who will challenge you!”

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