January 06, 2020
Running is one of the cheapest sports. We don't need a gym membership, we don't need expensive attire. Map a route, put on some shoes (the right footwear, of course) and you are ready to go. Heck, most Singaporean guys are financially incentivized to run in preparation for their annual compulsory Individual Physical Proficiency Test!
While running is the go-to exercise for many, it is a chore to others. In fact, it’s a form of punishment utilized by coaches in other sports. Orders by the coach to do rounds around the track are often met by moans and groans. While running is part of many sports such as soccer and basketball, how can it even be pleasurable in itself? Surely, serial marathoners and ultra-marathoners are masochists, no? If not, why do they subject themselves to pounding 42km worth of gravel brainlessly in hot and humid Singapore annually at events such as the Standard Chartered Marathon?
Well, running can be addicting. Have you heard of the runner's high? It is a feeling of euphoria that runners get which is similar to the "kick" we get from our weekly serving of bak chor mee or laksa. Some believe that this feeling of euphoria has evolutionary origins. Our ancestors way back before the days of Sang Nila Utama subsisted on the meat we get from hunting. Hunting involved running down animals for miles on end till the point of their exhaustion. Run too slowly and you will have to go hungry for the day. To motivate ourselves to secure food, evolution gave us this feel-good feeling when we give chase. Modern science tells us that this feeling comes from the release of endorphins.
Of course, runner's high is not the only reason why runners can't stop running. One other very good reason to run is guilt-free eating - at least when it comes to the waistline. For the average person, running is one of the fastest ways for you to burn the calories you gained from food (about 800 calories per hour if you weigh about 70kg). With some variance depending on factors like your weight, the intensities, and duration of the workout, running is more effective than circuit training, doing casual laps in the swimming pool or rope skipping. For that reason, running is often prescribed, alongside dieting regimes, when it comes to weight-loss protocols.
While running can be physically demanding, it is used by many as a means to destress or to carve out some "me-time". Sounds paradoxical? Not quite, at least to many runners. Whether you are studying for an exam or meeting deadlines set by your demanding clients/boss, running can take you out of your head and give you a much needed mental reset. Despite the physical exertion that comes from lunging your legs forward one after the other, it makes for a hypnotic rhythm that soothes our tired souls. It is like the only care in the world is the need to put one foot in front of the other (and watch out for traffic). Training our attention on this sole task is meditative in many ways. Conceivably, running could be a good substitute for meditation especially for those who can't stay still for more than 5 minutes.
A Social Activity
Unlike team sports, running is very much an individual sport. Perhaps, this makes running the perfect sport for introverts. But if you belong to the extroverted side of the spectrum, don't fret. Running can also be a social activity. There are running clubs in Singapore that meet up on the weekends for runs at places like Macritchie Park, Sentosa or even the Central Business District. While running, you can look forward to enjoying a hearty breakfast or a rewarding meal together with your fellow runners. You can make new friends and maybe find yourself a good running buddy from such meetups. These are the people you can sign up for races with and make each other accountable for their running goals. Furthermore, clubs like these also have running holidays where you join races abroad or just explore the cities by running through them.
Now, Run Along!
Running used to be a necessity for our Palaeolithic ancestors. Their survival depended on their ability to run down their prey. It was crucial to life. But fast-forward to today, we no longer hunt for food in the way our ancestors did. But running remains a natural activity for us humans and there are many reasons why incorporating running into our lifestyle can help us in many more ways than what we have discussed. If you are hesitant to incorporate running into your lifestyle, start by running shorter distances and gradually increase them bit by bit. As Lao Tzu said, "the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step". Just take that first step and run along!