Long Distance Running — An Endurance Sport and More…

Running is an endurance sport, which has been taken up by more and more people. The running bug, as they say, has arrived in our country in the past decade or so and the number of amateurs taking up the sport has seen an exponential surge in our city as well, so much that this year has seen two marathons in the city in a single year.

What is so compelling about running that there is this explosive increase in the number of people taking up the sport?

The First, and most obvious benefit of running is improving cardiovascular endurance / fitness. But swimming, cycling and many others like circuit training or elliptical machines in the gym can improve that. Than why running? Well the most important reason is, 

Running can be done anywhere, any time, just requires a pair of shoes. Nowadays, some people don’t require even that as they run barefoot!

And so can be done on a more regular basis. As we all know it can improve a host of things including your cardiovascular fitness, your lung capacity, improves your triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, decreases total cholesterol and the list goes on, all of you are aware of the health benefits so I will not dwell much on them.

If one talks to many amateur long distance runners a common theme is that he/she started running to get fitter, lose weight, look better become healthy. After some months or years one spends much more time running than the requirements of fitness alone would dictate. One slowly realizes that something in running has a unique salutary effect on the human mind. You realize that you are a calmer person, less anxious, less rattled by daily challenges, more focused at even workplace and ready to face life’s challenges in a better, calmer, focused way. One feels a sense of power that one is ready to face any challenge — and if at any point you feel that power slipping away.. You just go for a long run and are recharged!! One feels a great sense of enhanced self-esteem and increased self confidence. The runner’s high is a well-described event, which is attributed to release of endorphin and similar chemicals in the brain.

The common theme with most runners is- you started for the physical benefits, and if you are disciplined enough to hold on to the sport for 6 months. Slowly one becomes aware of the psychological benefits as a personal experience, and that is the moment you are addicted to it. Once a runner experiences the mental benefits, he is an addict for life, carrying his own psychiatrist with him in his mind.

Any problem in life, go for a run, alone…one immediately feels one is in more control of the situation.

It is so much of an addiction that people who stop running because of some injury, generally experience a low.

When running was compared to other sports like cycling, swimming, tennis, walking, it was found to have the best cumulative effect on markers of fitness like Cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, balance, weight control and calorie burn per hour.

Who can start running?

Anyone can run long distance is the answer — Age no bar (many from our local running community are doctors who have picked the sport at 50 years or more and are continuing) many like myself were grossly overweight when they started. Running is a mind game more than anything else.

What kind of shoes should I wear?

Most sporting shoe companies now have a section where running shoes are separately displayed. A cushioned neutral shoe will do for most runners. Things to be considered are, whether you have an adequate arch, whether you are under or over pronated etc. Special shoes are available for people with these requirements. A quick Google can give you answers or you can consult the running community in Surat — Surti Runners.

What care to be taken before you start running?

A cardiac checkup with a TMT is essential to rule out any cardiac condition, which may be aggravated, your Hemoglobin, Vitamin D and B12, Thyroid, Blood sugar and Lipids need to be measured. Some of these to ensure you are not anemic, diabetic, and nutritionally up to the mark.

How to start running?

An alternate day schedule where you run / walk on alternate days and do swimming or cycling and some core (abs and back) strengthening and stretching with muscle strengthening once a week are recommended. One should not look at others and start suddenly with a very long distance. Long distance running is not a sprint at least for beginners. Run / walk at a pace where you are not out of breath, but can talk to your running partner.

Try to spend at least 30–45 minutes on the road, not looking at the distance or the speed. Increase your distance by 10% every week.

Guidance can again be had from the running group in the city — Surti runners — there is no charge.

Happy Running!! This year I have seen about more than 70 running docs in Surat City Half marathon and I wish more joined the community. For more info you can join the Surti runners community on Facebook!

– Dr. Pranav Desai

This article was originally posted on Surti Runners.