WHY RUN?

We spoke to scores of women about why they lace up and how you – even if you’re new – can reap more ben­e­fits from every kay. Read their sto­ries, make a plan and chart your own course...

Women's Health (South Africa) - - WH RUN! SPECIAL -

TO SLIM DOWN For those want­ing to lose weight, run­ning is ap­peal­ing: you don’t have to drag your butt to the gym or awk­wardly use equip­ment while oth­ers check you out; you can just slip on your takkies and, ta-da, you’re ready to roll. Drop­ping ki­los was a huge in­cen­tive for 36-yearold Bon­nie Wil­son. She lost 40 ki­los – and has kept them off for eight years. “I still feel self-con­scious at the gym, but run­ning taught me how strong I am and how much I can han­dle,” she ex­plains. Amen! MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU If you’re a new­bie, ease into it, says run­ning coach Michael Melin­i­o­tis. Walk or jog at a mod­er­ate pace for 20 to 30 min­utes, three times a week. Then add one in­ter­val work­out per week (no more than that, to re­duce in­jury risk). Not only will you blast more kJs in less time, but a re­cent study in Medicine & Sci­ence in Sports & Ex­er­cise found HIIT work­outs may tame your ap­petite.

TO DE-STRESS

Alisha Perkins, 33, felt so un­easy when her hus­band trav­elled for work that her mom had to sleep over. When a ther­a­pist could only lessen the anx­i­ety – not stop it al­to­gether – Perkins found re­lief in a reg­u­lar run. She bumped up her typ­i­cal three kays to eight and some­thing clicked. “I in­stantly felt like a bet­ter, calmer per­son,” says Perkins, au­thor of Run­ning Home. Sci­ence backs her up: Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity re­search found run­ning pro­duces an in­crease in new neu­rons in the hip­pocam­pus – a re­gion of the brain shown to reg­u­late anx­i­ety. MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU Since run­ning is best as a preven­ta­tive mea­sure for stress, sched­ule con­sis­tent runs. “It’s im­por­tant to man­age stress as it hap­pens and not wait un­til you’re too over­whelmed to run,” says be­havioural health re­searcher Dr Greg Priv­it­era. Perkins runs five days a week to side­step spikes in anx­i­ety.

FOR THAT HIGH

Run­ner’s high – the eu­phoric feel­ing that makes you want to run for­ever – may seem elu­sive to some. But it’s the real deal. And it isn’t only caused by en­dor­phins. Ac­cord­ing to a study in the Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tional Academy of Sciences, it could be en­do­cannabi­noids, chem­i­cals your body re­leases that pro­mote re­lax­ation – yep, the same stuff in pot. “Run­ners at all lev­els can ex­pe­ri­ence this su­per-neu­ro­log­i­cal phe­nom­e­non,” says Dr Jeff Brown, chief psy­chol­o­gist for the Bos­ton Marathon. There’s no se­cret for­mula, but run for at least 30 min­utes (pre­vi­ous re­search showed that’s when en­do­cannabi­noids start kick­ing in). Brown also sug­gests push­ing your pace and mix­ing up your route. “Nov­elty pre­vents bore­dom and feeds your brain stim­uli, which stops dis­trac­tions and pro­motes pos­i­tive thoughts.”

TO CROSS A FIN­ISH LINE

Pick any week­end on the cal­en­dar and we bet you’ll find a race to run some­where in SA. “Race fields have

not only grown, they have be­come more in­clu­sive too,” says sport psy­chol­o­gist and run­ner Dr Ari­ane Machin. “When I was younger, only ‘good’ run­ners raced. Now races aren’t just about per­for­mance, but the whole ex­pe­ri­ence and hav­ing fun.” Cue relays, zom­bie and colour runs and ob­sta­cle races. There’s some­thing for ev­ery­one.

MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU Keep tabs on your train­ing. Record­ing dis­tance, pace, heart rate and how you felt – in a note­book or app like MapMyRun – is “a great way to gauge progress and build con­fi­dence be­fore a race”, says Melin­i­o­tis. Look­ing back can help you find a goal pace, he says (if runs con­sis­tently feel too easy or tough, you know to ad­just). This low­ers in­jury risk: if ses­sions have be­come slower or harder it can be a sign of over­train­ing, so take rest days.

TO SEE THE WORLD

Fancy a run-cation? More women are build­ing their trav­els around races in beau­ti­ful lo­ca­tions. Case in point: more than 3 000 in­ter­na­tional run­ners from 86 coun­tries took part in last year’s Old Mu­tual Two Oceans Marathon. Race di­rec­tors are tak­ing note. Af­ter the suc­cess of the Dis­ney Princess Half Marathon Week­end in the US, the se­ries ex­panded in­ter­na­tion­ally – to Paris – in 2016. Haven’t booked your trip around race dates? No prob­lem. You can scout out sweet trails oth­ers have run on apps like Run­keeper or Strava.

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