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...
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.
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.