No gym? No problem! Our new series 'The Lockdown Runner' with international runner and chartered physiotherapist Matt Bergin shares all you need to know about taking up running, and also the many reasons why you should!
With COVID-19 forcing all gyms, swimming pools and many other leisure facilities to close their doors more people than ever are taking up running. As a runner myself it is a breath of fresh air to see so many others out enjoying the sport I love. All my life I have struggled to answer the ‘why do you run?’ question. It is something that until you actually experience it for yourself, you won’t understand, but once you do, you’ll be left thinking ‘ah so that’s why they do it’.
Running has so many benefits and here I will discuss just some of the key advantages:
Despite government regulations on social distancing meaning we can’t physically meet up with friends to go running, the social benefit of running is still huge, and is especially important for those getting into running for the first time.
Facebook running groups – great for keeping each other motivated, sharing advice, training tips and generally keeping in touch in these challenging times.
Strava clubs – track your friends’ progress and complete challenges each week at https://www.strava.com/clubs/. A few of our favourites... UK ParkRun Lovers, Runner’s World UK and The Running Channel.
WhatsApp groups – another great way to keep connected and motivated whilst we can’t go out running together. You can arrange set times to all individually go out running, and on your return have a catch up over a cuppa!
Zoom app – not only great for quizzes! You could organize group workouts with your friends live via the zoom app.
Virtual races – with so many races getting cancelled and the uncertainty of when you may next be able to pin a number to your chest, a number of virtual races and running challenges are being set up to keep you motivated. All of course within the government’s guidelines and social distancing regulations.
Probably the biggest benefit of running, or any outdoor exercise for that matter, is the mental and psychological release you get from doing it. The ‘runners high’ is a real thing. Getting away from your desk, off the phone, and away from the regular news bulletins and just getting out in the fresh air once a day, even if it’s just in the garden (if you have one) or a short walk is a great way to relieve stress.
Even if you’re a newcomer to running and still only at the brisk walk stage there are still huge physical benefits from getting out!
Immune system – research has shown that by completing regular, moderate intensity exercise you help stimulate the production of white blood cells, which are the ones that help fight off foreign cells in your body. Not a bad idea at the moment I’d say….
Skeletal – – walking, running and even cycling helps strengthening your skeletal system (your bones). By walking, running and even during exercise classes your bones, especially the more weight bearing ones, will adapt to the increased loads being placed upon them and begin to increase in density and strengthen as a result, which can help reduce your chances of issues such as osteoporosis.
Muscular – of course the more active you are the stronger and more efficient not only your big obvious muscles become, but also the most important one, the cardiac muscle – your heart! The stronger your heart, the more efficiently it is able to pump blood around the body to the vital organs and muscles, allowing you to go about your daily life with few problems.
However, be careful!
Overtraining can have the opposite effect on the immune system. Doing too much and not having enough recovery/sleep will reduce your body’s ability to fight infection. Similarly, if you do too much too soon you will leave yourself open to developing muscular, tendon, or even bone injuries.
In the coming articles I will discuss how to get into running, and how to stay safe when doing so. I will then discuss how to prevent your chances of developing injury, as despite what we all may think, we aren’t invincible when it comes to picking up aches and pains.