012. run for your life

Today I thought I’d talk about a hobby near and dear to my heart: running! I’ll admit right away that I am far from the best runner. In fact, in ten years of running, it’s embarrassing how little I’ve actually accomplished by way of progress and speed. But running seems to be the only exercise that I consistently stick with, and no matter what happens, I always find myself going back to it.

It’s finally turning into fall here in Tokyo, so it’s running weather again! Now that it’s not sticky hot with 90% humidity, as summers here are well through September, I can go outside and run without feeling like my clothes are sticking to my skin. I’ve struck up something of an unofficial training plan to try and finally get some real progress under my belt, and so far, it’s been working. Last week I ran 4 times for 25 total kilometers, and today I ran for the second time this week and one of my better 5k times (32:30).

I always used to think that running was a solitary activity, and even a few runs with one of my best friends when I was in grad school didn’t really change that. But after I got to Japan, there were a few months in my second year here where I was running every Friday with my bestie, and afterwards we would order pizza and watch a movie (so we could eat without guilt!). Now, I run with my husband, and it’s some of the best runs that I have – it feels fun and easy, and we talk while we are running and don’t have much by way of a destination or goal. We both agree that we enjoy our pair runs so much we’re going to schedule them in on the few days that our evening schedules match up.

Running is one of the few activities that you can do without any equipment other than some good shoes and your motivation. My favorite shoes are my ASICS – once I switched, I never looked back. I’m using the Gel-Cumulus series right now, and I really love them! (I’m a heel-stepping over-pronator, and they help with all that.) You can run anywhere and almost anytime, and in a land where gym memberships run anywhere from $80-120 a month, it’s nice to be able to choose the free option around my neighborhood instead.

And running has so many benefits – building muscle, training your heart, and helping reduce stress! As someone who suffers from some fairly bad anxiety, I can definitely see the difference in my stress levels when I’m running regularly. I sleep better, too, with more energy during the day. The only real drawback is that I’m so hungry all the time!

Running might not be for everyone, and I’ve already suffered some injuries since it’s a high-impact exercise on knees and other joints, but I’m glad there are others who love running as much as I do. Is anyone else a runner? Why do you do it?