I've only ran 4 miles consecutively once in my life, so when I decided to run a half marathon it was safe to say that I had no idea what I was doing or if I could even do it. I had always been athletic growing up and I figured that running 13.1 miles competitively would come naturally to me like other sports. I was DEAD wrong. Training for the half marathon not only pushed me physically, but mentally as well. However, the challenges of training provided me with extraordinary benefits and personal accomplishments.
I hope my list of benefits inspires you to start training along side of me!
#1. Carbs Become Your Main Food Group I consider pasta and bread to be some of my best friends in life. Before running I had to limit my intake of carbohydrates because my body didn't need as much fuel as it does now. Glycogen storage is one of the most important physiological aspects to endurance running. Simply, glycogen is more efficient to create energy than fat. However long distance running depletes your glycogen storage within your muscles. If your glycogen runs out, your body starts to burn fat to make energy causing you to "hit a wall" while running. Carbs are essential to replenish your glycogen stores and the joy of eating large amounts of pasta is just a bonus.
#2. Muscles Never Felt (Or Looked) Like They Did Before I remember the first time I realized my yoga pants where too big for me. I didn't even know that could happen, especially when I was gaining weight in muscle mass. The human body is the ultimate adaptive machine. It will change rather quickly if you are consistent in the way you want it to change. After only a week of training and a special diet I began to notice a difference in the muscles in my leg. They became much more defined and muscles I didn't even know I had started to become visible. My legs also felt healthier in a way. I was able to stand for longer periods of time, I didn't experience random leg pains anymore, and I began to enjoy walking to places again. My body realized the importance of healthy legs to my lifestyle and changed to better suit it.
#3. Finally Having Time To Listen To Podcast I have always wanted to listen to The Ted Radio Hour, Four Hour Work Week, and other podcasts but I never had an extra hour lying around to actually do it. Now instead of listening to the same songs over and over while running, I listen to podcasts. Listening to and reflection on the podcasts while running keeps me motivated and educated in topics that I most care about.
#4. Developing A Relationship With Nature I use to hate running outside. Outside was usually too hot, too cold, too windy, or too rainy. It wasn't until I started running long distance that I appreciated running outside. (You can only stare at a wall on a treadmill for so long.) When I started to run outside I began to notice things about my neighborhood that I never had before. I saw vines slowly take over an abandoned building. I memorized the terrain of the grass trail I ran on. I followed the progression of a season by watching the trees and flowers bloom. When the weather wasn't as perfect as I wanted it to be, I would think about all the plants and animals that survived in the weather I was about to run in. If they could do it, then so could I.
#5. Becoming In Tune With Your Body When running for long periods of time, you become very aware of your body. You can feel every aspect of you it; the strength, the pain, the drive to go farther. It is easy while running to start listening to your body to understand what feels right and what feels wrong. I saw this spread into my everyday life. I started to pay attention to how my body responded to the food I ate, the things I drank, and the products I used. I stopped drinking alcohol as often, eating junk food, and switched to an almost completely organic diet. I watched my energy levels and quality of life skyrocket. Running helped me realize how important it was to live a healthy lifestyle.
#6. Accomplishing Something You Never Thought You Could Like I mentioned earlier, I wasn't even sure if I could even run 13.1 miles in a row without giving up. As my training progressed I started to realize I was more capable than I originally thought I was. I gained confidence in myself. I started to go after and do things that I always thought I wasn't "good" enough to do or where too hard to accomplish. I started to see myself in a whole new light. I was happier, healthier, and stronger in more ways than one and it was all because I made the simple decision to run a half marathon.