Some people create with words, or with music, or with a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, "I've never seen anyone run like that before." It's more than just a race, it's a style. It's doing something better than anyone else. It's being creative.
Steve Prefontaine, American distance running legend
The world of track and field is a symbolic one. Getting through life's hurdles with a goal in sight is exactly how running schools you for life. Among other benefits, this has propelled running to the pinnacle of popular pastimes with India's corporate world. Unlike other exercises, the only essential prerequisite to running is attitude. Little wonder then that scorching heat or chilly winters don't seem to deter runners from being up and about in marathons across continents.
Interestingly, running in groups boosts team spirit. This explains why most companies prompt their employees to participate jointly in marathons. It's not about going the distance, but doing so with co-workers… competition of a different kind.
In this regard, avid runner Siraj Chaudhary, MD, Cargill India notes, "It is a wonderful, engaging team-building exercise that engages people from diverse business units to come together. Though non competitive in the traditional sense, running is about challenging oneself and breaking individual mental barriers". Agreeing with the idea is CEO of Asahi Glass India, Arvind Singh, who feels energised at the idea of running. "We, as a team, are quite convinced that we have now found a unique motivational tool to use in our Human Resource initiatives!" he notes. In this postmodern activity where hierarchy takes a back seat and the rule book is ignored, the only thing that ticks is the communal energy of those running. Needless to say, running affords a platform whereby people can lose their reserves and bond and is thus vital for any productive workspace.
Another established benefit of hitting the road running is combatting stress. In 2008, researchers in Germany used PET Scans to confirm that exercise does, in fact, cause endorphins to be released in the brain. It's a flood of these proteins that results in mood changes, leading to euphoria and the famed 'runner's high'. At this stage, the runners are propelled by a renewed burst of energy and are not deterred by pain. A rhythmic run of about 20 minutes can thrust your strength beyond perceived limits and leave you feeling optimistic and full of beans. With stress dominating workforces across the country, if something as simple as running can turn things around, why not try it?
According to research carried out by the South Asian Heart Centre, South Asians in the United States and in urban India often suffer heart attacks below the age of 40, without prior symptoms or warning. Approximately 10.5 miles of running every week will lower cholesterol and blood pressure, thereby preventing heart risk. It is a common myth that running aggravates back pain. Although running puts pressure on the body, one needs to understand the trick of moderation. It is advisable not to pound the ground with your heels or push the ground off with your legs. Those with minor injuries can also try bare foot running which is best done on dewy grass early in the morning. A session of rhythmic running will enhance flexibility and thus help in easing stiffness and joint pain.A range of high end treadmills and cross trainers have hit the Indian market but it's better to opt for outdoor running because the feeling of liberation is maximum in this form. Psychologists are increasingly promoting the idea that running in an enclosed gym on a fixed treadmill space won't actually ease your stress. It's ideal to run on grass or a mud track. In case those aren't feasible, a tarred road is also a good option. The trick to running is to start small. Don't try and run 2 km on the first day that you hit the track, even if you feel like it's an easily achievable target. The body takes a while to get used to the motions of running and if you are initially out of breathe, don't fret. It's just your body's way of telling you that it's been a while since you exercised. Shin splints are also common among new runners. The best way to ease that excruciating shin pain while running is to stretch your calves before and after the run. Good music also helps build the tempo, so stock up your iPod and hit the track.
Ideally, it's best to run without any music as this helps stimulate your sense of sound and you connect with your environment better. It will also increase your self-awareness.
In a world where stress is a norm, a running break is always a necessity. So, slip into comfortable clothes, strap on those running shoes and run like no one's watching. The world can never have too many Forrest Gumps!
The writer, who shifted gears from a 25-year marketing career to take up running, spoke to R Pallavi.