Runners swear by their sport. Come rain or hail, you will find passionate athelets training hard in your neigbourhood park or on the roads. But did you know running is not just for the chosen few who love it, but is a good form of exercise with a multitude of benefits for everyone? Not only does running prevent health issues such as blood pressure, cardiac irregularities, diabetes, and obesity, but it also helps us feel good and healthy. What’s more, it not only positively impacts our physical health, but also enhances our emotional and mental well-being, encouraging many people to take it up for good.
Corporate stalwarts like Anand Mahindra, Chairman of Mahindra & Mahindra Group; Deepak Parekh, Chairman of HDFC; Sajjan Jindal, Chairman of JSW Steel; Raghuram Rajan former RBI Governor; actors Rahul Bose and Mandira Bedi, several well-known influencers, and many others regularly run and participate in marathons. So why do so many successful people run? Does this help their work performance? As it turns out, yes.
Other than its obvious benefits, running can also work wonders for you in going that extra mile in your career. If you’re still wondering whether you should make it a part of your everyday exercise regime, let us take you through how running can help us:
Extra dose of energy and happiness
There is a reason runners wake up day after day to pound the pavement – it’s to get that runner’s high. Dr. Jesse Pittsley, former President of the American Society for Exercise Physiologists, and Professor of Exercise Science at Winston-Salem State University, believes that “psychologically, runners may experience euphoria, a feeling of being invincible, a reduced state of discomfort or pain, and even a loss in the sense of time while running.” Long-duration exercise leads to the release of endorphins, which have a morphine-like effect on the body and are responsible for the “happy” feeling – the perfect way to start a working day!
American track and field athlete and four-time Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens famously said: “We all have dreams. But to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.” Running is considered as an intrinsic motivation and needs a lot of self-discipline. Getting up day after day – even when you don’t want to – can train you to set goals, focus your mental and emotional energies, work hard and strive to do your best in every domain of your life. A runner’s dedication towards reaching the end goal is a great habit to have in the workplace. Be it completing a project or reaching a certain sales target, running enhances self-discipline.
Makes you goal-oriented and a better planner
All runners – especially those who aim to run marathons – need to prep and train themselves. Be it short-term planning or long-term goals, it’s essential to hash out details so that you remain on the right track. Kelvyn Steggles, a leadership development consultant and facilitator and a 14-time marathoner, believes all runners have the “stretch factor.” “In running, we push ourselves pretty much every race to do a PB [personal best]. In the workplace there are parallels: do you push for coming in under budget or to deliver early, or can you do a bit more in some way? That’s a mindset; it’s about having a bit of self-competitiveness and self-efficacy,” he says. The rhythm of running also facilitates clearer decision-making.
Enhances brain activity
In his book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, the famous author Haruki Murakami writes: “But to hold to [such] repetition for so long–six months to a year–requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.” Dr. John Ratey, in his seminal work Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, wrote that exercise isn’t just about physical health and appearance. “It has a profound effect on your brain chemistry, physiology, and neuroplasticity. It affects not only your ability to think, create, and solve, but your mood and ability to lean into uncertainty, risk, judgment, and anxiety in a substantial, measurable way.”
Develops mental and physical resilience
The first run is often rough. The next few runs can be brutal. But there’s no better achievement than persevering when the going gets tough – when you have your running shoes on or when you’re working on a particularly tough project. Running helps you build the mental toughness you need to deal with problems, mistakes, failures, difficult situations/people and general career vexations. After all, if you can run when your legs didn’t want to, why can’t you work through a vexing workplace issue? Running helps acquire resilience, as runners tend to check in regularly on how well they are doing physically, mentally and emotionally. They learn to reflect, re-plan and constantly reset, according to the circumstances around them.
Network through “runversations”
Running is a great leveler. Out there, pounding the pavement, CEO and junior employee are doing the same thing, and it’s easy to slip into “runversations” that can lead to long-lasting relationships. Navneet Kapoor, Chief Transformation Officer, A.P. Moller-Maersk, believes that running makes it easier to “build relationships that will help your career progression.” Pankaj Rai, Senior Vice President Strategy, Wells Fargo, feels that “apart from marquee running events, even casual weekend runs lend themselves to networking.” Meeting people without their suits on can change the image of networking as we know it.
Age leads to changes in the brain’s makeup, but research reveals that regular exercise can help combat the effects of aging. An active body is the foundation of an active mind. A May 2018 study published in Business Insider revealed that “Many experts consider exercise to be the closest thing to a miracle drug in existence. As a form of cardio exercise that’s easily accessible, running is one of the easiest ways to get some of the most important benefits of exercise.’’
Fatigue, stress and low self-confidence take a back seat when this exercise becomes a part of your daily routine. So, what are you waiting for? Slip on your running shoes and head out the door to a whole new world of health and success!