True or False, the only benefits of running is weight loss and physical fitness? FALSE! There are so many misconceptions about running and how it is only for playing children or people who want to lose weight. However, there are much better reasons for incorporating running into your fitness routine.  Training for my first IMT Des Moines Half-Marathon provided me with countless benefits besides physical fitness. From mental health to personal accomplishment, running is a fantastic way to increase your overall wellbeing in addition to your fitness. 

#1: Mental Clarity and Creativity

When I began training for my first half-marathon I didn’t know what to expect. I had never run more than 4 miles consecutively and I didn’t consider myself as a “runner.” One of the first benefits I experienced was an increase in my mental clarity. Running without headphones transported me into the most creative and clear state of being I’ve ever experienced. While training I was able to solve problems I’d been stuck on and come up with new ideas for my personal training business. The mental clarity and creativity I experienced also continued with me throughout the rest of the day. 

#2: Self-Discipline

With any workout routine, it can be hard to motivate yourself to exercise every day. Training for a race helped me practice self-discipline, consistency and persistence. Self-discipline is an incredibly powerful skill to have when trying to achieve any type of goal. It allows you to resist temptations, ignore distractions, and persist through adversities. The self-discipline I perfected in training transferred into my everyday life. I was able to reach health and wellness goals faster, be consistent in my healthy eating patterns, and helped me maintained motivation in areas of my life outside of health and fitness. 

#3: Stress Reduction & Increased Mood

Exercising is a trigger for the body to release a hormone called norepinephrine, which can help regulate and reduce stress. Running also stimulates the production and release of endorphins. Endorphins can interact with multiple different receptors in your brain to reduce pain perception, promote a “positive” sense of well-being, and improve sleep. I started to experience these benefits right when I first started training. I noticed I had much more energy after running, my quality of sleep improved, and I often experienced euphoria after running longer distances.  

#4: A Sense of Community

Training for a race provided me an entrance to a community of diverse individuals who all share a common love and interest in running. I was able to gain new friendships through running groups, supporting local running businesses, and conversing with other runners while I was training. The IMT Des Moines Marathon and Half-Marathon events start at the same time, meaning there is a massive crowd throughout the entire course, cheering on the runners as they race by. I remember being overwhelmed with the support I felt throughout the entire Marathon course as I read hand-painted signs, was given countless high-fives, and enjoyed professional entertainment almost every other mile. I look forward to the IMT events every year because of the community that surrounds it. 

#5: Personal Accomplishment

Crossing the finish line at my first IMT Half Marathon was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had in my entire life. Growing up I never thought I was would be able to complete a half-marathon, let alone a full marathon. I always looked at distance runners and thought, “They are different from me. I could never do that.”  However the minute the IMT metal was placed around my neck, I felt as though I could accomplish anything. I became the prime example of the classic saying, “You can do anything you set your mind to.” 

Whatever your reason for wanting to incorporate running into your fitness routine, know there are many benefits to running besides the physical ones. I am very thankful I decided to take the leap and train for a half marathon, even though I wasn’t sure how I was going to accomplish it. To this day I continue to run because of the 5 benefits listed above. I’m excited to run every day and I constantly look forward to my next running challenge!

Tessa Heitkamp

Insta: @TheSuperfoodPharmacist

Youtube: The Superfood Pharmacist

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