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Times of the Islands Magazine

Run for Your Life - Is running a craze or a lifestyle? You decide

Jun 22, 2015 09:07AM ● By Cory Batelaan
Is running a craze or a lifestyle? You decide.

By Ed Brotak

You see them all the time. Runners in the latest sneakers zipping through your neighborhood and local parks. If you’re not a runner, you may find yourself contemplating: Why are these people running? “I run to relieve stress,” says Abby Sims, manager of the Fit2Run store in Naples. While Tom Murphy of the Fort Myers Track Club agrees with Sims, he shamelessly admits, “I also like to eat!” Getting fit and staying healthy, both physically and mentally, are prime reasons why people lace up those sneakers and hit the pavement with long strides.

As a great exercise, running helps your heart and lungs get stronger. It reduces your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and even cancer. No doubt you will lose weight.

A simple and inexpensive sport to participate in, running only requires a pair of good running shoes. You can run on the road, on the beach and in a park. You can run by yourself if you want. Anyone physically able can do it; you don’t need any athletic skill. In fact people of all ages enjoy running, with some folks in their 90s completing marathons.

As a great exercise, running helps your heart and lungs get stronger. It reduces your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and even cancer. No doubt you will lose weight. And, yes, running can even make you happier, since physical exercise helps release endorphins, natural drugs, in the brain.

iStock_000041648874_LargeWorried about injuries? “Good running shoes are most important. They can prevent injuries,” says Sims. Expect to pay $100 to $160, and don’t forget about good socks. “They can prevent blisters,” she says of a $10 purchase that’s so worth it. “To avoid running injuries, it is recommended to do a dynamic warm-up first,” says Michael Stull, a wellness consultant in Southwest Florida. Adding that Intense stretching should be done after a run is completed.”

In the United States, running had its first big boom in the 1970s and 1980s. Running marathons (26 miles) became popular after American Frank Shorter won the Olympic Marathon in 1972. Then in 1977, Jim Fixx wrote The Complete Book of Running, which quickly became a bestseller. Running became a big business with companies specializing in shoes and apparel.

This running craze faded a bit, but in the 1990s, the sport made a big comeback. And this was a different group of runners to be sure. They were older and less concerned about competing. They ran to stay in shape.

As running maintained its popularity into the next century, women became a driving force. Although they were hardly a part of the original running frenzy, especially in the marathons, today, more than half the participants in organized races are women. In the 2014 Fort Myers Half Marathon, two-thirds of the field was female.

Actually, shorter distance races have generated more participation. The half marathon is 13 miles and the 5K (5 kilometer or 3.1 miles) is now the most popular race in the country. More than 19 million people participated in running events last year.

Many philanthropic groups found that races made great fundraisers. From national organizations to local charities, all have benefited. To battle breast cancer, the Komen Foundation held the first Race for a Cure in Dallas in 1983 with 800 participants. In 2014, more than 1.6 million people joined in races around the world.

Running-LLB-05In Southwest Florida, the weather is a major factor with the heat and humidity a real threat in the warm months. Certainly avoid running in the heat of the day. Hydration is a key, so drink plenty of fluids and include electrolytes. Also be alert for thunderstorms with dangerous lightning. Check the forecast and radar before heading out.

A simple and inexpensive sport to participate in, running only requires a pair of good running shoes

There will be times you can’t or shouldn’t run outside. Thus, the treadmill is a logical choice. “The biggest benefit of indoor running workouts is the built-in safety,” according to Magic Benton, wellness director at the Fort Myers YMCA. Most health clubs will have them if you wish to join one. Or you can buy one for your home and run whenever you want. “Don’t let anyone tell you that a treadmill workout is boring or cheating,” Benton says.

To keep up your interest, Sims suggests, “Find something to motivate you.” Many runners keep track of their distance run and time or monitor their heart rate. There are numerous specialized watches and trackers available. Others like to listen to music while running, and a wireless Blue Tooth device with head phones is a fairly simple solution. Another option is to take in the scenery by running along the shore or on a nature trail.

However, the most motivating is a good run with a buddy or group like the Fort Myers Track Club. Group runs are scheduled during the week, and the club will keep you posted on weekend races. All ages and abilities are welcome.

So, why should you run? “The benefits of running are almost too many to list,” points out Stull. “Give it a shot,” Sims advises. “Running isn’t as hard as you think it is.”

Freelance writer Ed Brotak is a retired meteorology professor turned stay-at-home dad. He and his family live in western North Carolina but frequently vacation in Florida.


Make Running Your New Fitness Workout


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Get excited about running with a visit to these websites.

The Elite Runner


Fort Myers Marathon

Fort Myers Race Schedule  

Fort Myers Track Club

Fort Myers YMCA

Gulf Coast Runners, Naples

Paradise Coast Marathon, Naples

The Run Shoppe