The Eight Dimensions of Wellness: Running

Members of the Student Wellness Committee want to encourage other students to pursue wellness, both for themselves and as role models for future patients. Students have been writing about different aspects of the eight dimensions of wellness, as defined by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Brett Lowden, a rising second-year student in the College of Medicine, wrote the following reflection.

Some of the comments I hear most frequently when I tell people I run marathons are “I can’t run,” “I hate running,” or “Running is torture/terrible/boring”.

It is a widely held concept that only a few people have the ability to enjoy a run and that everyone else is cursed with an inability to do so. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Everyone can run and can enjoy all the benefits of running, which extend far beyond just fitness, stress relief and taking a break from studying.

Despite COVID-19 closing gyms, running still offers a low-cost, socially distanced workout that can be done anywhere in the world. So, I present my guide on how to start running and stick with it.

Step 1: Everyone Starts Somewhere

The great thing about running is that it is a sport designed for you to compete against yourself. Every time you go out for a run, you have the opportunity to push a little farther and a little faster, and to finish in better shape than you were in yesterday. Whether you run 100 meters or 20 miles, you can always improve yourself.

Step 2: Set a Goal

An expression I often hear in medical school is “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” This has implications outside of reminding you that medical school is long and grueling – and that during it, you may question why you signed up.

When running, it helps to have a goal in mind. Do you want to run one mile without stopping? Do you want to run a 5K? How about a half or full marathon? Setting a goal and figuring out how to accomplish it is something everyone knows how to do, so make sure to make one before setting out to run. The internet offers a lot of free training plans that can help.

Step 3: Make It Enjoyable

The worst thing a person can do is run on a treadmill. This is not because it is bad for you, but rather because it is boring. In order to stick with anything, you need to figure out how to make it relatively enjoyable. (This is a very similar process to determining the answers to: Do I study better in my apartment or at a coffee shop? With music or without?)

Start by figuring out where you like to run. Possible options include trails, roads, on a track, etc. Then decide what helps you enjoy the run. Do you like music, podcasts, a friend to talk to, good scenery to enjoy? Last, try to reward yourself when you follow through with your run. This could be with food, a post-run shower, some stretching, or even a nap.

Step 4: Stay Consistent

Nobody can wake up one morning and ace a NEOMED exam without taking weeks to prepare. Similarly, no one wakes up and can run mile after mile without weeks of preparation. Just as with studying, a bit of work each day helps you reach your goals. The best part is that the more days you run in a row, the harder it is to stop running. A good goal for beginners is to run at least every other day. It will get easier after a couple of weeks, as you become stronger.

Step 5: Get Outside

Running is one of the simplest sports because everyone already knows how to run, and all you need to get started is a good pair of running shoes. So, lace up your shoes and go out for a run. I promise that if you stick with it you won’t regret it.

And remember, “If you run, you are a runner. It doesn't matter how fast or how far. It doesn't matter if today is your first day or if you've been running for 20 years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.” – John Bingham

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