Stop whining, get stronger – Will S

Do you want to be successful? Do you want to win?

If a year ago today you had told me I would run close to 45km in March 2023, I would not have believed you. Firstly, I would have told you I hate long-distance running, find it immensely pointless and cannot imagine what would compel me to engage in this boring activity. Close to 4 hours of my life, wasted running around achieving absolutely nothing at all. But that was a weak attitude, and a bit pathetic.

I initially began to run after complaining to Mrs Stevens that I felt burnt out. It was close to the end of the Michaelmas term, and 11 weeks in I felt tired constantly and could not concentrate to work effectively. Almost immediately, she asked me when I last exercised and properly pushed myself to the point where I could go on no further. I was not particularly unfit at this point and had played for Mr Wynn’s mighty two’s throughout the term. Yet, despite this, I could not say I had truly exercised to the point of exhaustion for months. Stressed out and overwhelmed, I decided to try it, starting with a 3.5km run. I didn’t time it, but it took ages, hurt like hell and was a terrible experience. I got back to house however, and almost immediately after finishing my run, felt relieved of stress and happy, for no apparent reason. The reason was that I had triggered a chemical response in my body that will make me happy. I won’t get too nerdy about it, but you’ve likely heard of endorphins. These are produced during exercise due to the stressing of muscles and pain they experience, and these endorphins interact with the brain to make you feel happy. Like drugs, except these can’t kill you, are completely natural and don’t cause a cycle of misery in a place you’ve never heard of. So I did it again, and again, and again.

I won’t discuss my experience of running any further because it probably won’t particularly interest you. Rather, I will explain why I have written ‘Do you want to be successful? Do you want to win?’ at the top of my article. These questions are there because if you want these things, you need to ensure you push yourself not only in whatever it is you want to succeed in, but all areas of your life. For me, trying to maintain my involvement in loads of co-curricular activities but then also trying to work harder and more at my schoolwork made me feel burnt out, and I couldn’t understand being told to do more when surely what I needed was some rest and relaxation? But really, it was some balance. Balance is necessary in all things; you need to balance time between socialising and working, TikTok and being productive, eating vegetables and McDonald’s – everything in moderation, and this is what I needed to realise. That is not to say I am some enlightened individual who has found the key to productivity – I’m not, I still spend too long on TikTok and despite having my first A level exam in 5 weeks, still fail to use all my study periods effectively. I genuinely have found though that since I began running, I have been able to work harder for longer because rather than getting overwhelmed or stressed, I am able to better deal with these feelings, and that’s because I have a good outlet which will definitely make me feel better.

So why should you run? Well the truth is that it doesn’t have to be running, it just needs to be pushing really hard at a physical activity for an extended duration of time. You might be thinking ‘I’m not sporty, or athletic, or fit’ but it really doesn’t matter. Pushing yourself is completely relative, and personal to you, and doing it will bring guaranteed benefits; if it doesn’t work, push harder. Now I would be doing a disservice to my biology and chemistry teachers if I were not to write a list of the scientifically proven benefits of running, so here goes:

  1. Enhanced cardiovascular health – essentially, running will lower your chances of having a stroke or heart attack.
  2. Increased endurance – running will improve your body’s ability to utilise oxygen, meaning you can perform physical activities for longer without getting tired.
  3. Reduced body fat – if you’ve had one too many brownies in the cafe, running is for you. Up to 700 calories per hour (the amount in 7 Kitkats).
  4. Stronger muscles – running increases leg muscle strength, core strength and upper body strength.
  5. Improved cognitive function – improve focus, memory and organisational skills. Make that academic comeback.
  6. Improved mental health – we’re all snowflakes, so why not feel better by doing some running?

Ultimately, what I am trying to get across is that physical activity is for everyone, and essential for peak performance in all aspects of life. If you’re looking for that A*, getting running. If you want that spot in the 1st team, get running. If you want to excel to even greater levels in whatever your passion is, get running. And if you hate running, run really hard and see if you still hate it. If you do, buy a bike.

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