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Join Me For a Run?

 

I met Emily when I first moved to Austin. She invited me to run when I never really thought about doing it before. Emily was training for a half-marathon and I decided to join her on Saturday mornings. I awkwardly trailed behind feeling like a tortoise compared to a hare. However, my ability to run strengthened with time and it was the process of showing up that mattered. Eventually, I started running on my own and it became easier.



These runs helped with my mental health as I felt a sense of accomplishment and community. In addition to Emily, hundreds of Austin residents would jog in the morning on Lady Bird Lake before the Texas heat became too strong. Lady Bird Lake, otherwise known as Town Lake, is a body of water from a reservoir created by a dam on the Colorado River. It is a beautiful oasis and also home to the world’s largest urban bat colony (millions of Mexican free-tailed bats).


Today, almost two decades later, I tied my running shoes and went for an organized race. The scenery was a bit different along Chicago’s Lake Michigan, however, the feelings of belonging and achievement were the same.



In addition, I LOVE how people shout from the side lines, “You are doing great!” “You’ve got this!” “Keep it up!” This immensely helps with my motivation. Runners press on when they may not have without the encouragement of others. Gradually “Mile 1” turns into “Mile 2” and so on.







This is applies to learning something new in any area of life. Persistent practice, dedication, and also a few cheerleaders. And guess what? I am your cheerleader!


Dr. John J Ratey states in Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, “If your brain isn’t activity growing, then it’s dying.” He emphasizes the process of strengthening muscles is pushing them to their limits and then allowing rest. This can apply for many muscles in our body including the brain.


It is fascinating that exercise has so many benefits. In addition to decreasing cardiovascular risks, physical activity also helps with mood and neuroplasticity. In fact, it literally feels like my mind took a bath in new blood after a good run. This is because it literally did.


According to The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook by Dr. Edmund J Bourne, exercise is also an antidote for anxiety.  Bourne describes it as a “natural” way to help the fight/flight system by allowing the body to move. Furthermore, Dr. John J Ratey states physical activity promotes gammaaminobutyric acid. This is a long name that most call “GABA” and it is in anti-anxiety medications. It also produces brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which Ratey refers to as a “fertilizer” for brain growth.


So what do you think? Do you want to join me on a run sometime?


Tip:


Ratey suggest working out with a friend. He also points out exercising outdoors or something “that stimulates the senses” is helpful as it creates a novel experience which can activate the brain to create new pathways.


Check out "Half Marathon Tips" in my blog post:



Fun fact:


A neurophysiologist named Rodolfo Llinas concluded that movement is the primary motivator for having a brain. He uses the example of a sea squirt. This creature starts out with a simple brain (a few hundred nerve cells compared to the trillions humans have). It moves around in the water until it finds a home and a piece of coral and becomes more plant-like at this point (and also digests its own brain). Llinas believes that evolution of movement in brains became the “internalization” of movement which is essentially thinking.


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