Welcome to Carolyn Cowan Online; Designer, photographer, teacher, mother, counsellor and bodypainter.
Run for your Life
This is inspired by an article in Runners World, November 2011.
Running protects your heart, slows down the ageing process, and generally improves your health in many ways, some unexpected….
Running gives you a mental buzz that makes you believe you can achieve your goals. Running raises self-esteem, your expectations of yourself and of life. This in turn lowers physique anxiety.
Running lowers your risk of diabetes type 2.
A 30 minute run sharpens your mind, improves reaction times and reasoning ability. This benefit shows a marked effect in older runners.
If you regularly run for 45 minutes your metabolism is boosted for 14 hours subsequently. So you continue to burn fat over and above the excess removed during the run.
Running is a great way to deal with negative feelings and especially to fight depression. 30 minutes, 3 – 5 times a week helps people to stay calm. Clinically depressed people who exercise are less likely to relapse than those who rely on pills alone.
Contrary to current thoughts and general comments made about running, the impact of regular runs builds bone density. 15-20 miles a week has a major impact on long-term bone health, protecting the body from stress fractures and the negative effects on bone density from the menopause.
Short sprints can drastically reduce the frequency of asthma attacks. Lung function is boosted by fartleks.
Both distance runners and sprinters who do 30 second bursts of speed have a lower risk of heart disease. Also pregnant exercisers give birth to babies with better cardiovascular profiles.
Another myth is that running is bad for your knees. A long-term study from Stanford University has concluded that runners who regularly clocked 5 runs of 60 minutes each week suffered drastically fewer joint problems in later life. The process of tightening and strengthening the joints starts in the first week of running, so no need to wait for these benefits.
6 hours of running a week will burn a pound of fat!
40 minutes of running a week for 12 weeks will get rid of long term constipation issues.
Running lowers your blood pressure.
3 runs of 45 minutes per week for 4 months will boost your muscle mass.
Running reduces cholesterol. It is the most effective exercise for this issue.
Runners have better sex lives according to fetcheveryone.com. Inactive males have a higher incidence of erectile dysfunction, 71%, and an hour of aerobic exercise 4 times per week improves quality and quantity of sexual encounters. I feel a lot could be inferred here and I leave it to you to interpret this one as it works best for you.
Running slashes your risk of silent strokes by almost 50%. A silent stroke is caused by tiny blockages in the blood vessels in the brain which damage the brain tissue but do not leave the same devastating outward signs of a stroke.
And back to Stanford’s research which is a wild read, and proves that runners do live longer…….
I run regularly, 4-5 times a week, around Camberwell, Brixton, Borough and Dulwich with my large poodle, at 5.30am, come rain, snow or shine. I do not run when it is icy.
I started running because I hit a major bout of depression. I know there is an argument that it is just life and one should accept it and move on, but for me, this moment was really scary and has subsequently, although I am over it, coloured my life in ways I could never have imagined possible. And taking up running again was one of the huge benefits.
I am also a yoga teacher and the obvious expectation is that I ought to “do” yoga in vast quantities which I did. I had a practice that became increasingly intense and powerful: serious belly work for self esteem, front platform for the will and immune system…. the list is long and the achievements that I felt were great, the changes profound and I would not diminish a moment of the practice. But what was missing was me managing my mind. I still do practice posture and my regular teaching commitments keep me on my toes in more ways than just physically flexible.
During my intense yoga practice, I found myself, at 5am one morning, lying on the floor after a particularly challenging session, off in my thoughts: “If both my children died, would I kill myself? ” It was a horrifying moment: realising that despite every good intention, powerful work and great dedication to the task, my mind was still in freefall.
It was a really scary realisation and one that got me up off the floor, into trainers and out onto the street in moments. I had tried to run over the years with little success since having children. I had back issues and had seen many chiropractors over the years but never seemed to clear the blocks in my sacrum, but I knew that I had just hit a real wall and it was terrifying to be so unable to control my thoughts and feelings as the result of where my mind went. So I started really carefully.
I could only run for one minute at the beginning. It was hard and painful but I did it. I felt fabulous after, filled with endorphins, elevated not only by the breathing and the body movement, but also by the sense of achievement that I gained by the exertion that I had made for myself by myself. I found a Running Plan Pdf and from there built up, slowly slowly, until I am currently running for 60-90 minutes non-stop.
I use the running experience on many levels:
To raise endorphins. These are hormones that make you, me, feel good. The exertion and effort creates hormonal flow. Endorphins eat Cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenals that creates the feeling of stress, of sand in your blood. So a decent run will reduce stress levels hugely.
To still my mind. I usually run with a mantra turning in my head. I am very much in love with the Mool Mantra It is a prayer, the first few lines of the Jaapji the opening verse of the Guru Granth Sahib, the songs to God written by the 10 Sikh Gurus. It is a very beautiful prayer that I use as a mantra, repeating it over and over for the full length of time that I run. I turn it in my mind, I do not listen to it on headphones. It just repeats with my footfall, and truthfully it took me almost a year to be able to keep it turning continuously from the start to the finish of my time pounding the pavements. My mind is stilled my the prayer. I do not think. But I return home to write a long list of all that I need to get done that day. Somehow there is a filtering that happens despite me, clarity comes and I am calm and clear about what needs to be done.
If I want to push myself, which I usually do once a week, I use the iPod Nano with a playlist that fits with my timing. I like the music, especially Moby, and find that I run faster and pay less attention to breathlessness or negative messages about wanting to stop, that my mind likes to try to squeeze through now and then.
To be fit, as fit as I am, at my age which is currently 51, is the wildest feeling. I really enjoy it. I feel empowered by the sensation and know that my general health and wellbeing is vastly elevated by it.
There is a gradual weight loss which I like. I do not feel that I have lost anything but that I have regained my figure or my body and that it is in the condition it had before childbirth. Something I had no idea was possible, and I can run faster than my kids, especially upstairs which I find hilarious and they are shocked by!
Running has become a major part of my life. I am a solitary runner. It is my time away from the phone, the doorbell, questions from others and my time to put my mind down and meditate. It is the most exquisite time, early in the morning, when there is no one around, the streets are still and silent, the birds just starting. I love watching the seasons rise and fall, the light changing, the way snowfall illuminates all the darkest parks and playgrounds. I love passing the same people in the half light and the small nods of recognition. It has become one of the most precious things in my life. It has given me back myself, raised my self-esteem, shown me I have discipline, brought me fitness, oh, and I have lost weight.
I know that running is a very polarising experience. People either love it or hate it, like Marmite, it generates all manner of fallacy and reaction. Like discussing vegetarianism I steer clear of all of this and just know that I want to run for the rest of my life. I care not how fast, I do not compare myself to others, I do it for me, my soul and my mind. It works like nothing else has ever worked.
Frequently asked questions:
Has my practice as a yogi suffered because of the running? No, I am far, far stronger than I have ever been. I am supple and far more enthusiastic.
Does my body get injured? Rarely. I have taken the build up of time at a really slow pace. It has taken me three years to get to this time.
Does the gear matter? Hugely. What you wear does affect your running, particularly the shoes and if you are larger busted, the sports bra.
I am over 50, I am old, does it matter? I started running at 48. I am currently 51. There are many people who run into their 90’s, once you start, everything changes.
Kit, accessories and little helpers:
I go to Run & Become to buy my gear. This shop is online as well as in Pimlico in London. It was started by a man who taught transcendence of the human condition through running. There are lots of other running gear websites, including girls run too and gear for girls. If you are a size 12 or less these will be fine. If you are larger you will need to wear men’s gear and the women’s sites do not cater for you.
I use a Sports Jock bra. Undeniably hideous name, but great for the larger bosom because it is long. Do not be tempted to by a bra that looks like a normal bra if you are F cup plus. You need a bra that makes your bust look Elizabethan in corsetry, and is long on the body. This way you will avoid ending up with a bouncing shelf of bosom.
I never ever warm up nor do I warm down. Really naughty, I know.
I always, without fail, drink a very large glass of cold water with a large pinch of Himalayan salt in it as soon as I get home.
I am 5’11” tall. I wear men’s gear, size Large.Saucony is my preferred make. I love the bright orange collection. Their tights, running tights for men, are sublime.
I use a Nike thing on my shoe that connects to a thing on my wrist that downloads into my computer and if I run faster or longer than usual then a little clip opens up when I plug it in and some great athletic luminary like Paula Radcliff pops up on my screen and congratulates me. I cannot describe to you how much I love that!
I only buy running clothes that wick. Wicking is a wonderful thing: All the sweat is pulled away from your body.
I run with an iPod Nano and Philips headphones. Nothing comes close to either of these little advances in technology. I make playlists and have a great running playlist that I had made by a friend. £10 + p+p to get it sent to you.