According to articles published in Discover Magazine, National Geographic, and the New York Times, humans evolved to run. “The sense of distance running being crazy is something new to late-20th-century America,” the New York Times once printed. “It’s only recently that running has become associated with pain and injury.”
A 2007 University of Utah study reported that “several characteristics unique to humans suggested endurance running played an important role in our evolution.”
If running is so central to the human story, why is it that we are so prone to injury when attempting a long distance run?
Part of the answer comes with the fact that, in our age of modern transportation, humans no longer rely on their feet to get around as much. We also don’t have to chase down and hunt our food. The last time I saw someone running in a grocery store might have been to chase down their toddler.
You just don’t have to run in today’s world, unless you’re running for your life.
The way I see it, there are two ways to define “running for your life.” One is the process of running away from danger that could kill you. Think of a swarm of killer bees chasing after you. Yup. That kind of “running for your life.” The other kind of running for your life occurs when you run for a healthy life. In a very real sense, you are running for your life. You’re running to stay alive because you’re aiming to stay healthy.
Where once running was considered a necessary and utilitarian activity to find food and run from danger, today it is seen as a leisure or exercise activity. In both cases, though, humans are literally running for their lives.
Very few of us are marathon runners. Yet, with a little effort you can begin today to do what humans were built to do—run.
Start by going for a walk! That narrow strip of concrete meandering through your neighborhood is called a sidewalk for a reason. The first step to walking is to take a first step.
When you feel like you’ve walked enough to muster the courage for a bit of a . . . (wait for it) . . . jog, then go for it! Don’t start out with a full-on sprint, yet. You don’t want to damage your muscles and joints.
Include stretching to your routine. A good stretch before and after will help your muscles increase flexibility and strength. It will maintain proper range of motion your joints, too.
Running should be enjoyable and not something that you have to “suffer.” If you find yourself in the “suffering” crowd, add some happiness to the mix by running with music or consider running with a friend.
Stay safe and run for your life!