In an attempt to read more and not waste an hour of my day doing nothing while commuting to work and back--I started downloading some audiobooks. Two of them were so good, I had to share.
One of the books I had never heard of, but bought it on a whim because was on sale for really cheap. It was called Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. It basically covers a bunch of research on how exercise effects the brain. I think this caught my attention:
"Did you know you can beat stress, lift your mood, fight memory loss, sharpen your intellect, and function better than ever simply by elevating your heart rate and breaking a sweat? The evidence is incontrovertible: Aerobic exercise physically remodels our brains for peak performance."
Everyone says we should exercise--but Spark showed me the scientific proof of what it can actually do for the brain (and not just the body). As a researcher, this was perfect for me. It is full of results from scientific studies and inspiring case studies. Some of the topics include how stress, anxiety, depression, hormone changes, and addiction can all be improved by moderate exercise a few times a week. I've listened to some chapters multiple times--especially when I don't feel motivated to run. Beware: If you don't currently exercise on a regular basis, this book could turn you into an addict. But in this case, being an addict is probably a good thing. It has been for me so far.
Spark, along with Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen have created a pretty powerful motivator for me. Born to Run examines why so many of us think of running as a chore and not as something enjoyable that our ancestors did daily to survive. It covers the history of ultra running but also has a background adventure story. The majority of the book revolves around the authors quest to learn the secrets of the Tarahumara Indians who run hundreds of miles without rest and enjoy every minute of it. We were born to run, but have just forgotten how. A fascinating read!
A month ago if you had asked me if I ran I'd say, "Only if I'm being chased." I haven't really run since high school--with the exception of playing soccer for fun. But a week after I started the listening to the books, I bought running shoes. The next day I put them on and ran 2 miles. I'm now training for a 5K. I'm pretty sure it will be the first 5K I've run since high school (uhh 10 years ago). When I ran XC in high school I pretty much hated it. Its not like I've been inactive since then though. I've always loved soccer--but when I play soccer its easy to get in a zone and have fun. Running is harder for me and I have memories of being bad at it. I love hiking and wandering in the woods--I've hiked about 17 miles in one day. But since I just took a job that requires me to sit 99% of the time--I needed the motivation to get moving again. I've been enjoying running so far, especially as something I'm choosing to do and doing it because I want to--not because I feel like I should or have to.
The 5K is September 25th. 3.1 miles isn't very far and I know that I'll finish it. But the question is--how fast can I finish it? I'd love to beat my old (and pathetic) 5K record: 28 minutes. (Most high school girls could run a 5K in 25 minutes). But I'm satisfied with just plain enjoying it so far. We'll see how long I can keep it up.
After reading these two books, I encourage everyone to find something active that you enjoy and can do on a regular basis--and to make exercise a priority in your lives. Not just for your body--but for your brain.