Three Completely Unexpected Benefits of Running

Running has more to offer than just improved fitness and weight loss.

You’ve probably heard all about the benefits that running can offer: It improves your physical health, building up your aerobic system. It can put you in a better mood, and even have long-term benefits for your mental health. For me, running was instrumental in quitting smoking.

In addition to these common benefits though, running has often surprised me with smaller perks that I never saw coming. If you’re looking for more motivation to run, I hope one of these might help:

Learn the Local Wildlife

Going on frequent runs is a great way to learn more about your local wildlife. Whether you’re running on a trail or even down a neighborhood sidewalk, you’re almost certain to pass at least a few birds on any given run.

Since I started running, I’ve spotted many birds that I had never noticed in my neighborhood before. Turtles and snakes are also plenty of fun to search for. I’ve seen a ton of mammals as well, including squirrels, chipmunks, deer, and foxes. I even spotted a coyote in the middle of Chicago.

The more you run, the better you’ll get to know your local critters. You’ll start to know where the animals nest and sleep, learn to recognize their sounds and calls, and get better at spotting them. It’s a great way to get more connected with nature.

Improve Your Sense of Distance

As a runner, you’ll quickly develop an amazing sense of distance. You’ll learn exactly what it feels like to run a kilometer, mile, 5k, 10k, and more.

If you run the same paths with any frequency, you’ll also learn the distances on those trails perfectly. Without even thinking, runners can tell you exactly how far they ran that day, and most likely even where each of their splits occurred.

For American runners like me, you’ll also become a master of converting between miles and kilometers. A neat trick to help with the conversion is that it roughly follows the Fibonacci sequence. (3 miles is about 5k, 5 miles is about 8k, and 8 miles is about 13k, etc.)

Get Free Swag

If you’re hoping for a more materialistic benefit, fear not: runners have all kinds of ways to get free swag. Many running and fitness companies give out free goodies to runners to help get their attention.

A great place to look for these is on Strava in it’s “challenges” section. Here, different companies can sponsor a challenge and offer freebie rewards for everyone who completes them.

The running store Fleet Feet also has an app which rewards you for running. You rack up points as your run more miles, and can trade the points in for free items like hats and sunglasses. (You have to pick up the items in-person, so this app is only useful if you live near a Fleet Feet.)

Your local running clubs might also help you gain access to freebies. Larger clubs sometimes get free gear from major brands to pass on to their members. You typically don’t have to be a fast runner to get these goodies — you just have to show up.

Whether the benefits are expected or not, there are plenty of reasons to start (or continue) running. Running really has changed my life at a fundamental level by helping to improve my physical and mental health. Getting tons of free hats is certainly a nice bonus though!

Written by

I’m a lawyer and teacher from North Carolina. I write about sobriety, mental health, running, and more.

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