By: Elizabeth Foster
Running for the Fun of It is a new free group fitness class on campus led by Campus Recreation’s yoga and mindfulness instructor, William Brooks. This spring, Brooks hopes to create a community of runners and help others enjoy running for the process, not just the end goal. New runners are encouraged to join and will learn how to run just for the fun of it.
“I want others to enjoy running, but I know that is not always the case,” said Brooks. “We humans are so goal oriented, always attempting to accomplish something. The problem is that expectations are often disappointments under construction. What if one just ran for the sake of running and enjoyed the process? That’s what I’m hoping that ‘Running for the Fun of It’ will provide – an opportunity to simply run and enjoy it without layering it with goals and expectations.”
According to Brooks, the class isn’t very structured: it’s just designed to create a community of people running together. Brooks will lead the runs and offer pointers.
According to longevity researcher Dr. Rhonda Patrick, running daily for even a short amount of time lowered mortality from all causes, but particularly from cardiovascular and cancer-related issues. Similar research from the Journal of Progress in Cardiovascular Disease found that runners, on average, live for three years longer than people who don’t run and have a 30-45 percent lower risk of dying early from various causes
Many UMW students enjoy both the mental and physical benefits of running. Kaitlyn Smyth, junior biology major and president of the UMW running club, has loved running ever since her first triathlon in eighth grade. This love for running led her to start the running club, which she created in order to develop a welcoming running community on campus. In her interview, she described some potential benefits of running for students in particular.
“Running can be extremely beneficial for college students, especially during the difficult time we are in as of right now. There is a lot of pressure on college students right now as they have to adjust to maintain their grades through virtual learning on top of keeping their health at a priority,” said Smyth. “Running can serve as an ‘escape’ for students as they can venture off to a new trail or route and focus on their mental health!”
Brenna Creamer, senior geography major and co-social chair of the running club, also described the positive impact running has had on her. “Running is the way I start every day. It gives me so much and is a wonderful way to wake up and get your day started!” said Creamer. She states that running has made her happier, positive, and more confident. The evidence is strong that aerobic exercise helps to produce these mental states. For example, according to a study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, running and exercise in general boost feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin and can decrease depressive symptoms.
Creamer also described some ways in which running could be considered a meditative activity, stating that for her, running is a form of meditation and an effective way to relax. “I believe that I am the most mindful and in tune with my surroundings when I am running,” said Creamer. “The time I spend running is distraction and worry free. I feel connected to my mind & body and fully present with my surroundings.”
Any students that are interested in ‘Running for the Fun of It’ are encouraged to register through Campus Recreation’s website. The class meets Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. outside of the fitness center and requires no prior running experience. Masks are required.