Joining my school’s cross country team was one of the best decisions I made during high school. I realize the idea of running a 5k race seems daunting or sounds like torture to some, but really cross country is an individual sport and a collective sport. It’s individual in the sense that you are your biggest competition. Every time you go out for a run, you strive to beat your personal best record. On the flipside, the XC community is one filled with devout runners. You find support within your cross country team–everyone is doing her best to be the best runner she can be, and as a result the entire team pushes each member to her absolute limit.
Benefits of Running
Before you form your own opinion and scoff at the idea of running long distances and sweating for no apparent reason, let’s consider some of the benefits of running.
1. “Studies show that a combination of diet and exercise is the most effective way to lose weight, as it triggers a loss of body fat and a proportional increase of lean tissue. Running, a rigorous cardiovascular exercise, allows a person to burn an average of 100 calories per each mile he or she runs.”–Elizabeth Mcleod Sadler, Vanderbilt University.
2. “Running’s benefits include improved cardiovascular hearth, lower blood pressure,lower cholesterol, a revved-up metabolism, and a sense of self-esteem.”–Julie Isphording, WebMD.
3. It reduces the risk of heart disease and heart attacks.
4. “Studies have also shown that running and regular exercise lowers the risk of certain cancers. Over the past 10 years, research has linked increased physical activity with lower cancer rates. Research at the American Institute of Cancer Research has shown that regular exercise reduces the risk of colon, prostate, and breast cancer. Women who begin exercise at an early age can actually prevent breast cancer.”–Troy M. Smurawa, M.D ., National Training Center Sports Medicine Institute.
5. Reduces the risk of osteoporosis, and increases the rate of bone formation.
6. Lastly, many runners report elevated levels of happiness and stress relief. Indeed, there are many psychological benefits to running. Regular exercise helps to reduce stress and improve self-esteem and body image. It will help you sleep better and has been found to help those suffering with depression.
The Benefits of Being a Part of a TEAM
Obviously, there are plenty of benefits to running, but why should you dedicate your time to being on a cross country team?
The best thing about running with a cross country team is the amount of support you get from your coach and your teammates.
Aleisha Benjamin, a senior at Hillcrest High School, says, “I liked how we were a mini family, and how we each supported one another. I enjoyed pushing my limits and seeing how much I was capable of doing. It really convinced me that I could achieve my goals, and that most of the battle is in your mind; you just have to push through it.”
So Why Should You REALLY Run?
You should run because there really is no other feeling that compares to running across the finish line after a long, exhausting race. In the beginning of the race, you feel okay, like you can do this. By the middle of the race, you start to get tired, your legs are sore, your arms hurt, you have a cramp…and yet you keep running.
You convince your brain that your legs aren’t tired, and that you’re totally okay, heck, you could run 3 more miles if they’d let you. When the race gets to that final moment of you against yourself, that’s where you see what you are actually made of. You could choose to slow down, maybe stop and take a breather, but if you’re on a cross country team, you’ve realized that’s not an option. You pick up your pace, keep a steady stream of breathing, and push on, because cross country isn’t about beating the person next you, it’s about seeing how far you can go when the only thing holding yourself back is yourself.
Give cross country a try! You might hate it for the first two weeks because it isn’t easy at first, but if you keep at it, you’ll grow to love it. Your teammates make the experience worthwhile, and that tremendous feeling of crossing the finish line, and that feeling of accomplishment, of “I DID IT!” is truly something you must experience for yourself.