x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

What moves you

Researchers at the University of Exeter reported that a 15-minute brisk walk reduces chocolate cravings.

Researchers at the University of Exeter reported that a 15-minute brisk walk reduces chocolate cravings. Previous research has already found that exercise helps people manage dependencies on nicotine and other drugs - but my question is: does a brief snack of chocolate reduce running cravings? Because if it does, I'll definitely avoid the chocolate. I'm trying to make running a lifelong dependency.

Running is one of the rare positive addictions. According to a new study from Stanford University School of Medicine that tracked 500 older runners for more than 20 years, elderly runners have fewer disabilities, a longer active lifespan, and are half as likely as nonrunners to die early deaths. However, until my body starts to crave the aerobic buzz as much as it craves chocolate, I have to bribe myself into heading out the door, putting one foot in front of the other, and running. It sounds so simple.

In my routine, Sundays are long run days at five km (this increases to nine km by week eight). Motivating for last Sunday was easy because the rain made me excited to be outside. Monday is a stretch and strengthen day, so I did 10 push-ups, went for a long walk along the Corniche, and did some yoga. It was an absolutely gorgeous day to be outside: no need for self-bribes. Tuesday is a medium-length day, at four km. At my current pace, this means about a 25 minute run. I have never been one to listen to music during exercise, but maybe that's part of the problem. I'm willing to try it: I have 25 minutes of Emmanuel Jal's War Child lined up on my iPod. An idea for future runs is to download the latest captivating novel. And once I no longer need to bribe myself, I'll start on my Arabic lessons.

Wednesday is a cross-training day, which I do at the "mommies and babies" yoga class at the Yoga Tree. Paying for classes, or doing activities in groups, are very effective ways to stymie procrastination. Thursday I run three km and work on strength training. According to the coach Hal Higdon, runners generally benefit if they combine light weights with a high number of repetitions. Since I neither belong to a health club nor have weights at home, I choose push-ups, which are, at this early stage, still pathetic.

Friday is a rest day. Rest days give your muscles and ligaments time to recover so you can run again without injury. And Saturday, finally, is a cross-training day. I don't know what we'll do on a regular basis, but the volleyball net at the Corniche looks very appealing. To get out and enjoy the brilliant Abu Dhabi winter with a goal in mind, you can sign up with me for the 10K on January 16 (or the marathon, or 5K) at www.dubaimarathon.org.