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Freitag, 3. November 2017

Advantages of running in the dark

What happens to our senses when we run through the dark? 

I do not promote evening training in the dark for the simple reason that the vegetative nervous system enters the sympathetic state, which implies a certain level of agitation.

For those who do not know the implications, I briefly explain how our vegetative nervous system works.

The Vegetative Nervous System is composed of sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.

The SYMPATHETIC nervous system works independently of our control, preparing the body for "escape, run, fight" situations (more or less dangerous). So when we come into a sympathetic mode, following is happening:
• Cardiac rhythm increases
• The pupils dilate
• The thickened intestine becomes inflexible
• The activity of sweat glands increases
• The blood pressure increases.

Antagonically, the PARASYMPATETIC nervous system is the one that controls digestion and rest, so when we are in parasympathetic mode following is happening: 
• We conserve our energy
• The pupils contract
• Cardiac rhythm decreases
• Intestinal and glandular activity increases
• The musculature of the intestinal tract relaxes. 

It becomes clear why sport after a certain hour time influences the quality of digestion and sleep in a non-beneficial way, or we know how important the sleep is for our regeneration. 

With this information in our pocket, let's see what benefits can bring running in the dark: 

In the darkness, our senses get sharpened. This means, among other things, that we pay closer attention to the environment, we give up earphones and music as an artificial motivator. In other words, we are approaching ourselves, giving us the opportunity to meet ourselves, to know and to pay attention to our body, senses and reactions. Over time, we learn the signals of our own body and learn to listen to them.
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It does not matter if in the city or through the forest, out in the wild nature, away from the city, I recommend starting the evening run at dusk, when it is not yet dark, to gradually enter into the lack of light in order to give time our eyes and sensors to accustomed to the environment. In this way, we reduce the risk of injuries. At the beginning, I also recommend running along the same route for a while, with small deviations by every new session, and later on testing new routes.

The eyes
In the dark, the pupils dilate, the eye muscles become tighter, so they train, the effort to recognize objects and obstacles intensifies. Improvements of seeing can be reached in time.

There is another organ that reacts differently in the dark: the nose. The smell will sharpen and we can note that in the dark we smell new scents. For example, we can smell wet asphalt when we do not clearly see it and we can make the difference between wet and dry under our feet. In the forest, we can differentiate the smell of wood, in the city we become more sensitive when passing by a restaurant and so on.

There are people who are afraid to run through the dark, especially on unknown routes. For those with seeing problems, nocturnal exercise is not necessarily on the TO DO list. For these people, when pupil dilatation does not help a lot for a better visualisation, hearing becomes more intense. The brain tries to find a solution to balance the sense organs and intensifies the hearing system. The brain is certainly the perfect computer, it is the one that gives the controls, and when it finds out that the body is in danger, it performs the necessary adjustments. In the dark, every barking, each kneeling, every unexpected crunching, every plane or machine passing through the area acquires other dimensions at the level of the senses. Even the own panting is differently perceived. Any shadow that appears from a bush is connected with an image that usually causes fear, panic, can be a hedgehog, and the sensation may be that a wild boar has just come out before us!

The feet and legs also turn into strong sense organs in the dark, even if we do not run barefoot. We run as if we are scanning the ground and when the first changes come, such as snow, frost we note how well or not we are prepared from a sensory point of view. 
Like trail running, nocturnal run improves coordination and balance, while strengthening joints, engaging in response to obstacles, reducing the risk of falls. It is logical that we set new goals at night time, the speed best personal pace plays a secondary role or even none!

Night running can be seen as a fitness session for senses when we develop confidence in our own potential, when we learn and train to pay attention to details and to expand our fine sensory activity.

Running in the dark has its benefits, but let's not forget that sunlight remains the most important energy source, so try as often as possible to make sports at the day light. Schedule night runs like long running sessions, once every 4 or 6 weeks.


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