Beat the Jam and Ill Health By Running to Work

Urban TV’s Angelo Izama has an interesting Friday morning routine. He wakes up at 6:30am, brushes his teeth, takes a shower and throws on his running shorts, shirt and shoes.

He then jogs from his home in Kyambogo, through Kyambogo University, to Jinja road and finally the Urban TV offices. Yes, he is sweaty when he arrives at work and has previously drawn some this-is-weird stares, but who cares he gets in a 70-minute workout when he runs through this route.

When he uses the safer Kyambogo-Ntinda-Bukoto-Lugogo bypass-Jinja road route, he gets in more than 70 minutes of cardio workout. Interestingly, he does not run for the physical health benefits conferred by running – which include improved heart health, blood circulation and improved mental health – according to Ibrahim Okedi, a fitness trainer based in Kampala – but for psychological health benefits.

At work, Izama cools down before he gets into a planning meeting with colleagues. He returns home after the meeting and freshens up. It makes a case for big companies, such as American media giant USA Today, that equip offices with full gym and sports amenities, for their staff’s convenience. Izama would reap from such an arrangement, instead of keeping his morning sweat till evening!

Starting out:

Faced with loneliness and inactivity in Washington D.C during a 2007 Reagan Fascell Democracy fellowship, Izama’s then-girlfriend, now wife, suggested that he spends some of his time working out.

“I went to Washington during [autumn] when the weather was getting cold. Washington is a cultural centre but I was not exploratory so, my routine involved going from home to work and back,” Izama says.

At his girlfriend’s suggestion, he signed up to a community centre with a gym and started running on the treadmill.

“It was difficult at first I would run for about eight to 15 minutes and then 30 and then an hour,” Izama says.

He became a “runner” following this.

“When the weather became warmer, I started running outdoors and would run to and from work,” Izama says.

He continued running when he came back to Uganda after his seven-month fellowship.

More runnerswalkers:

Walking to and from work was for a long time largely for the not-so-well-to-do Ugandans who could neither afford the taxi fare nor the cheaper bicycle boda boda fare. But increasingly, even those who own cars are parking them to walk – at least half the distance. Marriane, who stays in Seguku along Entebbe road, walks to Kibuye, from where her husband picks her with the family car for the rest of the distance home.

Izama says more Ugandans, particularly the middle-class and the rich, are running because they are aware of the activity’s benefits. Urban TV profiled Juma Seiko’s walk-from-work and he was quoted saying he walks part of the distance from office to home. He also walks around Nakasero in the morning and he said that when travelling to his village in Kapchorwa, he is driven part of the distance and walks the rest.

He walks to remain fit, seeing as he is a security personnel. Harriet, a high-flying Kampala lawyer, jogs from her home in Luzira most mornings, to a health club at Garden City mall, where she showers and changes into her power suit – delivered to the mall along with her car and bags, by a supportive friend.

Once morbidly obese, Harriet has since dropped weight to a dress size 12.


Running confers physical health benefits such as weight reduction, increased energy levels, improved fitness levels, peaceful sleep and appetite, in addition to benefits to heart health and blood circulation.

Izama, however, has experienced the psychological benefits.

“I am a much more pleasant person when I run,” Izama says. “I find that personal challenges will be resolved on the road. Running has got me through some difficult moments.”

The runners’ high, said to be brought on by the release of feel-good hormones (endorphins) when one runs, is a well-documented phenomenon. Running also improves self-esteem.

“Runners often set targets and sometimes, when they set crazy targets and are able to achieve them, they realise they can overcome physical and psychological challenges,” Izama reasons.

Other psychological benefits of running include improved concentration levels or alertness, reduction in tension, stress (which Izama experiences) and mental fatigue, reduction in anger and frustration levels and increased focus and motivation in life, a UK mental health website says.

Before you run:

You need to consult a doctor before you decide to run, Okedi says.

“A person’s heart health may be poor, or they could have joint injuries and are therefore not fit to run. A checkup would reveal these,” Okedi says.

Should you be okayed to run, get the right gear such as sweat-absorbent running shorts and shirts for men and tights and cotton shirts or running clothes for women. While debate on whether it is best to run barefoot or in shoes is unresolved, Okedi says that where one is using shoes, one should buy shoes with soft soles as “these cushion a runner as they hit the ground.”

Izama says tight shoes should be avoided as these could rub and hurt a runner’s toes. A number of runners complain about knee injuries Izama complains about knee pain and Mgr Lawrence Kanyike, who used to run around Makerere University, also said, in a previous interview, that he suffers knee pain. Can it be avoided?

Okedi says a doctor would best aise how to prevent knee injuries. He says that slight jogging in flat areas would help limit knee injuries.

“Our roads are generally bad, putting runners at risk of knee injuries,” Okedi says.

In “more serious” countries, jogging tracks are common in all cities, so a runner is not at risk of being run over by a careless motorist, disappearing down a manhole, or twisting a foot in a pothole. Nonetheless, more and more Ugandans are discovering the joy and cheapness of jogging, albeit with care.

If you take the right precautions, you could prevent the injuries and enjoy the benefits running confers.

Source : The Observer

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