Viagra, yohimbine, oysters… We’ll try anything for more and better sex! Surprisingly, the answer may be as simple as donning a pair of running shoes.
Recent evidence suggests that runners are, indeed, better lovers.
Eighty percent of runners polled in a recent survey published in Runner magazine report that running makes them better lovers. Seventy-five percent of them reported a better sexual response from their mates since they began running, while sixty-six percent find runners more sexually attractive than non-runners. These positive effects of running are probably due to better physical health, positive self-concept, and more physical energy.
In another study, Dr. Frederick Harper studied a group of Howard University students who began a running program. They reported that running decreased their anxiety, increased their self-confidence, and increased their appreciation of sex.
Another interesting study involving the relationship between running and sex was described by James Fixx in his classic The Complete Book of Running. Men who had suffered heart attacks were enrolled in an intensive rehabilitation program that included running. Many of these patients became accomplished athletes, some of whom even ran marathons. Almost all related decreases in “postcardiac psychological depression” and noted significant improvements in their sex lives.
Running, sex and mental health
In his book, Fixx described seven basic human needs essential for good mental health. He asserted that they can all be fulfilled by running. And by sex, as well, in the opinion of this writer. Indeed, sex and running can complement each other in satisfying these basic needs, which Fixx outlines as follows:
The need for movement: The body must move. Running and sex allow the body to move in pleasurable ways, maintaining flexibility and muscle tone.
The need for self-assertion: The runner asserts himself to the world as an individual each time he or she runs. Similarly, two people involved in a sex act are asserting themselves to each other. Orgasm is the ultimate assertion.
The need for alternations of stress and relaxation: Running and sexual activity require extreme physiologic exertion and are characterized by activity of the sympathetic nervous system. The body interprets this as “stress,” which is not necessarily negative. After the runner finishes running, and after the lover achieves orgasm, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated. This provides a deep feeling of relaxation, often referred to as “burn” or “afterglow.”
The need for mastery over ourselves: We need to learn to fine-tune the precision machine that is the human body. Sexual activity encourages mastery over our bodies and intimate knowledge of the responses of our partner’s bodies.
The need to indulge ourselves: To the avid runner, running is one of the most self-indulgent, pleasurable experiences of life. A satisfied lover feels the same way about sex.
The need for play: Josef Pieper, in his book Leisure:The Basis of Culture, emphasizes play as an area of such vital importance in our lives that it is actually a determinant of our culture. With the exception of a rigorous training schedule, running is usually a form of play. Long slow distance running and training can be fun, and running with friends can be recreational. Sex at its best is playful, with laughter, spontaneity, and variety.
The need to lose ourselves in something greater than ourselves. Running allows us to shed self-consciousness, to be “naked to the world.” Sex enables us to lose ourselves in a somewhat transcendental experience.
The sexy effects of physical enhancement through running
Many of the sexual benefits of running are due to enhanced physical fitness and improved appearance. Due to either media hype or evolution, the runner has become the sexual superstar of the nineties. In the 1950s and 1960s, runners were curiosities. The running boom of the 70s brought out a generalized appreciation of fitness and self-responsibility, but running was still a unisex sport. Running became less popular in the 1980s, which decreased the numbers of runners. But those who stuck with it fine-tuned the sport and themselves until running became the ultimate form of self-actualization. With this, runners report that their sexual awareness has reached an all-time high.
Today’s runner oozes self-confidence, self-control, self-understanding, and stamina. This overall feeling of self worth breeds an enhanced sexuality. The media are largely responsible for this transformation. The covers of running magazines in recent years frequently feature photos of beautiful women clad in tight, colorful attire with facial expressions of desire and sensual pleasure. Men are photographed with rippling thigh muscles and glistening beads of sweat. One popular magazine featured a cover shot of a beautiful female runner pouring water over her head and body, her face exhibiting the erotic pleasure she evidently felt. Of note were her erect nipples– unencumbered by a bra–conspicuously visible through her wet T-shirt.
Motions of running as sexual stimuli
The motions of running themselves are powerful sexual stimuli. Anatomist John Napier described the motions from an anatomic perspective. “The difference in the proportions of the male and female pelvis has the effect of diminishing the range through which the female hip can move forward and backward. Thus, for a given length of stride, women are obliged to rotate the pelvis through a greater angle than men do. This secondary sexual characteristic has not lacked exploitation; in our culture, female pelvic rotation has considerable erotogenic significance.”
Running increases the size and firmness of the gluteal muscles which make up the buttocks. Like most primates, humans views the buttocks as a powerful sexual stimulus.
In his book The Sex Life of the Foot and Shoe, Dr. William Rossi places considerable importance on the buttocks as a sexual stimulus. He writes that “A rhythmic, mobile female buttocks is a wanton sight that has fascinated man since Adam. Woman, knowing it, has practiced the seductive art of hip swaying since Eve. What draws the wolf whistle of male admiration? Not a face, not even a figure. It’s the wiggle of the walk, the hustle of the bustle.” And women readily admit that they are turned on by the back view of a sexy, gluteally developed male runner.
Beginning a running program is not difficult. Many sports medicine and running books are readily available in bookstores and libraries. These explain how to select shoes, how to train, and how to avoid injuries. Most communities have local running clubs that are also a good source of information. Advice may also be sought from sports-minded physicians and physiatrists.
So put away your Viagra, put on your running shoes, and run for sex!