Running is one of the best ways to improve your overall health. Studies have shown that running has many benefits which can include weight loss, stress relief, better mental health, strengthening of the legs, knees, joints, and lungs. It also may help prevent high blood pressure, type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and can improve your immune system, makes your brain work better and potentially help you live longer.
If you have recently decided to start running, here are some important tips to keep in mind:
- Run in the right shoes
- Warm up beforehand
- Cool Down Post Run
- Practice Proper Breathing
- Build Stamina Slowly
- Be Your Own Competition
- Stay Hydrated
- Add Cross-training
- Find a Partner
The first and foremost thing to consider is the type of shoes you need. This depends on the type of arch your foot has (low, medium or high) and how much cushioning you need. Your shoe type should be determined by your body frame size and personal preference for cushioning. Some shoes have a large amount of cushioning, while other have a minimal amount.
Not wearing the right shoes can be disastrous for a runner, and can result in blisters, chafing, shin splints, knee pain and lower back pain. Running in improperly fitted shoes can also result in more serious injuries such as: runner’s knee, achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, iliotibial band syndrome, stress fractures, patellar tendonitis, ankle sprains, pulled muscles, and side stitches.
Warming up before running is a crucial step, and many athletes overlook the importance of it. Warming up (stretching) is necessary to prevent muscle cramps, muscle tears, joint strain, and help prevent post-run soreness.
Sports therapists recommend walking before running, doing point massage, and including dynamic stretches (which focuses on range of motion). Some dynamic stretches include things like hip circles, walking lunges, butt kicks, monster walks, and leg swings. The purpose of warming up is to warm the muscles, increase circulation and prepare them for intense activity. It also allows you to raise your heart rate slowly which reduces stress on your heart at the beginning of a race.
Cooling down after a run is just as important as warming up beforehand. You should avoid finishing a run and sitting down right away. Keep moving, and take a minute to walk a short distance afterward.
Cooling down (by doing stretches) helps prevent muscle soreness and stiffness in the hours and days following your run. It also keeps your joints flexible (hip flexors, knees, ankles, etc.) and helps to lessen that chances of straining your joints. Here is a helpful video that shows a 5 to 10 minute cool down routine. The cool down allows your heart and blood pressure to drop slowly.
New runners typically don’t think about how they breathe, but it is very important to breathe correctly, so your brain gets enough oxygen. The more oxygen you have, the better your performance will be. Runners should breathe through both their nose and mouth. If your breathing is irregular, you could become tired faster.
Experienced runners usually synchronize their breathing with their stride, which helps them in the process of pacing themselves over a distance. Many do a 2-2 pattern, i.e. breathing in for two steps and out for two steps. Some trainers recommend that runners progress from the initial 2-2 pattern to 3-3 and 4-4 patterns. Training methods for breathing patterns can vary. It is also advisable for runners to practice deep belly breathing, which allows you to take in more air and will help prevent side stitches. Runners should also focus on exhaling fully while breathing, to release carbon dioxide and allow for better oxygen intake.
Another important thing to remember is that you should start your run at a slower pace and gradually build up to a faster one. New runners should especially be careful not to overexert themselves. Running at a slower pace will help build up your stamina, and as you become fitter, your body will be more efficient at converting oxygen into energy and you will be able to go farther. Experienced runners are able to be in tune with their bodies, so they can pay attention to how they feel and quickly identify any potential problems, like stiffness, fatigue, or sore muscles.
As you start running, you shouldn’t worry about comparing yourself to other runners; just compare yourself to yourself. Be aware of and track your own progress. This will give you a feeling of accomplishment as you improve and are able to compete against your own personal best.
When you get used to running on a regular basis, you will be able to find your natural stride, which is an important aspect of running. Improving your stride length will help your pace grow stronger and faster, and help prevent injuries. It is recommended that you aim for a smooth wheeling kind of motion, with minimal bouncing, and while flexing your knees and quads to achieve the best stride.
Runners need water more than anything to keep going. Staying hydrated is critical to your performance. Dehydration can lead to issues like fatigue, headaches, loss of muscle coordination and muscle cramping. Serious complications can include heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Fluid intake needs vary for each individual, but it is important to be aware of getting enough liquids before, during and after running. The general rule is to take in 4 to 6 ounces of fluid for every 20 minutes you run.
Runners also need to avoid caffeinated, carbonated and sugary beverages because those all have the effect of increasing dehydration. If you are competing in a race, it is recommended that you drink 20 ounces of water 2 hours beforehand, 16 ounces at about 30 minutes beforehand, and 4 to 6 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes.
Cross-training is utilized by most runners for three reasons: to focus on and build up certain muscles, to prevent overtraining on particular muscle groups, and to help compensate for sore muscles or injuries. In general, runners and other athletes use cross-training to improve overall fitness capabilities.
Other reasons can be to improve motivation, strength train, flexibility train, to promote recovery after a run, and or to rehabilitate injuries and prevent additional injury. Cross training on varying types of workout equipment and doing a variety of exercise like swimming and biking helps a runner develop greater physical strength and endurance. Improving overall fitness has many benefits for the serious runner, especially for injury prevention.
If you are new to the world of running, you will soon realize the benefits you will gain both physically and mentally from your efforts. As you start down your path as a runner it is also recommended that you to find a partner to run with, or find an organized group of people who run on a regular basis.
Partnering with others is a good way to make friends and it will give you the support you need to meet your personal running goals. Running with others has been shown to improve overall motivation and accountability. It can also make the time you spend running more of an enjoyable experience.