Running is one of the most effective ways to burn calories and build cardiovascular endurance, it helps to increase your mental toughness, and if you run outdoors, you benefit from exposure to nature, which can reduce stress, relieve anxiety, boost your mood, and provide other health benefits.
Running also has a low bar of entry—you don’t need any fancy equipment, it’s relatively inexpensive, and you can do it almost anywhere. It’s also an activity that spans ages; it’s never too late to start running.
Here are some of the many other reasons why people choose running:
It’s one of the most efficient ways to achieve aerobic fitness.
Running can be a smart strategy for weight loss.
Running is an excellent stress reliever.
You can run by yourself for peace and solitude or with others for social interaction.
You release endorphins when running and may even experience a runner’s high.
You achieve better overall health with improvements such as higher lung capacity, increased metabolism, lower total cholesterol levels,1 increased energy, and decreased risk of osteoporosis.2
Running is a sport that can bring families together. For example, some families participate in charity fun runs, or simply jog together as a way to spend quality time enhancing healthy values. Kids who participate in running programs learn how to overcome obstacles and persevere.
Whether you’re brand new to running or you’re getting back to it after a long break, it’s important to start out easy and build up gradually so you avoid injury. Here are some tips to get you started off on the right foot.
Take measured steps to keep your body safe and free from injury. First, also do a warm up before you start running. Walk or do an easy jog for 5 to 10 minutes, before increasing your intensity. You might also add warm-up exercises such as dynamic stretches or running drills.
Use the Run/Walk Method
You can start your running program by combining your runs with intervals of walking. For many new runners, this is the easiest way to build endurance with less stress on the joints and a manageable intensity level.
Simply start with one minute of running and one minute of walking, and then try to increase the running intervals. As you become more comfortable, make the switch to all running.
Trying to keep your heart rate up in a comfortable zone when running. Use a heart rate monitor to keep track of your training. If you find yourself continuously working in 80-90% of maximum heart rate, you might want to slow down. You should aim for 50-70% of maximum heart rate for maximum benefit and also protecting yourself from injury.
Make It Manageable
Your running workouts might be challenging in the beginning, but they shouldn’t be so hard that you never want to run again. During each workout, keep a comfortable, conversational pace.
Breathe in through your nose and mouth so you can get the most amount of oxygen. Try doing deep belly breathing to avoid side stitches or cramps.4
After each run, cool down by doing some easy jogging or walking. Some gentle stretching after will help you avoid tight muscles.
Aim for consistency in your new running program rather than speed or distance. Establish a weekly running schedule to get into a regular running habit.
Proper Running Form
Proper running form can help you become a more efficient runner. You can learn to conserve energy, improve your pace, run longer distances, and reduce your risk of injury by paying attention to and tweaking different elements of your running mechanics.
There are a few basic form rules to follow.
Practice Good Posture
Keep your posture upright. Your head should be lifted, your back should feel long and tall, and shoulders level but relaxed. Maintain a neutral pelvis. Make sure you’re not leaning forward or back at your waist (which some runners do as they get tired).
As you run longer distances, be especially mindful of your shoulder placement. They may start to hunch over. Rounding the shoulders too far forward tends to tighten the chest and restrict breathing. It helps to look ahead. Focus your eyes on the ground about 10 to 20 feet in front of you.
Your arms should swing naturally back and forth from the shoulder joint (rather than your elbow joint). There should be a 90-degree bend at the elbow. In the proper position, your hand should almost graze your hip as it moves back and forth.
Your hands should stay as relaxed as possible. You can gently cup your hands or simply let them relax, Just don’t clench them into fists because it can lead to tension in your arms, shoulders, and neck.
Monitor Your Footstrike
The way that your foot hits the pavement is called your footstrike. There are different ways that your foot may approach the road. You might land on your heel, on the middle of your foot, or on the toes or forefoot (front of the foot).
Don’t be a toe runner or a heel-striker. If you land on your toes, your calves will get tight and you’ll fatigue quickly. You may also develop shin pain.
Landing on your heels is not a good option either. It usually means you are overstriding—taking steps that are longer than they need to be. This wastes energy and may cause injury.
Try to land on the middle of your foot, and then roll through to the front of your toes.
Healthy runners should always vary their running surfaces to improve strength and balance, and to help avoid injury. Switch up your routes and do some trail running, some running on asphalt, some track runs and even some running on sidewalks if you have to. We suggest to avoid hard surfaces for runs as the prove to put more pressure on your joints and also risk in joint, bone related injuries.
Nutrition and Hydration
You’ll learn quickly that eating right and staying hydrated can make or break your runs.
You lose water through sweat, whether it’s cold or hot out, so you need to drink before, during, and after your runs. When running, you should pay attention to your thirst level and drink when you feel thirsty.
Here are some specific tips for longer runs or races:
Start hydrating several days before a long run or race. You can hydrate with plain water; you don’t have to drink sports drinks.
An hour before you start your run, try to drink about 16 ounces of water or other non-caffeinated fluid. Stop drinking at that point, so that you can void extra fluids and prevent having to stop to go to the bathroom during your run.
If you don’t have access to water on your running routes, you’ll have to carry your own fluids with you.
During longer workouts (90 minutes or more), some of your fluid intake should include a sports drink (like Gatorade) to replace lost sodium and other minerals (electrolytes).5 The carbohydrates and electrolytes in the sports drink also help you absorb the fluids faster.
Make sure you rehydrate after your long runs. If your urine is dark yellow, you’re dehydrated. Keep hydrating until your urine is a light yellow color, like lemonade.
What you eat before, during, and after a run has a big effect on your performance and recovery.
Keep in mind, however, that while running does burn a lot of calories, it certainly doesn’t give you license to eat anything you want. Some new runners learn this the hard way when they actually gain weight after a couple of months of regular running. Figure out how many calories you need and focus on eating a healthy, balanced diet.
More tips for pre and post run nutrition include:
Before a run, you eat something light that’s high in carbohydrates but low in fat, protein, and fiber. Aim to finish eating 90 to 120 minutes before you start running.
After a long run, to restore muscle glycogen (stored glucose), eat some carbs and protein within 30 minutes of finishing your run. A good ratio of carbs to protein is 3 to 1.5
When you first start your running program, you’ll probably feel excited and energized about your new commitment. But, you’re likely to experiences challenges along the way and these will test your motivation.
There are a few common strategies that runners use to stay motivated. First, many runners join a group. Different types of running groups appeal to different types of runners. There are groups that run to train for a specific race, groups that focus on the social aspects of running, and even groups that run for charity or for a common cause.