Running is a favorite athletic pastime for many athletes. Whether done just for simple exercise, fun, or as training for more competitive athletic endeavors, running has numerous benefits for overall health and fitness.
Why Should I Start Running?
Running has significant health benefits. It improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood cholesterol, decreases risk of stroke and heart attack, reduces risk of developing type 2 diabetes, strengthens bones and muscles, and inhibits the process of aging.
Running promotes weight loss. As a high intensity cardiovascular exercise, running burns a lot of calories in a short period of time. Running also heightens your metabolism, causing you to continue to burn additional calories after you are finished. Habitual running will improve your resting metabolism so that you will burn more energy even when you are not exercising.
Running also has significant mental health benefits. Like many exercises, running produces endorphins in the brain, causing improved mood. In extreme cases, people who run for extended periods may develop what is known as “runner’s high,” a period of elation brought about by the brain releasing chemicals in response to the exercise. It is also known that being outside and in nature improves mood, so running outdoors has additional mental health benefits.
How to Start Running: A Training Guide
While it may be tempting to simply find a path or trail and sprint off into the distance, there are a number of strategies to employ if you are serious about becoming a habitual runner. Additionally, there are a number of common mistakes that new runners make that are easily avoided.
1. Preparation Is Key
Before even going on your first run, there are a few things to consider. Investing in a good pair of running shoes is important. They will help prevent injuries such as sores on the foot that can occur when running in other kinds of shoes.
Runners should avoid eating before running and drink only a minimal amount of water. Doing so will help prevent a kind of stomach cramp known as “runner’s stitch.” Be careful to stay hydrated, however, especially in hot weather.
2. Start Small, then Work Your Way Up
Make sure you are up for it. Listen to your body. If you are extremely out of shape, it may be beneficial for you to start a walking regimen at first. Don’t push yourself to run if you are injured or sick. Additionally, while running is good for cardiovascular and respiratory health, if you have severe illnesses related to your heart or lungs, you may want to talk to your doctor before starting an intense exercise regimen.
Regardless of your actual health, if you aren’t used to running, you will want to start small and work your way up to more intense running regimens. There is no shame in only running for a few minutes and then walking the rest of the way on your first run.
If you find it difficult to meet your beginner goals, do not become discouraged. Simply set easier goals and then aim for those. Once you have mastered those, you can work up to your first set of goals. Remember that the purpose of running is improvement, not being good at it at the start.
3. Warming up Is Important
Doing some basic leg stretches will help loosen the muscles and joints and prepare them for exercise. It is also beneficial to spend a few minutes walking before beginning your run.
4. Perseverance is Key
Rome was not built in a day. Even if you only run for two minutes and then walk for the rest of your course, that is still exercise that you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. As long as you keep persevering, you are also improving. Even if at first you find that you can only run for two minutes before becoming tired, you will eventually find that you can run for three. You cannot improve if you quit.
5. Make Sure to Have Rest Days between Runs
Do not run on consecutive days, especially when you are first starting out. Exercise causes your muscles to become sore. This is due to microtrauma, a term that refers to the strain we inflict on our muscles from exerting them in exercise. Muscles require time to heal from this strain.
This is especially true for beginners, who may not have exerted their muscles in this way for a long time. Consider having a protein shake or an extra serving of meat, eggs, dairy, or tofu at dinner to give your body the protein it needs to repair your muscles.
Once you become a more experienced runner, running on consecutive days will not be a difficult task.
6. Learn How to Run Faster and Longer
Once you have established a running regimen, the only thing left to do is to improve. Picking up endurance by running regularly will allow you to run longer distances. You may also consider increasing your pace. Running more quickly offers its own challenges, and can be a great way to improve yourself beyond just improving stamina.