IF YOU CANNOT REMEMBER THE LAST TIME YOU FELT HEALTHY, REJUVENATED AND TOTALLY ALIVE – THEN GET UP AND GET GOING. RUN. RUN. RUN.
Running is an excellent way to feel energized, both physically and mentally. It has a direct effect on the quality of life – it de-stresses the mind, jump starts the heart and knocks off kilos. How’s that for an exhilarating experience!
RUNNER’S WORLD MAGAZINE LISTS FIVE PRIMARY BENEFITS OF RUNNING
- It is the most efficient path to cardiovascular fitness.
- Running for 30 minutes a day, four days a week, greatly increases the body’s stamina and level of fitness.
- It is excellent for the heart. After a few months of running, the walls of the heart thicken and the ventricles increase in size. This leads to greater cardiovascular efficiency and decreases the risk of heart attack by 40 per cent.
- It makes you feel alive and invigorates your being. It improves self-esteem and confidence.
- It encourages weight loss, shapes and tones the legs and butt.
BUILDING A BASE
If you are not a runner, you should start gradually and progress slowly into a running program. You can start by building up to a brisk 30-minute walk. When that becomes easy, try altering one minute of jogging with every five minutes of walking. Gradually replace more of the walk with a jog. Slowly increase the speed of the jog so that it becomes a run.
[Read: Walking – A Way To Nurture Your Mind, Body, And Soul]
It may take several weeks to get past the beginner’s stage and develop a base, but once you do, you will become hooked! Once you have established a running base, vary your running options to improve your speed, stamina and strength. To get the most from a fitness routine, it isn’t enough to push harder and go into a discomfort level – the best results are achieved by changing your training regimen. You can incorporate the following into your routine:
One of the easiest elements to incorporate is fartlek, a Swedish term meaning “speed play”. In this unstructured workout, a runner will speed up for a certain distance, then slow down and recover for the next chosen speed bout. This conditions your cardiovascular system to handle greater stress.
The endless combinations possible with sprinting, will keep your body constantly challenged. A track is ideal for sprinting because 100 m distance are clearly marked (a standard track is 400 m; four times around the track equals one mile). Try altering days of 100 m sprints with 200 m and 300 m. you should sprint at 70 per cent to 80 per cent of your maximum speed.
Running stairs increases your power and stamina and gives your legs a killer workout. You can run up the stairs – one stair at a time, ot take two steps at a time. You can run up, walk down and then jog in place. Vary the workout according to your ability.
Think of a hill workout as a running-specific weight workout. The lifting of the legs and arms strengthens the body as much as any cardiovascular and weight training program combination. This kind of training is intense as it works the cardiovascular system – as your heart tries to keep pace with the increased energy required to fight gravity. Remember to start gradually: You could ascend the hill running slowly, and then walk back down.
[Read: The 21st Centuries’ Fitness Guide]
You can greatly increase stamina and burn fat with distance running. Marathon training is a form of distance running. Oprah Winfrey did it. Al Gore did it. George W Bush did it. They all finished a marathon. And you can too, if you are determined and consistent.
To avoid injury and stay in great shape, you need to strengthen the muscles that you use while running. Focus on strengthening your shoulders, abs, back and lower body.
- It is important to stretch before and after a run.
- Stretch after the warm-up and after the cool-down.
- Never stretch cold muscles.
- Major muscle groups that need to be stretched are the shoulders, lower back, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves.
[Read: 11 Proven Exercises and Stretches to Increase Height Naturally]
GET THE RIGHT SHOES
IT IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THAT IF YOU PLAN TO RUN, YOU NEED TO BUY A SHOE SPECIFIC TO RUNNING. NOT A SNEAKER, TENNIS SHOE, CROSS-TRAINER FOR WALKING SHOE. BUT A SHOE MADE FOR RUNNING ALONE
- Your primary need is for a pair of shoes that fit well and feel comfortable. Fit and feel are an individual decision, but look for running shoes that fit snugly with about half an inch room between the longest toe and the end of the shoe. Your toes should not feel cramped.
- Your heel should not slip the rear foot when running. If one aspect of the fit is not right, don’t buy the shoe.
- Take the socks that you use for running to the store. The wrong socks will alter the fit of the shoes that you try on.
- Have both feet measured for width and length even if you think you know your size.
THE FOLLOWING TIPS WILL REDUCE YOUR RISK OF INJURY AND HELP YOU TO GET THE MOST OUT OF RUNNING
- Keep your back flat and your head in line with your spine.
- Hold your stomach muscles tight to maintain good posture.
- Create a breathing pattern while running. Aim to breathe in time with your strides. Try to maintain a rate of about three to four strides as you breathe in and three to four strides as you breathe out. You may feel as though you can’t keep a long breathing pattern going at first and you may be achieving a two-stride pattern, but this will improve with practice.
- Use your arms. They act as a balance for your legs; if you do not use them, your whole body will be thrown out of position. Keep your elbows slightly bent, with all of the movement coming from your shoulder joint.
- Keep your shoulders relaxed; hunched shoulders will impair your arm action and create tension in the neck and shoulders.
- Keep your hands cupped but relaxed. If you are making a tight fist, you are creating tension in your arms as you run.
- Check heel strike. Your heel should strike the ground first, with the sole of your foot rolling through to project you off your toes.
- Watch footfall. Your foot should land square to the ground, without turning in or out. Landing on the inside or outside of your foot increases the risk of damage to your ankles, knees and back.
- Always build up the distance and the time that you run in small increments, particularly if you are new to running.
- Where possible, run on grass rather than tarmac so that there is greater shock absorption for the legs.
- Run with your feet parallel, as if there is a line linking hip, knee and foot.
- When you want to quicken your pace, ensure that you work the arms harder as well as the legs.
- When running uphill, alter your body weight forwards in the stride to allow for the steeper gradient.
SPRINT INTERVALS ARE GREAT FOR IMPROVING YOUR CONDITIONING AND THE OVERALL CHALLENGE OF THE WORKOUT
- Jog four laps around track for approximately 15 minutes.
- Now do a 100 m wind sprint with a one minute recovery phase between each interval (Total time 20 minutes.)
- Jog for about 10 minutes – three to four laps.
- Stretch for about 10 minutes.
DISTANCE RUNNING INCREASES STAMINA AND POWER
- Jog for five minutes.
- Run for approximately 25 minutes and then bring it back to a jog for five minutes.
- End by stretching for 10 minutes.
HILL RUNNING STRENGTHENS THE LEGS, IMPROVES THE RUNNING STYLE AND BURNS MORE CALORIES, AS IT IS TOUGHER TO RUN ON A HILL THAN ON A FLAT SURFACE
- Walk for about five minutes then run for five minutes.
- Do hill intervals for about 20 minutes, run up a hill and walk downhill.
- Jog for about two minutes on level ground. Repeat interval.
- Jog for five minutes, stretch for 10 minutes.