unning has got to be one of the easiest and most accessible forms of exercise out there. You just put some trainers on and head out the door right?! In essence, yes, but with just a little preparation and planning the whole experience can be made a whole lot more enjoyable and injury free in the long term. Whether you begin running for fun/its many health benefits/to raise money for charity/just for the hell of it/your own reasons, it can become an amazing part of your life.
Why is running such a good exercise?
1. For a start, anyone can do it and with very little expense compared to other forms of exercise.
2. Once you're out on your run, you've already started your exercise rather than having to get somewhere to perform it (i.e. a gym).
3. It's good for your health and fitness in that it raises your heart rate and improves circulation by forcing the heart to become more efficient at pumping blood through your body.
4. Running is a great calorie burner and hence a great way to lose weight. A 65kg person running for just 30 minutes at 6pmh/10 min miles will burn off a whole 325 calories. As you progress as a runner, you will lose fat from your body and your lean muscle will become more prevalent.
5. As a weight bearing exercise, running will help strengthen your bones. Over time, the bones will have to adapt to taking the stresses (2-3 times your own body weight is applied to each leg as you run along!) that running places on the body. The body's ability to strengthen itself is great as we get older since there is a natural loss of bone density as we age.
6. It can be a great stress reliever, in that it can help to clear the mind and give you the 'runner's high' after your run.
7. It gives you some 'me' time. In the hectic lifestyles that we lead, it's a great 'get away from it all', even if just for a short time. Time to reflect or maybe just zone out and clear the mind. The important thing is that it's time that you make for yourself.
8. You can get to places with it. How many of you have had to endure traffic jams, tube rage, standing up on trains and the general crowded feeling you get on public transport nowadays? You could instead run to places and not have to pay a penny (well, ok, maybe a few and some blood/sweat/tears here and there)
However, as with any exercise, we should be aware of the risks that we take in doing them. Here are the Top 10 mistakes beginners make:
Top 10 mistakes:
1. Too much too soon: As with your new pair of running trainers, our bodies have to be gently 'broken in'. If instead we go out too hard and often then injury will likely knock you back as you have to rest and recover.
2. Pavement pounding: Since there is 2-3 times your own body weight bearing down on your joints every time you hit the ground, starting out on pavement can lead to some painful aches and possibly even shin splints.
3. The wrong trainers: I wince at the sight of people running down the street in 'fashion' trainers. This footwear isn't designed to give the feet the support they need.
4. Ill timed Fuelling: Having not enough fuel (food and drink) in the tank before a run can ruin it just as having too much can.
5. Bad Fuelling: Our bodies have a nifty way of telling us whether food and drink that you had before a run agrees with you running! We all have to feel our way through this unfortunately.
6. Bad Kit: This has to be comfortable, otherwise you will learn that your clothes can be your worst enemy in the chafing stakes.
7. No warm up: Going straight out for a run without warming up first can also lead to injury. The muscles aren't warmed up enough and going out too hard too soon with them can lead to injury.
8. Bad posture: Running with bad posture can also lead to injury. The whole body is heavy and with bits like your head out of kilter at the top means the bits of your body underneath have to realign (out of kilter) to support said head.
9. No structure: In the short term, just going for a run can reap benefits but without some kind of structure to your running, the long term benefits won't be achieved as easily.
10. Wrong exercise: It's not guaranteed that running will be for everyone. For some, it can prove to be something that you just do not enjoy!!
In my experience, committing any of the above mistakes can lead to beginner runners becoming quickly disheartened.
Before any run, warming up is very important to avoid injury and get the best performance possible. Use the video below from RunnersWorldTV to ensure you start your run well prepared.
For complete newbies, it would be recommended to start off by getting yourself a decent pair of trainers. Check out this 'Choosing your running shoes' article and have a specialist GAIT test to ensure you get the right pair of trainers for you. The right pair of trainers is vital to giving you maximum support and allowing you to then concentrate on enjoying the running itself. Don't be afraid to start out running slow, you should start off with some kind of walk/jog training before tackling the full blown running programmes and your training doesn't need to be mapped out to the most minute detail (unless you are training for some running event). You should see a gentle progression (normally weekly mileage shouldn't be increased by more than 10% per week) that will allow your body to adapt and strengthen where it needs to (mainly in the legs).
During your Run
Lay off the pavement to start with when you first starting running, as the concrete is probably the worst surface to begin on considering how unforgiving it is. Grass is much better and allows a little more give as you first set out with your runs. For those that may start their running on a treadmill rather than outdoors in the fresh air, set the incline to 1% to mimic running outdoors. It's down to personal preference as to how and where you run and there are advocates for all running styles and terrains, from running barefoot to tackling the trails.
No matter where you choose to run, ALWAY'S, 'go before you go', probably advice your mother gave when you were younger. Ignoring this advice could interfere with your run by what is always going to be an inconvenient call of nature, especially if you are outdoors. If I had a penny for the number of times in the early days of my running when I didn't heed this rule and wish I'd spent that penny before....Further to this, you will learn over time what food and drinks to avoid before a run. A few pints and a curry the night before are almost certainly a definite no no, unless a Radcliffe-esque outcome is what you desire!
As you run, your cardiovascular system (the heart and how it delivers blood around your body) will get a good workout as it pumps more blood more frequently to the muscles you use are using to propel yourself along. Over time, your heart gets stronger and more efficient at delivering this oxygen rich blood around your body, which you will find with a reduced resting heart rate (RHR). The less times it needs to pump in a minute, the more efficient it is at pumping the blood to the muscles around your body in one 'thump, thump'.
After your run there should be a cool down period where you slow down and help your heart rate calm down again after being elevated during your run. A good stretch again would be advised before grabbing a cleansing shower and eating good nutritious food within the 'golden hour' after exercise. This is your anabolic window, where your body will be screaming out for good refuelling to help it to replenish energy and nutrients that have been used up and also to rebuild muscle.
Running may not be everyone's cup of tea, but as it's enjoyed by so many that it should be tried at least once. If you follow just one piece of advice, its to enjoy it!! In the majority of cases, once you start running you will never stop as you become hooked for life!!
Michael Phan is a personal trainer and athlete. He loves people looking and feeling great by helping them with Fat Loss & Running. A prolific motivator both on and offline, he founded Michael Phan Bespoke Personal Training and is creator of great inspirational past and present twitter challenges such as #Pressupathon & #MileChallenge http://ow.ly/2aU8lv, Michael is a keen marathon runner and triathlete.
Michael leads by example and keeps up to date with cutting edge training techniques. Coupled with his own experience, he is then able to hone each individual client's programme to their specific Fat Loss or Running goals.