Running is one of the best exercises you can do to burn calories, keep your heart and lungs healthy and your body strong. However, running isn’t for everyone and you shouldn’t jump right in. Many injuries can occur when you attempt to run too far without proper conditioning. Before beginning a running program or any exercise program, always consult your physician.
These are some of the many benefits you may get from running:
- Improve cardiovascular health
- Lower cholesterol
- Control diabetes
- Increase bone density
- Improved physical and mental well-being
- Weight loss
- Improved sleep
Running is a great exercise because it requires no special skills or a gym. All you need is a good pair of running shoes and the motivation and commitment to improve your health. Here is some advice from J.R. Jarvis, PTA of Amber Hill Physical Therapy to help you get started.
First, think about why you want to start running. This will help you pick a running program that is right for you as well as help you set and reach realistic goals. Your goal may range from maintaining a target cardiovascular training heart rate for a period of time to running your first 5K. Getting started can be difficult. You need to start slow and build up your endurance to reach your goals. Stick with it and you will be there before you know it!
Next, think about your current level of fitness. If you are just starting an exercise program or just getting back to it after an extended break, begin with walking. As your fitness level increases and your speed and endurance with walking increases, you can add walk/run intervals or short runs. Don’t worry about your speed or distance. Learn to develop a good breathing rhythm or technique; you should be able to carry on a conversation without difficulty. As you continue to run, you will find a comfortable pace and your speed and distance will improve with time and regular training.
Before your run, always start with a warm-up, like jumping jacks, riding a stationary bike, moderate walking or stretching for five to ten minutes. Proper hydration is important as well. You should drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your run. Good old-fashioned water is best until you reach training sessions of longer distances that keep you running for more than an hour. Always spend time stretching after your run. It is best to stretch warm muscles and stretching helps your body cool down. You should perform static or prolonged stretches for your hamstrings, quads, calves and back. Perform each stretch two to four times and hold for 30seconds.
As with any exercise program, it is best to plan your run in to your daily schedule. J.R. finds that running at the same time each day makes it easier to stay on track. It can also help you stay on track if you find a running partner. Try to find someone at the same fitness level with similar goals to keep your training moving forward.
For beginners, plan twenty to thirty minutes, three to four times a week for your walk/run workout. Gradually increase your speed and distance as your strength and endurance increases to help reduce the risk of injury. Slower really is better when it comes to ramping up your workout. You can also add some non-running exercise sessions on the days you don’t run. Yoga, core strengthening and weight resistance training are all great exercises for runners to maintain strength and flexibility and prevent injury.
Whatever the reason you started running, KEEP IT FUN! If you are having a difficult time staying on track, you may find motivation from a personal trainer or running club. If you develop persistent or severe joint pain, back pain or muscle strains beyond expected post-workout soreness, please consult your Physical Therapist. Don’t give up! We will see you at the finish line!