Getting Started With Running
Running is an excellent way to get and stay in shape. Many people who are just starting an exercise routine turn to running because it doesn’t require much equipment to get started and has many benefits. You can burn up to 100 calories per mile, build muscle and raise your metabolism so that you keep burning calories even after you’re done running. It’s an aerobic exercise, so it reduces your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. It also causes your body to produce endorphins that can ease symptoms of depression.
Ease Into It
When you start a running program, it’s great to be excited about your new exercise routine, but you’ve also got to be smart. If you haven’t run since you were on the playground in elementary school, start off with brisk walking for a week or two.
Once you’ve gotten your muscles used to exercise again, you can start incorporating segments of jogging into your walking routine. You can begin with short segments of jogging for 30 seconds alternated with walking for one to two minutes.
Increase your pace gradually. Lengthen the amount of time you’re running while shortening the amount of time you’re walking. It might take a while, but eventually your body will adjust to the routine and you will be running.
If you have joint problems or just need a low-impact way to get started, consider starting with an aquatic treadmill or using an exercise pool. An aquatic treadmill works just like a regular manual treadmill but is placed under the water in an in-ground or above-ground pool. The water provides resistance and also supports your joints, giving you a low-impact workout. The same principle applies to using an exercise pool. You can walk or run in the pool while the water cushions your joints. Incorporating water into your exercise plan is a great way to ease into a running routine and also prevent injuries as you add miles.
You’ll hear the saying, “No pain, no gain,” frequently when you start exercising. There’s some truth to it. You can expect some sore muscles as you begin moving them in ways they’re not accustomed to. This muscle pain should be a dull ache, however, not a sharp or agonizing pain.
If you get sharp pains, you need to back off of your running routine for a few days. Treat your pain with R.I.C.E.:
- Rest. Take a few days off, or at least replace running with walking for a short time.
- Ice. Ice the painful area for no more than 20 minutes every two hours.
- Compression. Wrap the painful area with a compression bandage to reduce swelling. Do not, however, wrap it so tightly that the area feels tingly, numb or has a change in color.
- Elevation. By raising the painful area above the level of your heart, you can minimize swelling.
If the pain continues or gets worse, seek medical treatment.
Choose the Right Gear
One way to minimize the risk of injury is to choose the right running gear. Although running doesn’t require a lot of expensive equipment, you should invest in a few items of running gear as soon as you can.
The most important gear you can get is a good pair of running shoes. Make sure the shoes you choose are designed for running, not tennis or aerobics. Each sport has different needs and the shoes for the sport are constructed to meet those needs. A good running shoe is light-weight and cushions the heels and toes.
Other gear that might be useful includes light-weight running clothes, running socks designed to reduce blisters and a waterproof watch so that you can keep track of your running time.
Your body needs nourishment to run well for any length of time. Don’t try to run on an empty stomach: try a light snack with protein and carbohydrates 30-45 minutes before your run. A banana with peanut butter or whole wheat crackers and hummus are excellent pre-run choices.
Adding protein to your diet to help build muscles and carbohydrates for energy can also help your running routine. Of course, not all proteins and carbs are created the same. Lean meats such as fish or chicken and plant proteins such as beans and nuts will give you the most benefits with the least number of unhealthy calories. Likewise, whole grains, fruits and vegetables are carbs that provide more nutrition than processed breads and sweets. Another important health consideration when you’re taking up running is hydration. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Don’t Give Up
As important as good gear and a healthy diet are, your determination is going to be the key factor in how successful you are at becoming a runner. If you develop a routine and follow it consistently, you’ll experience success. Just stick to it and don’t give up, and before long could find yourself running that marathon.
-Guest contribution by Brandon Serna, an avid runner and fitness enthusiast working with HydroWorx, a leader in aquatic therapy pools and aquatic treadmills