Running has been talked down even among fitness circles in recent years as the benefits of weight training are becoming more well-known. Whilst I agree that weight training is beneficial, that doesn’t mean running is not as important! Last week I wrote about the enjoyment of trail running. This week I want to introduce running as a general exercise.
Running is one of the most enjoyable ways to exercise especially once you are moderately good at it! When starting out, running can definitely feel hard and not worth it. This blog will outline how to begin running and encourage you to give it a go! This is not an in depth guide to running but will give you some idea of how to begin a running program.
Running has immense benefits to your health. My number one benefit is the endorphin release that is achieved by a good run. There is debate over the reality of the endorphin rush, but I can say with certainty that a good run leaves me feeling amazing!
Other psychological benefits of running are increased cognitive function, memory and production of new brain cells. This is common to all types of exercise but cardiovascular exercise give a greater level of benefit in these areas.
Types of runs
There are a variety of different ways to run. The three most common ways to train when running is steady state, interval and sprints.
Steady state running means running at the same pace for the entire run. This can be of varying effort and distance. The harder you run and the faster your pace, the shorter the distance you will cover before being fatigued. Doing a long slow run is a great recovery exercise and is be great in building your endurance for longer events.
This type of running is changing the intensity throughout the workout. As an example, you may run 1 lap of the oval at your absolute fastest then drop down to a slow jog or even a walk for 2 laps and then repeat through it. This type of training is great for working on speed as well as making a short workout strenuous.
Sprints are the hardest and shortest way to run. A true sprint is an all-out maximum effort run. For most people, sprinting longer than 100-200metres is not possible, if it is then you are not sprinting but running fast. The best way to sprint is to do an all-out sprint, rest for a few minutes then repeat it. This way of training helps develop explosive power and like intervals is a great way to get a hard workout in a short time frame.
The most important part about getting started running is to START SLOWLY. We are tempted in fitness endeavors to jump straight in and start going at it. Whilst this mindset is great and I love the motivation, it often leads to injuries, overtraining or mental exhaustion and a reversal of results.
If you are totally sedentary, the first few weeks of your running program should not even be running, it should be walking. If you are very overweight; walking, focusing on improving your diet and performing weight training are better ideas until you lose a bit of weight. You are more than welcome to run if you choose this is just my recommendation.
It is advisable to get checked out by a doctor before beginning any running or fitness program, especially if you have any underlying health issues. The chances are you will be fine to do it but just check if there are any things you should avoid.
Running and walking together
The absolute best way to improve your running is to run AND walk together. Far too often people begin running with the idea that you must run until you cannot run anymore and then stop. A better way is to have a set distance such as 5kilometres; run as far as you can on this track, stop when needed to walk and continue running when you are recovered enough. Over time you can reduce the walking time and run more. There is no harm in stopping during a run to rest if it helps you to go further!
It is far better to run twice a week for a year and gradually improve than to run five times a week and burn out within a few months. The most important part of any fitness goal is consistency! Start with one day a week, then once that is locked in as a weekly habit move to two days a week. If you can maintain three to four days then do it but ensure that you will be able to consistently exercise this regularly.
Try to find the type of running that you enjoy the most and do that. I enjoy trail running (link here) and so 90% of the running I do is trail running. If you enjoy oval running then do oval running, if you like running on the road then do that. If you like to run in groups then find a running group to join! Try to find what works best to you and motivates you to run more.
A mixed running program is usually easier to stick to that a monotone one. It also gives better fitness results when you mix up your run types. One day do a slow run, another day do some sprints and another day do some intervals. The varied training will help to keep you interested and looking forward to your workouts.
Find a workout partner or group
I love running alone but I do perform better when running with someone. Another person helps to motivate us so that we will keep pressing on when the going gets tough. If you have a friend who runs try and do runs with them when you can. There are also running groups all over the place that will have set times for different types of runs so you can join in and be extra motivated and surrounded by like minded people. Try to find somebody who is at your level, so if you are beginner try and find a friend who is also getting into running.
The most important part of your running gear is footwear. I only use barefoot or minimalist shoes to run in as I find these make me run correctly, are the most comfortable and enable me to run pain free. Find the most suitable running shoes for you and try a variety of shoes to see which is best. Don’t be afraid to spend a decent amount of money on running shoes but also don’t buy the most expensive thinking it will be the best. Other clothing may be beneficial in race environments but I wouldn’t worry about it until you are already running descent distances, I still just wear t shirt and shorts when I go.
Like all exercise, if you do not track it, it is hard to know how far you have come. Ensure you are always recording your runs. The distance, time, how you felt, hills and any other notes when recorded will give insight into whether you are improving, remaining stagnant or declining. Having this information is very useful in creating your running program.
Enter a race
Once you have gotten the habit of running into your life, consider entering a race. Having a goal like a 5 or 10k race helps in having something solid to work towards. Training then will centre on preparing for this event.
Running is a great way to exercise. The more you do it the more you will enjoy it! Don’t listen to people who have never run before telling you how bad it is. Give it a go for yourself and make it a part of your weekly routine!
Have you ever thought about getting into running?
If you have any running related questions leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org