Back in the earliest days, humans lived in caves and had to battle wild animals and face nature in order to stay alive. Running wasn’t just a skill, it spelled the difference between survival and becoming dinner. Prehistoric humans traveled miles for food and shelter but as time progressed, the need to run or walk in order to survive decreased. Today, running has become a sport and a form of recreational activity for us.
By definition, running is a gait in which at some point, both feet are off the ground. It is also a form of both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Running is a complex and coordinated process that involves the whole body. It uses various muscles as your legs move you forward. Your thigh muscles (a.k.a quadriceps) extend your legs, keeping your knees stable while the muscles in your calf lift your legs off the ground.
There’s a science to it!
Let’s look at this from a scientific point of view. A lot goes on within and outside the body when you run. For example, forces play a big part in running. Gravity keeps us on the ground while our muscles push us forward and the drag from the air slows us down. Look back on your middle school days, do you remember Newton’s third law of motion? For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. When your foot strikes the floor, there is a downward force on the ground you’re running on, but an equal amount of force is going from the floor to your leg.
Interesting, right? Running appears to be a simple action, but various actions and processes occur as you run. You’ll learn more about running like how to stay safe while going out to run and the correct form as you read further.
But why should I run?
Now, you’re probably wondering: “What benefits do I get from going on runs? Why shouldn’t I do a different sport instead?” Worry not, We’ve got the answers for you!
Increases blood circulation and oxygen uptake
When you exercise, your heart muscles contract faster so more blood circulates throughout your body. As your blood travels throughout your body, it delivers oxygen straight to the brain, skin and organs making sure that everything functions properly and is ready to be spurred into action!
Your heart gets stronger
Getting into intense workouts causes your heart rate to increase. Running gives your heart the healthy workout it needs to be in tip-top shape. As it contracts and pumps blood, it becomes bigger and stronger, thus able to bring nutrients and oxygen to the different parts of the body.
Running boosts your brain power
Every run you go on makes your brain stronger. When oxygen reaches the brain, new neuron connections are formed. “Runner’s high”, or the euphoric feeling you get after you go on a run, is also linked to changes in brain chemicals. Running triggers the release of endorphins and leaves you feeling a natural high.
Going on runs strengthens the muscles
Did you know that when you run, your muscles tear ever so lightly? Never fear, your body rebuilds them and this actually makes your muscles even stronger and more defined. Running entails the whole body to move so in essence, you’re getting a whole body workout by doing just one exercise!
It helps in reducing stress and improving your mood
Running goes hand in hand with stress reduction. When you run, your brain produces fewer stress hormones and generates more endorphins. This is what relaxes your senses and clears your head. Aerobic exercises help in feeling an increased sense of “flow” and are a healthy and challenging way to boost your confidence and self-perception!
I’m new to running, where do I begin?
Strap on your running shoes, we’re taking you through the motions of how to start running!
Types of Running
Each individual is unique and have their own preferences, some may prefer running on a treadmill, while others prefer going on trail runs. Nevertheless, we’ve listed some options for you to explore so you can find what works best for you!
Got an old treadmill you swore you’d use when you bought it? Start it up and get running! Using a treadmill is a smart and practical choice, especially if you already have one at home or if you have a gym membership. This type of running is easier than outdoor running and is easier on your joints, too. The great thing about treadmills is that it allows you to change your incline, pace, and resistance so you can customize your running experience to your preferences.
Training to run track focuses more on targeted speed work rather than developing endurance running outdoors. Running track includes shorter distance races like the 50-yard dash, 100, 200, and 400-meter sprints, hurdles, and others.
Trail running is great for runners who love being one with nature. Running on trails usually involves traversing various terrains like mountain areas and sandy beaches. They are like natural obstacle courses, so it’s perfect for nature lovers who are looking for a challenge while staying fit. Runners may encounter sidestepping roots, climbing over logs, and even climbing up steep hills. We recommend trail running because it makes for a fulfilling run- with a view!
Are you a competitive person? Why not try participating in races! Some runners enjoy the thrill of racing in roads, trails, and tracks. Racing events can vary in distance, ranging from 5k runs to full marathons. If you’re intimidated by the competition, don’t worry! A lot of runners join races not to win, but because they want to set a personal goal and aim to achieve it. Step out of your comfort zone and try it for yourself!
Choosing the Right Terrain
Should I run on the beach or at the park? We’ve got you covered! Here are some options you can explore:
1. Forest or Park Floor
Running on trails or at the park provides soft cushioning for your feet because you’re mostly running on grassy surfaces. The downside is that you risk injury due to roots, stray rocks and uneven landscape.
Pavement is an ideal surface for running, especially for light runners who have developed good form. Although you avoid the risk of spraining your ankle, running on pavement may be hard on your joints because the pavement does not cushion your steps.
If you aren’t familiar with Tartan, it is a springy, all-weather synthetic track surface made especially for running but just take note that it may put stress on certain areas of your body while you run, most specifically your Achilles tendon, so be sure to take extra precaution!
Sandy surfaces are awesome for training your muscles and training how to lift your feet while you run. Running on sand is a great experience but be careful because it’s easy to overwork your calf muscles while you run at the beach or in sandy areas.
Don’t Start Running Too Fast
A common mistake that new runners make is that they start running too fast right off the bat. Your body needs to get used to the stresses and strains of running, first. If you start your runs too fast, you are prone to overexertion, injury, and a lot of frustration. The key is to gradually give your body time to adjust.
Your running workout should be challenging, but it shouldn’t be too hard that you would feel discouraged to start running again the next time. Begin your runs at an easy and consistent conversational pace and breathe through your nose and mouth so you are able to get the most amount of oxygen. Remember that the goal is to be consistent. The best thing to do is to establish a weekly running schedule so that it becomes a habit! Once you are able to achieve this, running is going to become a whole lot easier and more exciting!
Eat Well and Stay Hydrated
This is one of the key components to having good runs. More often than not, people disregard eating healthy and staying hydrated not knowing how important it is.
Naturally, you lose a lot of water in your body when you run because you perspire. Maintain your water intake before, during, and after running. Pay close attention to your thirst level and don’t stinge on water. Drink when you feel thirsty! The general rule of thumb when it comes to water consumption is that you should take in 4-6 fluid ounces of water every 20 minutes.
When it comes pre and post-run nutrition, make sure you eat something light that is packed with carbohydrates but low in fat, protein, and fiber. Get a good pre-run meal 90 to 120 minutes before running to ensure proper digestion. After you run, stock up on carbs and protein to replenish your depleted energy. Watching what you eat will be a big help in running because it has a big effect on your performance and recovery.
Cross-train for Overall Fitness
Running shouldn’t be your only form of exercise. By cross-training, you reduce the risk of running injury as it reduces the stress running places on your joints and spine. A well-conditioned body and consistent training will lead to better running performance! You can add exercises like strength training, cycling, yoga, and the like to your weekly workouts!
Let Your Body Recover
You might be tempted to go on run every single day once you get into the groove of running but rest days are crucial in helping you recover and is one of the keystones to becoming a better runner. Rest days not only help your body bounce back from the stresses and strains of exercising, they also prevent OTS or Overtraining Syndrome which can cause your fitness levels to decrease and increase the risk of running-related injuries. Taking breaks isn’t going to push you back from your goal, so make sure to get enough rest between running days.
Let’s be real, running has its honeymoon period. At first, you’ll feel excited to run everyday but after a while, the enthusiasm may start to wane. Along the way you’ll experience challenges that will test your motivation and commitment to running, so it’s helpful to know how to prevent getting burnt out. Check out our helpful tips below!
1. Make a plan
The goal here is to turn running into a habit. A habit is made up of cues, like a certain song, a place, etc., a reward, or something you can treat yourself to after like your favorite snack and a routine or the workout itself. Write down these cues, rewards, and post your plan somewhere you can see it so you can feel motivated!
2. Keep it simple and Run Regularly
Keeping your exercise routine simple will help you stay motivated. Stick to a running plan that includes at least 2 days of running. Try to run at the same time of the day and listen to the same playlist. Your cues have to be consistent because you are creating neural pathways that make the activity a habit.
3. Treat yourself!
Reward yourself after your run. You deserve it! Treat yourself to something you enjoy so that your brain associates the exercise with immediate rewards. This helps in motivating you to be enthusiastic and excited to go on your daily runs!
4. Run with Friends
A support system is important! You can try running with a friend or you can even join a group! There are different types of groups that you can join depending on the kind of training. Some groups cater to train for a specific race or focus on the social aspect of running while some run for charity or a common cause. Either way, joining a group is a great way to get to know people with the same interests as you and acts a support system as you go on your running journey. Everything’s better if you do it with friends!
5. Start a Running Journal
Keeping a running journal can help you track your progress and is an outlet for you to jot down your experiences as you go through the motions of running. It will act like a memoir, or a time capsule of sorts, that you can look back at once you’ve accomplished your goals. You can also look at it on days when you don’t feel like running and bam! instant motivation to go for a run.
The Secret Formula for Running
Don’t know how to schedule a running plan? We got it covered! Here are the foundations for a good running plan, plus links to some awesome ones you can follow!
- Try to train at least 3 days a week.
- For two days a week, run or do a run-walk combo for 20 to 30 minutes a day.
- Take longer runs and/or walks, around 40 minutes, to an hour during weekends
- On your off days, focus on resting or cross-training
- The key to running for beginners is to run at a conversational pace.
- Take regular walk breaks in between running.
Here are some awesome running plans you can try!
- 30-Day Beginner Running Training Schedule by Run for Good
- Beginner’s Running Plan by Women’s Health
- How to start running today: a beginner’s guide by Runner’s World
Perfecting Your Form
In any exercise, it is important that you have good form. Having the correct form as you run is crucial in improving your speed and helps in reducing the risk of injury. This is one of the key components to successfully developing your skills as a runner.
Maintain Good Posture
Stand tall as you run. Your spine should be aligned, keeping your head, shoulders, hips and feet all stacked on top of one another. Avoid hunching your shoulders and focus on relaxing them. Rounding the shoulders too far tightens the chest and restricts your breathing. When we get tired, we tend to slump, so check on your posture once in a while. Slouching when you’re tired can lead to neck shoulder, and lower back pain.
As you run, try to check if:
- Your chin is lifted.
- You are standing straight with your shoulders back and your spine is neutral.
- Your hips are high and your weight is evenly distributed on both hips.
- Your feet are flat on the floor.
- You are gazing upright and forward, and not looking at the ground while you run.
Focus On Your Breathing
It will be easier to breathe deeply when you have good running form and posture. First, we recommend Belly Breathing. It is a breathing technique that involves taking deep breaths and using the diaphragm to draw more air into the lungs. Many runners make the mistake of taking short breaths and what happens is they take in less oxygen making them quick to fatigue. Just be sure to take deep breaths and once your technique becomes more advance, you can test out different breathing rhythms.
Get Your Head in The Game
The first thing you should focus on correcting is the head. Slumping forward will not serve you well since it makes it hard to see what’s coming ahead and it affects the rest of your form. Keep your head up, your line of sight farther into the distance and your chin should be parallel to the ground. Imagine you are a puppet on a string as you run with your body held long and straight and try to keep this posture as you run.
Swing Your Arms
Your arm movements are equally as important to your form as your posture and your breathing. Arms play an important role in propelling you forward and power you through as you run. Avoid side-to-side arm swinging and refrain from crossing your arms in front of your body. This wastes energy and force in the arm swing and causes your body to slouch, lessening your breathing efficiency. Instead, try keeping your arms by your side and don’t let them cross your body. Drive those elbows back, maintaining them at a close distance to your sides to avoid stiffness in the shoulders. A good arm swing will help you run faster, more efficiently and will lessen the risk of injuries.
What Do I Do with My Hands?
Relax your hands and your arms. Don’t tighten your hands into fists because this will cause tension in your neck and shoulders. Imagine you are holding an egg in each hand that you’re trying to prevent from breaking and keep your hands at waist-level where they lightly brush your hip as you run.
Avoid bouncing as you run. The movement causes your head and body to move up and down too much which wastes a lot of energy. Lifting your body too high off the ground means that you have to absorb more shock as you come back down. This will tire you out faster and will hinder your running performance. What you should do is run lightly and land softly on your feet. Remember to keep your stride low and focus on taking short, easy steps.
Staying Safe While Running
Your safety should be of utmost importance when you run. Here are some tips on how to keep safe and stay protected while you’re out running:
Listen to Your Body
No one knows your body like you do, so you have to listen to what it’s telling you. On days where you feel sluggish or out of shape, it’s better to take the day off or try another exercise. Remember that rest is critical in running. Taking the time off will help you avoid injuries and the fatigue that comes when you push too hard. It also helps to follow the 10 percent rule: Don’t increase your training beyond 10 percent each week. Runners usually get used to feeling tired after a run and go into another one immediately the next day but the most essential part of training hard is your recovery period. Take a day off, and you’ll see how energized and refreshed you are on your next run!
Bring Your Phone
You might be tempted to just use your phone for posting your #running pics but your phone can be a valuable tool when it comes to safety. Always carry your phone with you and make sure that it is fully charged. It is also recommended that you run in places that have good cell signal so you can contact your friends or family in case you find yourself in an emergency and need help. Be proactive and share your location with someone close to you before you run or leave a note saying where you went, just in case something unexpected happens, the people around you will be aware of your whereabouts.
This seems like an obvious step, but having a good idea of the route you’re going to take is important because it will help you stay on track and will help you focus on your run. This is helpful, especially if you’re running in a new city or in an unfamiliar place.
Check in with your Doctor
Get a check up! It’s always good to check in with your doctor before you take up running so that you know if you have any pre-existing conditions. They may also have some suggestions when it comes to avoiding injuries and can help address possible limitations you may have.
There is a certain amount of danger when it comes to running, especially if you are on your own. Have appropriate protective gear on you as you run such as mace or whistles. It can help protect you from both dangerous wildlife and human assailants. Avoid verbal confrontation and as we mentioned earlier, always keep your phone handy so you can contact your loved ones in case of danger.