So you have decided to run for fitness…..Great Choice! Running is a really great full-body exercise; it helps reduce fat buildup, increases stamina and endurance levels and does wonders for your health by enhancing cardiovascular function and improving muscle and ligament flexibility. Running is the perfectly affordable way to exercise anywhere, anytime.
But here is the tricky part – running the wrong way can do you more harm than good. It increases odds for injury through bad form, especially stress on joints. It also can result in overheating of the body if you aren’t careful and can sometimes also be dangerous, especially if you choose to run after sundown.
So here are some basic rules for runners who are beginners. These Do’s and Don’ts of Running will ensure that get the most benefit from your runs every day, without any risk factor involved.
Start Slow – Whether you are a beginner or a pro, running without a warm up is never a good idea. Start with walking; a brisk walk warms up your muscles and prepares them for more strenuous exercise. Starting slow with a walk, moving in to a slight jog and then in to a steady pace run will help you lower exertion level, rather than jolting your body into action without it being prepared for the same. Similarly, at the end of your run, don’t just stop abruptly. Few minutes of light jogging or walking will slowly decrease body temperature while it will also remove waste products from the working muscles and help them relax.
Stretch your muscles – It’s extremely important to stretch both before and after a run. Basic stretches done before a run will not only warm up the body up but also improve flexibility and reduce chances of injury by increasing their range of movement. Relaxing gentle stretches done after a run will relieve pain that comes from the physical stress of running, and ensure that your muscles are loosened and relaxed before you hit the shower.
Pay attention to running outfit – Make sure that when you run, you wear lose comfortable clothing that breathes easily and isn’t restrictive in any way. Tight clothing will trap perspiration and result in overheating as well as chafing. For women, a supportive sports bra is a must. Breast movement while running can cause upper body tension and result in terrible backaches. And a bra that doesn’t restrict breast movement will also result in painful chafing. Look for a bra with wide straps, full cups and a snug fit to give the girls maximum support.
Maintain good form – The key to any good workout is maintaining proper form. Keep your head held up as this will align the rest of the body perfectly. Never look down at the road or your feet while you run, as this increases chances of injury. Keep your shoulders in and your arms relaxed. Excessive arm movements are never recommended while running; instead keep arms at approx 90 degree angles and never clench your fists. Poor form will invariable result in knee and back pain, so it’s important that you pay close attention to how you land on your feet. In other words – monitor your stride. Avoid over-striding; the excessive rotation moves the pelvis and spine in one direction more than the other, resulting in misalignments and back aches. A good rule is to keep your strides about the same distance as you would during normal walking. You must also focus on distributing weight across your entire foot, not just the heel. Also make sure that you always land on your heel when running. Running on your toes will quickly lead to shin splints and other injuries.
Take care of yourself and stay challenged – As your stamina grows, try to run a little extra or maybe even a little faster. Make sure you don’t overexert yourself as that again will increase chances of injury. The key is to become a master at Speed – try to incorporate running intervals of shorter distances at a faster pace rather than trying to run faster throughout the session and overextend yourself. Listen to your body and run at a pace that is comfortable for you. However, should you have injuries, take care of yourself and never run when in pain. To recover from an injury, try R.I.C.E.: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
Practice breathing technique – The reason most beginners tire too fast is because their breathing is not even. Practice to breathe in and out when your dominant foot (be it left or right) hits the ground. If you don’t regulate your breathing, your body doesn’t get the increased supply of oxygen your muscles need desperately for a highly beneficial workout.
Invest in good running shoes – The right shoes are a must for runners. Our feet usually pronate naturally, where the arches flatten and supinate, and then rise in sync. When that doesn’t happen, you need a good supportive shoe to avoid pain in the heels and arches. Get an affordable, supportive shoe that ensures better shock absorption while you run and make sure you change and upgrade your shoe as soon as it starts to show signs of wear and tear.