If you haven’t done much running before, it may be confusing where to start. Does it matter how far you run or how fast you run? Is there gear you should be using? And what is the best way to run? Follow these tips to figure out just how to make running complement your lifestyle.
Running is known for building endurance and controlling weight, but there’s so much more to gain from adding it to your weekly activity. It can help prevent high blood pressure and maintain your mental health. By running, you can relieve any stress that might be building up and face the world with a relaxed clarity. You’ll likely boost your confidence in other aspects of your life.
If you want to improve your endurance and lung capacity, take advantage of a slow burn. Keep yourself at a slower pace and focus on building up your distance without too much concern about how long it may take you.
If you want to improve your strength and speed, work in sets of sprints. Make sure you warm-up and stretch appropriately beforehand to prevent any injuries, and take short breaks between sprints to let your heart rate settle.
Check out this cool article and infographic detailing even more of the increasingly positive effects running has on your body over time.
Depending on the type of running you choose to do, your foot type, and if you’re planning to keep at it for awhile, you may want to invest in some specialized gear.
It’s a good idea to get your running gait analyzed, which some running shops will do for free. This will determine the pronation of your feet–the natural way in which your feet strike the ground as you move. Whether you’re an overpronator, neutral pronator, or supinator, you will be able to begin narrowing down your choices in footwear.
When looking at shoes, you’ll also want to take into account your arch type (high, med, or low) and the distances you’re planning to go. Lighter shoes are great for sprints while something with a bit more cushion can protect your feet over longer distances. There are also special shoe types for trail or off-road running and those who like the barefoot/minimalist trend. This is an area that a foot doctor will be able to provide direction with and assist with questions you may have.
Now that you’re ready to put some miles behind you, take a quick look at how you’re running, then make some adjustments. Once you have the basics down, you begin improving the details of your technique.
- Stride Length – You’re excited to get going, but don’t get carried away! Keep the length of your strides under control by focusing on where your body is when your feet hit the ground. They should hit directly underneath you.
- Foot Strike – Right away you’ll notice that your foot is probably striking the ground heel first. By doing this, you prevent your joints from cushioning each step and can actually harm your joints in the long run. To prevent jarring, work on landing midfoot.
- Body Alignment – When running, your spine shouldn’t be pointing straight up. Because you’re moving forward, you want to be leaning in that direction without rounding your shoulders are tensing your arms and upper body. This will allow you t push up and away from the ground rather than catching your full weight with each step.
- Core and Hips – Running may seem like the beginning step, but it’s important to keep up the health of correlating muscles and joints. Stability comes from your core, and if it’s weak, the rest of your running form will break down. Take care of your hip strength and mobility as well, as it’s the connecting piece between your legs and movement.
Before and after you run, engage in dynamic stretches that will get you moving and your muscles warm. Things like high knees, lateral leg swings, and walking lunges are great overall for your legs but don’t forget to do some side stretches and arm circles for your upper body. When it’s time to cool down, static stretches can help to smooth out any tight muscles.
As you start out, there is going to be some discomfort, so how will you know which pain is good and which is bad? Pain and injuries you’re likely to run into as a beginner are runner’s knee, tendonitis, shin splints, and plantar fasciitis. You may need to take it easy.
If you experiencing prolonged soreness and swelling, take a break. If your pain affects your stride during and outside of workouts, it may be time to see your primary physician or a specialist.