To run or not to run that is the question. Love it or hate it, there is no denying it's good for you. A low heart rate, lower blood pressure, increased muscle tone, increased happiness, better sleep bone density, sex and weight loss. Who wouldn't want that? Well millions wouldn't because the very word of "run" can create fear and anxiety just muttering the word.
A little bit about my journey
I myself started running (again, i was 13 when i used to) in March 2023, i did the NHS couch to 5k plan and ive never looked back (well kind of). I won't lie it was hard in the beginning but by the end of the 12 weeks I could run comfortably for 30 minutes. I felt a great sense of achievementand it complimented my usual gym routines. I noticed more energy, a deeper sleep and it made me want to eat better too. The only draw back for me is being consistent. We should aim to do 3 runs a week. It's pretty easy to skip a session that leads into two and then skipping weeks, and so on. Add in a holiday and it's like going back to square one. Even just two weeks rest from running can dramatically reduce your endurance for running. But that's not an excuse to fully stop. After two months of no running it felt like I was starting all over again. But i had to get back on the horse and get the kilometers in. You soon realise what you were missing. The beautiful health benefits. After just a few weeks my resting heart rate had reduced by 20 and I realised I was progressing quickly. The beauty of our physiology is muscle memory. Although it's hard in the beginning it gets easier, quicker each time you start again. So let's delve into the different types of running. And how to start if you have never run before.
Q: What are the initial hardships of starting a running routine and what preparations are needed?
A: Beginning a running routine can be challenging due to several factors such as muscle soreness, fatigue, and the mental hurdle of establishing a new habit. It's common to experience discomfort and breathlessness in the early stages, which can be discouraging. However, these challenges are temporary. With consistency and patience, your body adapts, making running more enjoyable and less strenuous. Always see your gp for a health check, especially if you are someone who has never really exercised. Also start off slow, walk for a minute and run for 30 seconds and build on that. There are numerous running apps that get you on track and also keep you motivated. Footwear is essential. Be sure to invest in a good pair, I went for gait analysis so I could find the right shoes for me. Blisters and tendinopathies isn't the way forward. Plus a good pair will last a long time, prevent injury and improve your running. You don't need to invest a fortune into clothes. But a running t shirt will keep you cool. I use a cheap smart watch to track my runs, I can also keep an eye on my heart rate to see how hard I'm pushing. The key is to not battle your ego and burn yourself out. At my level I'm really slow, I go by how long I've been running rather than the distance. My aim is to do a 26 minute 5k, I'll probably see that in a year with consistency. If not then I'm still getting the positive benefits ilof running.
I nearly forgot hydration! Keeping up fluids is vital, especially for longer runs. It's a good idea to drink lots before a run. Also don't eat right before a run either. 2 hours is the perfect amount of time to wait before a run.
Q: What are the rewards of consistent running?
A: Consistent running offers extensive rewards, including improved cardiovascular health, weight management, enhanced mood through the release of endorphins, increased stamina, and stronger muscles and joints. Over time, runners often experience a profound sense of achievement, better sleep quality, and an overall improvement in mental health, including reduced stress and anxiety levels. No medication can give you that. It just takes a little work and patience.
Q: What are the different types of running and which are the healthiest?
A: Running comes in many forms, each with its own benefits:
- Jogging: A gentle, rhythmic run that's great for beginners, focusing on building endurance. Most people are joggers even though they/we say we run.
- Interval Training: Alternating between high-intensity sprints and slower recovery periods, ideal for improving speed and cardiovascular fitness. If you are training for a half marathon then this is an essential element to reach these longer distances.
- Long-Distance Running: Builds endurance and mental toughness, beneficial for heart health and weight management.
- Trail Running: Involves running on hiking trails and uneven terrains, offering a mental reprieve by connecting with nature, enhancing balance, and strengthening different muscle groups.
- Sprints: Short bursts of high-intensity running, which are excellent for boosting metabolism, increasing muscle strength, and improving running speed.
Among these, jogging, long-distance running, and interval training are often cited as the healthiest due to their cardiovascular benefits, suitability for a wide range of fitness levels, and their effectiveness in fat burning and endurance building. However, the "healthiest" type of running can vary based on individual health goals, preferences, and physical condition. No exercise is bad exercise as long as it's safe.
Q: How often should someone run per week to see benefits?
A: For beginners, starting with 2-3 days a week allows the body to rest and recover between sessions. As endurance and fitness levels improve, this can be gradually increased to 4-5 days a week, depending on goals and other forms of physical activity. It's important to include rest days to prevent overtraining and reduce the risk of injury. Listening to your body and adjusting your routine as needed is key to a sustainable and beneficial running practice. Burnout can lead to injuries and even mental health problems. Addiction to exercise is a real thing. If you are really tired, yet cannot sleep, the chances are you are already in burnout. Have a rest from exercise for a week. If you are no better, seek a doctor for a check up.
Q: What are the dangers and risks of running, and how can they be mitigated?
A: While running is a beneficial activity, it does come with risks such as overuse injuries, including shin splints, runner's knee, burn out and stress fractures. To mitigate these risks:
- Start slowly and increase your mileage gradually.
- Incorporate strength training and flexibility exercises into your routine to build muscle and improve range of motion.
- Wear proper running shoes that offer adequate support and fit well.
- Listen to your body and rest if you experience pain or discomfort.
- Consider consulting with a professional, like a physical therapist or a running coach, to ensure your running form is correct and to receive personalized advice.
Despite these risks, running, when approached with care and proper preparation, is a profoundly positive and transformative activity. The key is to balance enthusiasm with wisdom, pushing your limits while also respecting your body's signals.
Q: In summary, how can running transform one’s life?
A: Running can significantly transform your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It fosters discipline, resilience, and a sense of accomplishment. The journey from the initial hardships to experiencing the myriad benefits is both challenging and rewarding. As you conquer distances and overcome obstacles, you'll discover not just a stronger body, but a more focused, determined, and joyful self. Whether you're seeking to improve your health, find a new hobby, or challenge yourself, running offers a path to achieving those goals in a fulfilling and life-enhancing way.
In conclusion, embracing the runner's journey with an understanding of the initial challenges, the diverse types of running, and adopting a balanced approach to frequency and safety, you can unlock a world of benefits that transcend physical health, enriching your life in myriad ways. Happy running!