Running delivers a long list of health benefits, from weight control and muscle toning to the infamous “runner’s high” you get when your body releases endorphins — the feel-good hormones.
Even though running is an easy and accessible form of exercise, it can still be intimidating. Where and how do you begin? And if you’re already a runner, how can you take your training to the next level and overcome mental hurdles?
Discover What’s Slowing You Down
It’s normal for any new activity — or even progressing to the next level in an exercise with which you’re comfortable — to come with fears and apprehensions.
Common concerns runners face include:
Confusion over what kind of shoes or clothing to wear for their climate, terrain or skill level
Uncertainty about how much or how far to run
A fear of injuries such as shin splints or twisted ankles
Self-consciousness about their appearance when running or skill level if running with a group
Determining your stumbling blocks and exactly what your fears are is the first step in conquering them.
Hit the Ground Running
Pick the right shoe. Although running requires far less equipment than most sports, to avoid injury you should invest in a good pair of shoes designed specifically for running. Everyone’s foot and gait are different, and you'll want shoes that address your specific needs. And remember, each mile you run wears down the soles and supports, so expect to replace your running shoes every 300 to 500 miles.
Make your diet work for you. Drink enough water and eat a balanced diet to keep you going strong. If you’re worried about slowing down or running out of energy before your run is over, eat some carbohydrates between 30 minutes to an hour before you run. Some suggestions for pre-run snacks include:
A piece of toast with peanut butter
A smoothie with berries, oats and almond milk
An apple or banana with yogurt
Map out your path. Take your overall health and fitness level into consideration when planning your run. Don’t be afraid to start slowly with a combination of walking and running. Running outside offers fresh air and a change of scenery, but it does come with the added risk of injury due to uneven surfaces (cobblestone, pavement, concrete, rock paths), potential traffic dangers and bad weather.
A treadmill is another good choice if you prefer to track your miles and heart rate as you run, and it offers privacy if you are self-conscious about how you look while running or if the weather isn’t conducive to running outside.
Set Goals and Stay on Track
As with all exercise, running gets easier over time and with practice. To keep from getting discouraged consider the following tips to help you stay on track:
Set SMART goals. If your goals are too lofty or too vague, you might not achieve them. Be sure your running goals are:
Specific: Is your goal well defined?
Measurable: Can I measure progress and completion?
Attainable: Does this fall into my optimal challenge zone -- not too hard or too easy?
Realistic: Do I have the time and resources to reach this goal?
Timely: Have I established a workable timeframe?
Seek instruction and counsel. Whether running around the block or training for a 5k, a running coach can correct your stride, establish a guide to reach your running goals and even help with motivation. A sports physician can address any health concerns to alleviate fears of reinjury.
Find a running buddy. While some people enjoy the space to clear their minds and work out the day’s challenges during a solitary run, running can also be a socially fulfilling activity. Partner with a friend who also runs or join a running club. This not only keeps you accountable but makes it more fun.
Listen to Your Body
As with any exercise, listen to your body and slow down or stop if you feel sharp pain or discomfort that lasts longer than a couple minutes. It is normal to experience some muscle soreness as you adjust to new movements and run longer, but don’t ignore the signs of potential injury.
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