Running has a range of physical and mental health benefits. Regular runners have reduced risks of heart disease, osteoarthritis and joint and weight problems. Recent studies also indicate that even light jogging can reduce stress levels and improve sleep. If you’re looking to lose weight and tone your body, there are few better exercise options.
The convenience of running as a fitness regime is another reason for its popularity. Rather than working to the timetables of a gym or fitness class, you can hit the road whenever you choose. If you have work and family commitments, it’s still possible to find the time for a short run. Even 20 minutes of light exercise outdoors can lift your mood, raise your metabolic rate and increase your energy levels.
Here are a few tips for new runners:
1) Be realistic at the start.
It may be your goal run a marathon or take on a challenge to test yourself, but don’t push too hard as a novice runner. Depending on your fitness level, it may even make sense to begin by walking at a fast pace every day for a few weeks. If you aim too high and find it too difficult, there’s a risk you’ll quit. By following a realistic plan you can build up your speed and distance over time.
2) Invest in the right gear.
Quality running shoes aren’t cheap, but they make a big difference to performance. Cheap running shoes can cause lasting damage to your feet and joints. Once you’re running a few miles at a time, it’s worth visiting a specialist store to speak to an expert. As well as measuring your feet to ensure you’re wearing the right size, a specialist can analyze your gait and advise you on the best types of shoes. The types of surface you run on, distances and the amount of cushioning you prefer can all be considered.
Buying socks, underwear, running tops and other clothing can also make running more comfortable and enjoyable. Clothes that keep you cool in warm weather and warm in cooler months make a big difference. Cotton tends to soak up and hold on to moisture, so it’s not ideal for activities that make you sweat
3) Warm up and stretch.
Serious athletes spend hours every week stretching. Many even attend yoga classes to learn effective ways to stretch and warm up their muscles. Even as a novice runner, it’s important to spend some time warming up before you hit the road. Basic stretching can reduce the risk of pain and injury during all forms of exercise. As you build up the length of each run, increase the time spent preparing your body.
4) Schedule rest days.
Any plans to improve fitness must include rest and recovery days. As your running improves and you begin to feel the benefits, don’t be tempted to put your sneakers on every day. Muscles need recovery time, and they can be damaged if you don’t rest in between workouts. Lighter activities like yoga are a safe way to exercise in between running days.
5) Don’t worry about speed or distance.
Consistency and the discipline to stick to a running schedule are more important than how fast or far you can run. Getting out a few times a week will reap rewards in the end. If you push too hard or compare yourself with how other runners perform, you could lose your motivation and give up.
Once you’ve built some confidence and are able to run at a steady pace, consider joining a running club. This will add a social element to your exercise. Entering a local race will give you a goal to train for and allow you to prove to yourself how much your fitness has improved.