You may either love it, hate it, fall somewhere in between, or may have never neared the starting line. Despite feelings toward running, the exercise can lead to long-term benefits.
Running is essentially free and can be done just about anywhere. There are also many different types of running that come with their own set of advantages.
Before starting, though, it is important to get comfortable with the basics. Learning how to run properly helps prevent injury and maximize the enjoyment of running.
Ready to head towards the starting line? We break down running for beginners, weight loss, overall health, and how to get started.
Running Schedule for Beginners
Having a running schedule offers structure and helps with consistency, as it takes time and effort to progress speed and duration. There are several processes the body needs to endure and adapt for. These include aerobic capacity, breathing techniques, and muscle stimulation and growth.
A running schedule for beginners likely includes two to four runs weekly. It may entail walking for two minutes then jogging for another two like this couch to 5K plan.
Start at a slow-to-moderate pace or a pace in which a conversation can be held. Increase speed and duration about every two weeks, increase running intervals and shorten walk breaks as strength builds. Jogging or walking up hills and steps further strengthens the legs and lungs.
Other starting tips include marking down accomplished runs and working towards a reward. This may include new running attire or a scheduled massage on the horizon. Having such incentives can help propel and sustain motivation.
What Are the Types of Running?
Getting a solid running foundation takes priority for beginners. However, eventually incorporating these various types can be helpful for propelling running and overall fitness.
Different types of runs to be aware of include:
• Base runs: Relatively short to moderate runs performed at the runner's natural pace. They should be completed frequently to build endurance and aerobic capacity.
• Long runs: Base runs long enough to leave the runner moderately to severely fatigued. Long runs help build stamina, especially in endurance athletes.
• Progression runs: Medium-effort runs starting at the runner's natural pace and ending at a quicker pace.
• Hill repeats: Runs with short segments of difficult uphill running. It is a form of high-intensity training intended to improve aerobic power and strength.
• Intervals: Short, intense runs followed by equal or slightly longer recovery times. Like hill repeats, intervals are high-intensity training.
• Tempo runs: Fast-paced runs that can be sustained for about an hour and are "comfortably hard."
• Recovery runs: Relatively short, easy-paced runs ran following the day of a hard run.
It is important to note each type of run often looks different for each runner based on experience level. For instance, not every runner has the same base run pace.
What Do I Need to Get Started?
First and foremost, always check with a doctor before starting any sort of regimen, especially if managing a health condition. They are likely to encourage and support your decision, but it is important to verify as a safety measure.
Following their stamp of approval, learn how to start running with a running coach or these helpful tips. These include purchasing a solid pair of running shoes, ensuring good running form, and fueling with sound nutrition.
Running Shoes & Attire
As the feet go through abrupt forces against the pavement, they deserve the right support and comfort. That being said, a good pair of shoes, socks, and running gear are essential for a good running regimen.
Experts at running stores can assist in determining the proper shoe for your foot type. They also take into consideration necessary support, cushion, and durability.
The act of running may seem like a mindless movement. However, the motion is much more than continuously striking feet on the pavement.
Understanding the mechanics and formations can not only prevent injury but make you a more efficient runner. Body mechanics of running involves the entire body, including special attention to the following:
• Posture: Run tall with your head up, back straight, and shoulders level. Rather than focusing on your feet or ground, look straight ahead about 10 to 20 feet in front of you.
• Foot-to-Ground Contact: Land on the middle of your feet and roll through to the front of the toes. Keep toes as straight as possible and point them to the direction you want to go, too. Ultimately, try avoiding toe running and heel striking.
• Arm Swing: Ideally, arms should be bent at about 90 degrees and the hands lightly clasped. Your hands should naturally swing front to back around the waistband in a relaxed motion. The arms should avoid crossing the body, as doing so likely impacts safe running mechanics.
• Rhythm: Think of running like dancing. Be relaxed, yet postured, and allow the natural flow of each stride to naturally guide you.
Regular Warm-Up and Cool-Down Routine
Always warm up muscles and joints you plan to work, as stretching cold muscles is dangerous and counter-productive.
Warm-up for about five to 10 minutes, or a period of time to get the blood and oxygen flowing. Common warm-up methods include:
• Brisk walking
• Jumping jacks
• Light jogging
• Pedaling a stationary bike
Following a warm-up, stretch the loosened muscles to make them more flexible. Do dynamic stretches, or slow and controlled movements, rather than remaining still and holding them. Dynamic stretches may include:
• Arm circles
• Hip rotations
• Leg raises
• Yoga poses
After a run, a light, 10-minute cool-down allows the heart rate to decline back to normal. It encourages blood flow and removes lactic acid from the body, too.
While the muscles are still warm, end with "static" for up to 30 seconds at a time. Other ways to stretch include a gentle walk or foam rolling.
If you can make yourself get up, tie up running shoes, and get out there consistently, all the power to you! But as in many aspects of life, a buddy system can assist in tying the shoes and crossing the finish line.
Running with a friend or another partner can keep you motivated and accountable. Local running groups and social media apps with users across the world can also fuel motivation while building connections with others.
Sound Nutrition & Hydration
A pre-workout snack can help fuel a run, keep blood sugars stable, and prevent pesky post-exercise cravings.
Consume at least 30 to 60 minutes before exercising to prevent an upset stomach and side stitches. Choose an easy-to-digest carb and protein such as a banana with peanut butter or cottage cheese and berries.
Staying hydrated before, during, and after exercise is important as well. As a general guideline, regular exercisers should drink the following:
• 16 ounces of water leading up to the activity
• 6 to 12 ounces immediately prior to exercise
• Every 15 to 20 minutes of active training
Replenishing electrolytes lost in sweat may be an alternative route for reducing dehydration and electrolyte imbalances in exercisers and athletes.
You may be running towards the recommended 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week, which is a great goal! However, running 30 minutes to an hour most days and calling it "good" is not exactly ideal.
While running consistently results in progression, other activities should also be incorporated. Cross-train with other activities to enhance muscles' range of motions and accelerate running progress. Include cross-training at least once a week with some of the following:
• Weight training*
*Include a strength training plan as well to build and strengthen muscles. Strong muscles can help you run faster and for longer distances, all while supporting a healthy metabolism.
Despite the ambition and motivation to stay consistent, allowing rest days are just as essential. Offering rest to your body gives it the chance to essentially heal itself and continuously adapt to the physical movements.
Especially at the beginning stages, run only a couple to a few days each week. Allow yourself to adjust as tolerated but rest as needed.
What Are the Benefits of Running?
Those who run to that so-called "runners high" are reaping many benefits, both physically and mentally. So cross the start line and head towards these jogging and running benefits.
Weight Loss & Maintenance
Running may be one of the most effective forms when it comes to torching calories.
In fact, runners have shown to burn calories even when they stop running, also known as the "afterburn effect." This especially serves true if the run was high-intensity such as sprints or hill repeats.
However, people often seek out running for weight loss, only to notice no physical changes. (And maybe even gain weight rather than weight loss!)
This mostly occurs to overcompensating with food, as they tend to justify that piece of cake for a few miles. This sort of mentality can create a caloric gain rather than a calorie deficit and lead to weight gain.
Finding that balance may be challenging, but a dietitian can help determine nutrition needs suitable for personal goals and needs.
With running touted as the "king of cardio," it really is no surprise heart health tops the list of benefits. Even running at slow speeds can reduce the risk of heart disease.
Running can also improve cholesterol levels, especially shown to increase HDL or "good" cholesterol. Regular exercise and exercise can also keep blood pressure at normal, healthy levels.
Lower Body Strengthening
Regular runners tend to have strong legs, and not only are the muscles strengthened. Weight-bearing exercises can help build strong bones and the surrounding joints, too.
A strong lower body lessens the risk of imbalances, especially as age becomes a strong risk factor for falls.
Blood Sugar Control
Exercise and running help regulate blood sugars by uptaking glucose for usable energy, rather than remaining circulating in the bloodstream.
Especially if managing diabetes, monitor blood sugars prior to running. Pack a convenient snack to limit the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which may cause dizziness, faintness, and weakness.
Along with "clearing the mind" during a long run, research has shown running enhances cognition, especially when compared to inactive individuals.
The brain must navigate, monitor, and respond during runs. These mental demands activate parts of the brain that may be linked to improved memory and thinking skills.
Running to personal records (PRs) is enticing, though some runners may run to feel better or reach that "runners high."
Running releases endorphins, also known as the "feel-good" hormone, which can boost mood and reduce stress.
So rather than turning to food or other harmful practices, utilize running as a positive stress-relieving technique.
From running your quickest mile to finishing your first 5K or marathon, reaching and conquering goals boosts confidence.
And not to mention just the physical, but the mental strength that is generally gained!
The single benefits of running are attractive on their own, but the totality of them all approaches the ultimate finish line!
Running improves overall health by benefiting the mind, body, and spirit, keeping the mind sharp and body energized.
All-in-all, embrace your new journey and thoroughly enjoy it. Because without enjoyment towards the exercise of choice, crossing the finish line is harder (maybe even doubtful) to occur!