Many people love running, but just as many people associate running with being a tiresome activity or even as being too hard on their knees and joints. But running can be really rewarding and there are many benefits of running which include, weight loss, better general health, disease prevention, recovery from injury and social benefits.
Why and How to Start Running
People are motivated to run by many different factors. Maybe to lose a few extra pounds, get in better overall shape or maybe you are training for your first race or marathon.
1) Low Cost
To start running you don’t need to break the bank, chances are you have most of the equipment at home. First thing is first, you need to get a good pair of running shoes, so head down to your local running store and get fitted for a decent pair of running shoes. Most people have a pair of gym shorts and an old tee shirt. Sure you can buy the newest and greatest ‘tech’ tees and shorts, but that isn’t totally necessary.
One word of warning, DO NOT try to set out for a six mile run if the last time you laced up a pair of sneakers was 10 years ago in high school. That will most certainly result in an injury and will deflate your motivation faster that you can rip those sneakers off when you get home.
2) Perfect match to any level of fitness
You know yourself better than anyone, so you know if you can run or ten minutes or if that is way out of the question . A good rule of thumb is to determine a distance that you want to go, say, one mile/2-3 Kms. Then run as far as you feel you can without hurting yourself and then walk the rest of the distance. That will get you a solid base point to build off of.
3) Stretch yourself as much as you like
Once you can fully run that mile, then try two miles, keep building up and before you know it you might consider yourself a runner. Another way is when you are starting out, push yourself to keep running until you reach a certain object up ahead then stop for a rest. Keep choosing a new object ahead and keep running to it.
4) Second wind
Anyone who has experienced a second wind while running will tell you it is like flying. One of my best experiences was after a steep hill climb, I got my second wind right near the top and I felt like I was about to fly right off the mountain. Amazing, Awesome, Adrenaline!!! I wish I could describe the feeling better for you.
5) Motivation of company
So many people love to run that it is easy to find a Jogging companion. If you are like me, if you go with a frined, it happens, if you go it alone, you don’t go at all.
6) Good for your heart, mind and bum.
Jogging/running is aerobic, so great for your heart, you are exercising your heart but also pumping oxygen through your brain while needing to negotiate objects, balance, etc at a faster rate than normal, so great for clearing the mind. Up-hill runs are also great for tightening around your thighs and bum. What more could a body want!!!
7) Run anywhere, anytime
You can always find somewhere to run and it is easy to squeeze a run into lunchtime. Go for it.
Running can be tough on joints, I had a knee operation when I was younger, so I am particularly aware of this. This is a reason why I prefer to run up hills. I run to the top of the steepest hill I can find then walk down chatting with my running companion. Very easy on the joints compared to down-hill stretches.
Any heavy exercise in large cities gets you breathing deeper and heavier, so take it easy if running through areas with high exhaust fumes. Best to avoid or walk those sections to avoid respiratory issues.
Types of Running
Running is running, but there is more that one type of terrain to run on. There is no ‘best surface’ to run on and no one type is better than another. Each person has their own personal preferences, but when your running gets a little stale try switching it up to a treadmill or hit the trail to keep your runner’s high going. The three main terrains to run on are the treadmill, road, and on the trail. Here is a further breakdown of each one.
My favorite style of running because it is the maximum workout for the minimum stress on joints. Choose a hill, run up it and wind down on the walk to the bottom. Great for improving thighs and bum, fantastic for the heart. If you can’t run all the way the first time, you will most likely make it after about 2-4 sessions provided you space them no more than a week apart. Push yourself!!
If you have a gym membership this is pretty much your only option and the way to go. Some great benefits of treadmill running is you are in a climate controlled building, watching old episodes of Oprah and jamming to your iPod.
Your water bottle is just a reach away and your pace is controlled as well as your incline. There are many benefits of running indoors on the treadmill, either at home or the local gym.
You don’t have to worry about being too cold, too hot, rain, sleet or snow, but lets be honest running in place for too long gets boring very quickly. I might recommend an audiobook or attention keeping TV series to watch while you hammer out those treadmill miles.
Hate being stuck indoors and LOVE getting some fresh air? Then running through the neighborhood or around the city is for you.
You can get to know your neighborhood better or even go exploring if you want. Sometimes you just cannot beat some amazing weather and the fresh air that is only available outdoors. There are cracks, curbs and roots popping up through the sidewalk which add an interesting variable to your run. Birds chirping, dodging strollers and keeping a watchful eye out for errant drivers.
Want to add an extra challenge into your run, plan out a route that has a few hills in it, which is not hard to do in San Francisco.
The next natural level of progression from road running in trail running. If running, ducking tree branches and jumping over exposed roots sounds more like your thing then trail running is for you.
Depending on where you live trails maybe easy for you to find. Trails are great for pushing your running to the next level and really challenge you both mentally and physically. One of the benefits of trail running is that it will make your body work a bit harder to balance because of the unpredictable nature of nature.
A few things that you might need to do before you hit the dusty trail. There are shoes made for trail running. They have extra texture and nubs to increase your traction on the trails.
It’s not recommended to wear your favorite or lucky running outfit. You will get dirty running on trails, so dress to get dirty. Bring a water bottle, insect repellant, and a flash light or head lamp to keep the trails and your path well lit.
Running for Health and Weight Loss
To lose weight a person needs to burn more calories than they take in.
Running burns a fair amount of calories making it a great way to lose weight. The quick calculation is one pound of weight loss you must burn 3,500 calories MORE than you eat. So that is 500 calories less per day and if you don’t change any of your eating habits you will have to run it off.
If you run a 10 minute mile, or 6 mph, for 30 minutes you can look at burning 350-400 calories. That won’t get you all the way to your 500 calories, but if you spend half your lunch hour, or 30 minutes for you mathematically challenged, that will burn you 150-200 calories. Those two exercises combined will send you dropping the pounds by the week. If you want to take a day off be sure to ramp up your runs to 45 minutes or hour.
Running will not only shrink your waistline, but will increase your overall heath. Running can help fight disease, prevent muscles and bone loss by keeping you and your body moving.
Running helps improve your bone density in your hip and legs which will reduce your risk of osteoporosis and will strengthen your muscles, but not make you bulky like a bodybuilder. Running is also an amazing way to relieve and reduce stress because nothing clears your head like a nice run. Less stress can help eliminate your depression symptoms and will help you sleep better.
Running for Social Benefits
Local running stores and most cities have local running clubs which is a great way to get in some fun runs and meet some fun people.
Most clubs have weekly runs which vary in difficulty from a ‘fun’ run to marathon training, so you can pass on the 20 miler run if you want. An easy way to make friends is meet people with similar interests to you, and in a running club that would be running.
Nothing keeps you more honest with yourself than when other people count on you. Some clubs are labeled ‘serious’ clubs meaning they are doing some seriously long runs, intervals and meet ups.
If marathon training isn’t your thing you might want to look out for a ‘casual’ running group which take the runs a bit slower and some even stop for beer afterwords. So join up with the right running club for you and who knows you might make a new friend or two.
Alternative Running Styles
Some say barefoot running is a trend or have some very harsh words to say about barefoot runners.
There has even been a book about the barefoot craze called Born to Run, and we aren’t talking about the Springsteen song.There are plenty of studies, research and running articles that support the fact that a mid-foot strike is beneficial to runners.
Running barefoot might not make a ton of sense to people for a full time running, but check out the Five Fingers which mimic running barefoot and offer a little padding. Some people even wear these as their everyday shoe.
The switch to running barefoot should be taken slowly. You don’t want to throw on the Five Fingers and head our for your usual 4 mile run, some recommend you run only a half mile at the most in your new Five Fingers. You might not want switch to running barefoot full time, but a few days a week will help you keep on your feet.
For some running barefoot or near barefoot might be a bit far out there, but many companies have taken hint on the newest trend in running.
Nike, New Balance and all the other big hitters have a ‘minimal running shoe’ which aren’t as extreme as say the Five Fingers ‘shoes’, but still offer some benefits of barefoot running. They are ultra light weight, flexible and they look pretty cool.
They have minimal road style shoes made by every major brand you can imagine, and New Balance has a great minimal offering for your trail running needs called the NB Minimus.
If you need an extra push or motivator to keep you going search for a local 10k race and sign up. Post that you are running on Facebook and Twitter to hold yourself accountable to yourself, your friends and family.
Any benefits that we missed or want to tell us why your started running? Be sure to let us know in the comments!
NOTE: Article re-edited by Ramon 2012