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Benefits of Running and Important Factors to Consider for Running
Suzanne Ross, Corporate Health Unlimited
The great thing about running is that it is for all ages, levels of fitness, and it only requires a pair of shoes. Of course, it is great to consider other factors and details to make your running or jogging adventures as comfortable, enjoyable, and safe as possible.
Let’s not skip over some fantastic benefits running gives us, besides the fact that it is fun and a great form of exercise.
- Running makes you happier – it helps to produce the “feel good” hormones in our body. Just a short bout of running could instantly lift the mood.
- Running helps with losing or maintaining weight.
- Running strengthens your knees & other muscles, joints, and bones – Despite hearing, “Running is bad for your knees,” studies show that it improves your knee health.
- Running will keep you sharper even as you age – Essentially, being active and exercising can significantly improve overall brain function.
- Running reduces risk of cancer and other harmful diseases.
- Running adds years to your life – Because it helps to improve your health, it can lead to longer life.
- Lowers blood pressure
- Helps you sleep better
- Improves glucose regulation and lowers risk of diabetes
- Improves mental health
- Improves cognitive function
- Improves your immunity
Who wouldn’t want to go for a run or a jog after hearing all of that? Before you do jump out for a run, consider these 10 important factors to equip you!
- Mental Preparedness – It’s so important that you decide in your mind that YOU ARE GOING TO RUN before you go out for your run. Aim to start your run/jog/walk with a positive mindset. This sport, while very much physical, is also very mental. Any level of runner can attest to that.
- Safe Route – Choose a safe route for your run. Sidewalks are always best. Wider neighborhood streets can be great as well for you and cars to share the road. There are also many great paths to choose from whether you are in Atlanta, or California. Try out a tool such as Map My Run to create a route prior to stepping outside. Remember, if you are running in the road, always run against traffic so you can see cars as they approach.
- Proper Shoes – While you could jump out for the first time and try a little run with a simple athletic shoe, it’s encouraged that you begin your journey with the proper and best fitting shoe for YOU. The shoe that your co-worker or even family member has may not be the best for you. Visit your local running or athletic store and ask about getting fitted for your shoes. A comfortable, supportive shoe allows you to feel good running, and in turn, perform better during your run. One of Atlanta’s local running stores called, Big Peach Running Company, has created a Virtual Fit process online that you can check out wherever you are! Sign up for one today: https://www.bigpeachrunningco.com/virtual-fit-analysis/
- Proper Attire – Whether it is hot or cold, finding the best clothing to wear can also result in a better run. For warm weather, aim for light, moisture wicking material for your shirt, shorts, and socks. And for cooler weather, think about layering and covering key areas such as ears and hands that tend to get extra cold. Every article of clothing or footwear is important and plays a big role in making sure you have a comfortable and successful run.
- Proper Nutrition/Hydration – This is unique to everyone and can take experimenting as you start running, or just over the years of running. Some may function best with nothing in their stomach for a run. Others can eat a full dinner and then go run 9 miles. That is amazing to me! The idea with food is that you do not want your body to be so focused on digesting your food while you are running, but you also want to have energy stores available to boost your run. If you do need something prior to running, my suggestion is a small 100 kcal carb snack such as a small banana or half of a granola bar at least 45-60 minutes before running. You may also find that you want to carry hydration with you during your run. It is all up to you and what works for your running. If carrying water is difficult, one tip here is to plan a route that allows you to stop for water if needed. Many paths have water stationed around for hydration too.
- Stretching/Warm-up – While stretching and a warming up is a good idea for most all activity, with running, your warm-up can be the initial part of your run. Simply start off your run with a light jog and let your body loosen up and your mind become focused. A great piece of advice from a running is, “The first mile is a liar. Your body will feel tired and achy, but trust that it uses that first mile to warm up. You will start to feel better.” After completing your run, it is a great time to stretch because your body is all warmed up and “loose”. Stretching can also be done before your run and one recommendation is doing “dynamic stretching”. These are active movements where your joints and muscles go through a full range of motion.
- Form – Running requires your whole body. It is important to not just move your legs but allow your arms to propel you. Try running with your arms by your side for fun to tell the difference 😊. Running is truly a head to toe movement. It is head and shoulder placement, along with abdominals, pelvis, and hips, then down to your upper and lower legs plus feet. And don’t forget about your arms!
- Pacing – This takes time to establish. By pacing your run, it allows you to run further and more comfortably. Imagine if you were being chased and you were running as fast as you could, you likely could not sustain that pace too long. If you find a comfortable pace that feels good on your joints and gets your heart rate up, but still allows you to talk, that is a what you are aiming for. Faster running can also be a part of your exercise of the day; however, pacing is important for endurance running and ensuring you can get from one point to the next successfully while sustaining your run.
- Safety – Pick places that are well lit and give you space from cars. Consider running with an ID tag or mace if you are alone on a run. Because music is a necessity for some, make sure you can still hear your surroundings when listening to music. It is important you can hear someone coming from behind or hear a car that may get too close. Also, bright clothing is a great idea, especially if you are running before or after daylight.
- Have Fun – Enjoy your time to be out on a run, whatever it looks like! Let your mind run free. Enjoy the journey. Let the challenging moments refine you and make you stronger. Don’t give up! It is not meant to be easy. Sometimes my run is not even about the run, but it is about the time I needed to let my mind process and just be free. I have worked through many life challenges in my head while I am running, and I would not have accomplished doing that at times in any other way. Run with others virtually or pick areas where you can easily socially distance run! Build community. Even virtually, having an accountability partner is so helpful. Sign up for a virtual 5k event with family or friends occasionally. It is a great goal to accomplish…especially with others!
Enjoy the journey ahead and may the miles you travel on foot be your best!
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