I started running regularly when I was 14. I’d get up at 5:30 a.m. and run to my grandma’s house and back. It was the equivalent of a little over two miles, which at that time, seemed like a long way to go.
As I got older, I added distance. By the time I graduated high school, I was easily running 10 miles every day (5 in the morning before school and 5 at night). I ran my first half marathon (13.1 miles) when I was 20, and my first marathon (26.2 miles) when I was 23.
Running became not just a way for me to stay in shape for the multitude of sports I was competing in, but a simple and enjoyable way of improving my health. I’m 30 now, and I’m still running every day, if I’m able to.
Maybe running doesn’t sound good to you. Maybe it’s too much work, too hard on your knees, or maybe you just don’t see how running can really keep you healthy. Maybe you’re just really good at coming up with excuses, and that’s okay.
Talk to your healthcare provider first, and then, if you haven’t given running a chance, you should. Here’s why.
Statistics: Running & Your Health
- According to the American Heart Association, 75 minutes of running every week can help reduce your risk for heart disease and heart attack by as much as 50%
- Researchers at the University of Michigan found that 20 minutes of running 3 days a week may help improve your bone density
- According to a Washington University study and the New York Times, running may play a role in helping to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease
- Running for just one hour two or three times a week may help keep your blood pressure at a healthy level; studies have shown that it may be lowered as much as 12mgs
- Researchers at the University of South Carolina found that if you run 20 miles or less in a week, it may improve your longevity and lower your mortality rate by about 20%
- According to a Rhode Island College study, running can help boost your creativity and productivity, while also improving your character and personality
The “Rules” of Running
When it comes to running, everyone does it a little differently and for a variety of reasons. However, there are some things that you should always remember when getting ready for a run, regardless of length.
Always remember to…
- Stretch and start out slow. Giving your muscles a good stretch is a great way to warm up for your run. Take a short walk as well, as it helps conserve energy for your run. When you do start running, start off at a pace that is comfortable and that won’t wear you down right away.
- Wear loose clothing and drink cold water. Loose clothing lets heat escape your body, helping you to stay cooler while running. Cold water provides a cooling effect and it leaves your stomach faster than anything else you may drink.
- Keep your head up while you run. You may not realize it, but keeping your head up while you run can help you run faster (the average is about 30 seconds for a 10K run). It’s also important for proper body alignment, which helps you avoid injuries.
- Breathe in step. This one is simple. Whenever your dominant foot touches the ground, breathe in or out.
- Cool down properly after your run. After your run, never sit or lie down. Take a slow 10 minute walk to help lower your body temperature and get waste out of your muscles. Some light stretching also helps relax your muscles, too.
- Eat a large meal before you run. Foods that are heavy in protein and fat can put added stress on your body. Instead, grab something light that is easily digestible, and save the big meals for after your run.
- Push yourself hard every day. While it’s certainly okay to challenge yourself, don’t do it every time you run. Slower recovery days are a must for every runner, whether you’re a beginner or longtime runner. Pushing hard every day can easily lead to injuries.
- Run when it’s dark out. It’s much harder to see where you’re running when it’s dark. There’s also a great chance for injury because you may not be able to see what’s in front of you. If you have to run in the dark, always wear something reflective and always carry your cell phone in case of emergency.
- Depend on painkillers to help you run when injured. The worst thing you can do is keep running through an injury. Painkillers may help you feel better, but that’s all they do–mask the pain. They’re not repairing tissues or healing the injury itself. Rather than running, try swimming or work on your form instead.
- Run with traffic. This should be a no-brainer, but never, ever run with traffic. Always run against it, just as you would do if you were walking. Drivers have a better chance of seeing you if you’re running against them, not with them.
When it comes to post-run recovery, plenty of water should always be a given. Protein is a great idea as well. Below are some of my favorite recovery supplements:
- ZMA Sports Recovery from NOW Foods
- Chocolate Coconut Vega Sport Protein Bars from Vega
- Miracle Whey Vanilla Protein Powder from Dr. Mercola
- Sportmixer Blender Bottle (Green) from BlenderBottle
How is running changing your overall health? Do you have any other tips to offer? We’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment below!
Featured Image Credit: Sangudo via Flickr.com.