It's the most common form of cardio, available to just about everyone regardless of ability, age, and size. It's an efficient calorie burn, an opportunity to enjoy fresh air in a variety of settings, a stress relief, a meditation. Running is a fantastic form of exercise, costs nothing, and offers all of the above and so much more. The motivation to begin a running practice is a fantastic segue into an actual routine, and should be honored. However, if you haven't run before or it's been a long time since your heels have hit the pavement, the idea of a jaunt outdoors can be somewhat intimidating and, in some cases, can put you at risk for injury. So before you take the first step outdoors, take a few mindful moments to consider the following tips to beginning a safe and effective running practice.
You spend plenty on insurance, on your car, on your style. Don't skimp on your shoes! Go to a specialized running store and get a proper analysis on your gait and your realistic goals, and don't be shy about what this means to you. Find an experienced staff member who will take the time to work with you to find the pair that truly works for you, and prepare to invest anywhere from $$80-150 on good pair.
The first steps are the hardest. Start small, and give yourself small goals to achieve every few days or week. Whether outdoors or on a treadmill, creating a program can take some of the monotony out of running. Warm up with 3-5 minutes of walking or easy jogging, and be sure to dynamically stretch out to prevent muscle and joint injury. A forgiving surface like dirt or track can also be beneficial. A very simple way to start is with 1 minute running interspersed with 2 minutes of brisk walking. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise the first week or two, including your warm up and an attentive cool down. Always take a few minutes at the end to stretch your major muscle groups.
Keep your run pain-free by focusing on proper form. As with just about any other exercise, keep your your back straight and strong, your shoulders up, back, and down, and your abdominal muscles engaged. Be sure you aren't leaning into your run, and pay extra attention at the end of your run, when you are likely to get tired and lose focus on proper posture.
In through your nose, out through your mouth. This technique has been around for as long as I can remember, and has held true simply because it keeps you from holding your breath. If you accidentally hold your breath while running, you may actually expend more energy than you need to.
Use What You've Got!
The most important thing will be your long term motivation. Get a friend or neighbor to join you in your goals to keep you accountable for continuing; download some fun, inspiring tunes to give you a little extra push. Find fun mini-goals to keep you excited – I enjoy running on a long stretch of beach where the lifeguard towers happen to be ¼ mile apart. I make my run fun by counting as I go. Landmarks such as phone poles, trees, blocks, etc, can be a great way to keep things exciting.
Remember, at the end of the day your ultimate goal is to be taking the best care of you that you can. Be patient with yourself, rest when your body requires it, feed and water your body with the cleanest diet you can manage, and never forget to have a sense of humor. In the end, it's the experience rather that the expectation that matters!
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