Running Fitness

Running Fitness

running outside

A person doesn’t have to be an athlete to begin a running fitness program, although running is often used by athletes as an effective cross-training activity. The benefits of a running program include improved cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, a faster metabolism, increased or maintained bone density, and an improved sense of self-esteem.

Competitive running is similar to bicycling in that competitors race to be the first to cross a predetermined finish line. These races usually take place on a specially designed track, on a trail, or on a road.

Running was one of the first Olympic events in the competition’s history, beginning in ancient Greece. In addition, running is also still one of the most popular forms of cardiovascular exercise performed today.

Before taking the first step, take the time to purchase a pair of quality running shoes from a running specialist qualified to give recommendations on which type of shoe is best for your physical condition, and for the type of running fitness program you are planning to pursue. This is likely the best investment a runner can make.

“Running is very stressful to the body,” says Forrest Dolgener, Professor of Exercise Science at the University of Northern Iowa. “The process of running creates a very intense and special pressure on the entire body. Good running shoes are manufactured to control and alleviate those specific pressures on the body.”

Getting Started

The most important aspect to beginning a running program is to start small. As an example, begin by walking for six minutes and jogging for three minutes. Gradually, the actual time a person spends jogging can be slowly increased until the total time spent jogging is a minimum of twenty minutes.

After you are able to successfully run for twenty consecutive minutes, you can begin to focus on the actual distance that you are able to run within that time frame. In other words, once you are able to run 20 consecutive minutes (minimum time required to achieve an aerobic effect), you can begin to increase the distance run during the 20 minutes.

In addition, there are two primary factors that you can target for improvement when performing a running routine: the actual distance run and the time that it takes you to run a specific distance. Both of these factors are important and you should look to improve upon them as you progress.

The example times used in this article can vary from person to person, and if a new runner has lead a mostly sedentary lifestyle up to the point of beginning a running program, the transition from walking to speed walking (rather than jogging) can be incorporated in the beginning. Regardless of the program that you choose, taking things slowly is the most important factor when first starting out.

“Your cardiovascular ability will adapt much easier than your muscles and skeleton,” says Dolgener. “People don’t normally quit running because their hearts are unable to adapt, but rather because of some injury. Slowly preparing your body with a mix of walking and running gives your entire system a chance to adapt to the new stress on the joints and muscles of the body.”

Testing The Strength of the Legs

running outside

In conjunction with any leg strengthening program, this testing method can be used to see how you’re doing. It will require a marked area of 40 meters with a mark between the 40 meter marks at 15 meters from the start.

Begin by jogging from the starting mark at an easy jog. Once you hit the second mark, begin hopping towards the last mark on your most dominant leg.

Have a friend record the amount of time it takes you to hop from the second mark to the third mark. How did you do? Many training and fitness facilities use this method to evaluate an individual’s progress.

For instance, one testing facility timed some of the world’s greatest athletes and found the fastest time to be 2.7 seconds for a male and 3.1 seconds for a female.

Try this exercise every week and try to aim for the 10-second mark at first. If you can whittle your time down to 3 seconds, register for the Olympics the next time around!

Common Running Injuries

Achilles Tendonitis: Putting too much pressure or stress on the tendon in your foot can result in tiny tears and inflammation and result in this painful injury. The specific area of the injury is the band of tissues that connect the muscles in the rear lower leg and the heel. Using the R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) method is helpful in treatment, but ongoing pain or inflammation may require the assistance of a physician.

Lower Back Pain: Although your back is not a direct contact point during running, shock waves from the constant impact of your feet on the running surface can place a high level of stress on the spine. More often than not, strains in the muscles of the lower back cause the pain, as well as muscles not yet sufficiently conditioned to run.

Additional causes of low back pain could include improper shoes that cause an imbalance or even a taut hamstring. To treat a back injury, the first step is to reduce the work load.

Other approaches to consider when suffering from low back soreness include relaxing in a hot bath or a session in a steam room. however, if the pain persists or worsens, schedule an appointment with your medical professional and allow them to better diagnose the cause of your low back pain.

Ankle Sprains: Can be caused by an unnatural motion of the ankle from a twist or misstep. They are quite often the result of a runner stepping in a pothole or off a curb. Stop running and walk for a few minutes when the sprain occurs. If the pain does not go away after a few minutes, consider stopping the run immediately to avoid further pain and a more serious injury.

Dr. Christine Luff recommends the following for ankle sprains: “To alleviate the pain and swelling, use the R.I.C.E. method. Ice the swollen area for 15 minutes every 3 to 4 hours. Continue the R.I.C.E. method for 3 to 4 days if the pain does not dissipate. When not icing it, wrap the ankle with a bandage for support. If the swelling lasts for more than 3 to 4 days, seek the help of a physician to ensure that the ankle is not fractured.”

Runner’s Knee: Is a frequent ailment among consistent runners, and feels like a soreness around the kneecap. Its usual cause is weakness in the middle quadriceps muscles or poor shoes. Ice the knees immediately and take an aspirin to reduce the pain. Work on strengthening the quadriceps muscles to prevent the injury from occurring again. Ensure that your shoes are in good working order. Running shoes should be replaced every 400-500 miles, even if they still appear to be in good condition.

Shin Splints: Also known as tibial syndrome, shin splints are a painful condition that can develop in runners. This injury is especially common in people that have just begun running and takes a long time to heal, thus making it important for new runners to begin very slowly. The first step in treatment is rest. Use anti-inflammatory medication and ice to assist with the swelling and consult a doctor if the pain begins to worsen.

Nutrition Advice for Runners

Below are five foods that are ideal for runners:

Almonds: Eating a handful of almonds two to four times a week for their protein and vitamin E content is a great idea.

Eggs: The most complete source of protein available, eggs contain almost every vitamin and mineral a runner needs for healthy bones and muscle recovery.

running outside

Oranges: Packed with the powerful antioxidant vitamin C, oranges have been shown to greatly reduce muscle soreness after running when eaten regularly beginning two weeks before starting a running routine and continuing thereafter.

Salmon: A great source of protein, as a four-ounce portion of salmon nets you about 35 grams. In addition, salmon is also one of the best food sources for omega-3 fatty acids.

A recent study concluded that many individuals where asthma was caused by exercise saw an improvement in their condition after four weeks of consuming larger amounts fish oil.

Chicken: Runners require about 50% to 75% more protein than people who don’t regularly run to aid in the rebuilding of muscle tissue and for a faster recovery time after intense workouts. Simply consume one four-ounce serving of chicken to meet your daily protein requirement.

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