Running, either you love it or you hate it, for most people there does not seem to be any in between.
Assuming, then, that you love it, or at least the idea of getting and staying fit through running your little socks off, there are, as with any activity you are not accustomed to, some important beginning exercises before you go sprinting over the hills and far away.
Experienced runners or joggers will tell you that running costs nothing and, in addition to being free it also has the ability to set you free. You can run where you please, it gets you fit very quickly and it burns a whole heap of calories. For beginners, though, there are a few hints for you so that you can start off on the right foot, so to speak.
1. The gear should be right for you. Visit your local sports equipment store and get correctly fitted with running shoes. There is a big difference between the shoes you want for your sport and say, walking, playing rugby or soccer. You need to look at shoes that cushion impact over the areas of the feet that will receive the most jarring on each running stride. Remember too that you will need to ‘wear them in’ before starting your first run; walk about the house with them on for a few days beforehand.
As for clothing, any shorts and top will do the job, as long as they don’t restrict movement of arms and legs – pretty obvious really, but you would be amazed at how many beginners choose singlets and shorts either too tight or too baggy. A comfortable fit is the order of the day, not forgetting a well-fitting sports bra for the ladies – boob bounce can be uncomfortable.
2. Once you have the right gear you are set to go. Possibly the most important part of running for fitness is the warm up. Forget all the nonsense written and spoken about fancy leg, knee, neck and arm stretches – the best and easiest method of warming up for a run is…to run. Gently, not hard or with explosive bursts. A gentle jog or a speed walk for between three to five minutes will warm up your muscles. When you feel comfortable, go from that point.
3. Once you have finished your run it is wise to ‘warm down’. Spend a couple of minutes or so slowing down – don’t come to a sudden stop as this can lead to an abrupt drop in blood pressure. Gently begin to stretch the various parts of your body as in the following way.
· Front of thighs (Quadriceps). With a straight back and tummy pulled in, stand on your left leg and bend your right knee while holding your right ankle with your right hand. You will feel the muscles stretching slightly. Change legs and repeat.
· Calf Muscles. Stand about three feet (a metre) from a wall; lean against it, palms flat, arms straight. Place one foot in front of the other and bend the right leg slightly, keeping the back leg straight and heel on the ground. Feel the calf muscle stretching. Change and repeat.
· Hamstrings (Back of the thighs). Stand with the right foot about one step in front of the left, put your hands on your left knee and bend it, keeping the right leg straight and heel on the ground. Pull your tummy in and bend forward, keeping your head raised. Change and repeat.
4. Drink plenty of pure water before, during and after your run. Do not drink gallons at a time, but sip frequently.
5. Do not run on a completely empty stomach. About one hour before you plan to start your run, eat something that is easy to digest so that energy is released slowly.