Hands up if you think running is best reserved for emergency situations, such as being chased by a zombie or a crocodile. Who thinks they couldn’t sprint to the mailbox let alone jog a couple of kilometres without needing urgent medical aid? Who here would back away slowly from someone suggesting they might not only want to run but one day actually love to run?
Why you CAN do it
News flash: your body is capable of amazing thing! While running might not be something you’ve ever previously entertained, it may be time for a rethink. Why? As we get older it becomes trickier to stay in shape, but running is an extremely efficient, convenient form of exercise. While certain health conditions may preclude it, if you’re able and you want to boost fat-burning potential, build endurance, strengthen and tone muscles, and increase fitness, it’s worth exploring. Or, put another way – running can transform your bod from couch potato to smokin’ hot in next to no time
You can burn about 1465 kilojoules if you run for approximately 30 minutes. Impressive!
How do you start?
Slowly. Very slowly! As they say in the classics, you gotta walk before you can run. If you are an absolute novice, pacing yourself is critical. Running experts say the biggest mistake beginners make is trying to do too much, too fast, too soon.
Try baby steps
Begin by walking at a steady, brisk pace for five to 10 minutes, gradually increasing your pace to a slow jog for 30 seconds to a minute. Slow down and walk again for five minutes, then jog for one minute or at intervals that feel comfortable for you. Repeat the walk/jog sequence for about 30 minutes or as long as you feel able. Listen to your body; don’t sprint – you should never be gasping for breath. Over the coming days and weeks, gradually increase the amount of time you spend exercising and aim to walk/run two to three times per week. Remember, if it doesn’t feel right, slow it down or stop. Running through pain doesn’t make you a hero, it makes you more likely to sustain an injury. A little discomfort is normal as your body adjusts to the challenge – too much is not.
Shake it up
Exercise works best when you love it and there’s variety. Alternate your walk/run program with resistance (weight) training, take a Zumba or yoga class, do a workout DVD in your lounge room, or go for a swim. Aim to move a little every single day.
How’s your form?
There’s no right or wrong way to pound the pavement, but if you’re struggling to get a groove going, these technical pointers can help you get the most out of this exercise:
• Look ahead, not down at your feet; keep your head in line with your spine and try not to lean forward (to prevent lower back strain).
• avoid tensing your shoulders, jaw or face. The more tense you are, the harder you have to work and the quicker you’ll feel tired.
• run ‘tall’ – elongate your torso and try not to hunch up.
• keep your arms close to your body and swing them back and forth, not side to side.
• keep your knees low to the ground. Sprinters need to raise ’em high but you don’t. Let your ankles do the work.
• breathe deeply, exhale fully – in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Eat fresh for fuel
To get the most from workouts, you must fuel your body with a healthy, balanced diet. Exercise isn’t a licence to go wild with your food intake. For weight loss, the old ‘kilojoules in versus kilojoules burned’ formula still applies. Focus on eating more fresh, whole foods and less of the highly processed stuff.
Outside or inside?
You can get results whether you run outside or inside on a treadmill. Many runners like to switch between the two, depending on the weather and time. A treadmill has less wind resistance and a certain amount of cushioning, with the ability to program it to your liking. Running outside offers the opportunity to explore your environment in the fresh air, whether on scenic trails or city streets. Also, once you run/walk somewhere, there’s no getting away from the fact that sooner or later, you have to come back!
Get on track...
Optional extras include good music, a running buddy and an app or two to help you track your progress. Check out MapMyRun, MapMyWalk and MyFitnessPal in your device’s app store, or visit fitbit. com/au/store for a range of awesome fitness tools that can be synced with your phone to help you succeed. Fancy the support of a running club? Visit coolrunning. com.au for a complete list of clubs all over the country. Whether you’re a beginner or an old hand, joining a club can boost motivation by providing advice and camaraderie. They also have the lowdown on race events both big and small.
Yep, race events – never say never!