Running is an amazing yet simple physical activity for just anyone. Most people prefer running as an exercise to stay fit and keep in shape because little is required.
You don’t have to sign up at a gym which is quite expensive or invest in any equipment. All you have to do is get out of bed, get prepared, lace up your sports sneakers, let yourself out of the house and hit the road.
But, while or after running, you might encounter achy back and muscle, runner’s knee, stress fracture, muscle pull and ankle sprain.
Wondering how many times you could run per week to avoid being at any risk of suffering running-related injuries?
As a beginner, we recommend running three or four times per week and using the remaining days to cross train or as rest days and recovery days. To stick to your new fitness routine goal, you’ll have to make a weekly plan for training days, rest days, and recovery days.
As a new runner, we understand you are all new to this. Rest days are days free of physical activity, no running at all. On the other hand, recovery days are when you have to run at a lesser pace for a few minutes.
On a recovery day, you have to be easy with your running activity to recover from days of intense running. Resting and recovery will help to reduce your risk of injury and exhaustion. Take one rest day off and continue running on your planned days. Then add a bit of cross training to other days to improve your fitness and make you healthier
Cross-training could include lifting weights, cycling, going for a swim, or doing other physical activities.
Whether you are running to stay fit or for an athletic competition, here are some benefit of running
Running relieves you from stress and exhaustion after a hard day
Running calms the nerves and is great for your mental health
You might experience a runner’s high with the release of endorphins and endocannabinoids during this physical activity
Running can aid weight loss and help maintain a healthy weight
Running works your glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves and of course your core
To make your running worth it and reap all of these benefits, I have compiled a list of essential tips to back you up.
9 Running tips for a better run
Firstly Warm Up
We sure you are guessing you are all set and ready to hit the road since you’ve got your favorite playlist going. One thing is missing and that is warming up.
Consider doing a brief warm-up first before you run. Warming up prepares your body for aerobic activity and activate your muscles. It also raises your body temperature, increases the flow of blood to your muscles and reduces the risk of injury and muscle tension.
Avoid static stretching since it’s more effective at the end of your running and focus on warm ups that could leave you active for a long time instead of burned out or fatigued. Do more of dynamic warm-ups as it prepares your body to perform at a higher intensity.
A dynamic warm up works by focusing on activities totally not different from the movement you plan to do while working out and is usually done at a slower pace. It is best to spend 5 to 10 minutes just warming up and also focus on large muscle groups. Since you are running, start by walking briskly, jogging and then proceeding to squats, lunges, planks and jumping jacks.
Choose the Right Surface
There are different surfaces you could run on. There are also different pros and cons to each surface.
A grass: of course, a grass is soft and very cushioning. Hence, making it an ideal surface for most runners. Its soft nature can reduce your risk of suffering injuries like stress fractures and shin splints. It also puts less impact on your feet and makes it comfortable for you to run.
But an uneven grass with lots of lump and unhidden holes can lead to unforeseen injuries like a broken or sprained ankle and feet problems. It could also be wet and slippery and most runners could suffer from allergies. You need to find a flat and spacious grassland. And also buy shoes with better stability so your feet and ankles are safe
A road: while this is easily accessible and always available, it promotes faster running and reduces the risk of falling due to its stability.
But what happens when the road is muddy and unsmooth? Excessive running on the road can have an impact on your calves and shins. You could also face traffic, fumes, pedestrians and a terrible surface with potholes.
A treadmill: a treadmill is a good indoor option when you just can’t seem to get outside. It smooth surface is kinder on the legs. No distractions, no worries about uneven surfaces, holes and no need to avoid obstacles.
You need to constantly adjust the machine till you hit your desired pace and it could get boring with time.
A sandy surface: if you are running on a sandy beach, you could feel the sea breeze and enjoy its surroundings. It could also strengthen your legs if you run through dunes.
A sandy surface is uneven and unstable hence it could hurt your ankles, knees and shins. The softness of the sand could pose a greater risk for Achilles tendon injury and blisters- if you run barefoot. Running close to the water’s edge will further stress your body since it is a tilted surface.
Trails: trail running has a lesser impact on your bones and joints and can enhance strength, agility and stability.
It’s very possible that a trail can be filled with dirt, gravel, mud, grasses, tree roots, ledge etc. While trail running, you have to constantly be on the lookout to avoid falling, breaking a bone or straining your ankle.
Although no running surface is best, it all comes down to personal preference. Choose a surface that works perfectly for your body and muscles, so your legs can adapt and become stronger. Also, choose one that best suits your goals.
Set Realistic Running Goals
Sometimes the purpose for running might just be to calm our mind and feel the cool breeze. But it is most important to establish realistic goals that will motivate you, improve your running and even deliver benefits to you.
How long do you want to run in a day? Are you training for a race or marathon? Would you maintain a consistent pace or concentrate on interval running? What is your target?
To achieve your goals, you have to be consistent as it is more important. As a beginner set goals that are realistic and that can be easily achieved. You cannot decide to run a marathon when you can only run three or four miles maximum- this is absurd.
According to a 2013 international journal of sports physical therapy, you can only run a minimum of 18 miles every week before a marathon so as to reduce the risk of suffering any running-related injury.
Do not forget to cross train
In as much as running is a great exercise that delivers excessive benefits, it shouldn’t be the only exercise in your fitness routine. Incorporate different types of workout or Cross train.
Cross training helps strengthen and work other muscles running fails to work. It also recovers worn-out muscles and prevents the risk of sustaining injuries. On days when you are not running but resting, try cross training. You could also choose to run shorter distances while sneaking in cross training as well on other days
To complement your running try swimming, cycling, elliptical, walking, lunges, and strength training exercises- plank, Russian twist, push-ups and deadlift.
Choose the Right Trainers
As a beginner, you need the right shoes. The right shoes will be comfortable for you, help avoid feet soreness and support your foot while running.
It is advisable to go to a sports shoe store and make a personal analysis of what will suit you. This may depend on your foot shape and size as well as previous injuries from previous running shoes.
When choosing a brand based on size, ensure the shoe is not too tight. As you run your foot swells and so you need extra space to accommodate your swelling feet. Pick a shoe that is one size plus your normal size.
Do not run barefoot as it will have a greater impact on your feet, ankle and knee joint and this can make the runner prone to injuries including blisters. If you really want to feel the ground try running at a low mileage on grass or track instead of hard concrete or asphalt.
There are a lot of options when choosing the right shoes or trainers. As a runner you need support, cushioning and feet protection.
Listen to Your Body
When your body needs to take a break and rest, do just that. If your body hurts, it could be from your running. Do not try to act so strong, take a break or see a doctor.
Everyone is different and has different running goals. Do not compare yourself and your running methods to others. It’s best to do what your body can do, listen to it and take care of it.
Breathe while running to develop your natural running rhythm and run further. Also drink water “but” in small quantities. If your body aches while running, take a break, stop running and walk briskly until the pain goes away.
Don’t Start out Running too Fast
After your warm up, you shouldn’t just start out running too fast. Most beginner runners are already tired, frustrated, feel pains and have injuries few minutes into their run. This is because of starting out too fast.
It’s best to start running at a moderate pace, say jogging. Get used to it so your body can adapt to the stress and strain that comes with running. You will be able to meet up with your goals and achieve long-term success
The Right Pre- and Post-Run Fuel Matters
As a beginner, intermediate or advanced runner, your body needs the right foods before and after a run. We recommend you eat between 1 and 2 hours before going for a run and 30 to 45 minutes after your run.
The best foods will energize you all through your workout session, increase your performance levels and then help in muscle recovery after
Consume 2:1 carb diet to protein diet ratio if on a moderate level run
Avoid spicy and high-fiber foods
If going for a super intense run, consume 4:1 carb to protein ratio
Cooling down after your running ritual is as important to your recovery as warming up. Warming up prepares your body for running while cooling down helps recovery, reduces excessive muscle soreness, eases your body and prepares you for your next run.
It also promotes blood flow to your heart and muscles while bringing your heart rate, blood pressure levels and body temperature back to its normal levels. It is best to dedicate 15 minutes to cool down after running before sitting to rest or dashing into your home and preparing for other activities.
To cool down, do light jogging or brisk walking for some minutes, try stretching your upper and lower body to return your heart rate to normal gradually or do yoga. Some yoga poses like child pose and pigeon pose eases and lowers tension in your muscles and prevent injuries.
Remember that consistency is key. Do not be discouraged if you are not noticing the desired results immediately. Keep running, your body will adapt to it quickly and you’ll be able to run longer distances faster and easier.