By: Kiara Sahi, Contributing Writer
Edited by: Fauzia Haque; Elias Azizi, Editor in Chief
It is a universally acknowledged truth that starting to run, be it to improve your cardiorespiratory fitness, switch up your daily workout regimes, or to just pass the time and get outside, can be incredibly challenging. Whether you’re hitting the road or the treadmill, getting on your feet and putting your running shoes on can be the most difficult part of the run. As a matter of fact, running can be especially demanding if you haven’t read up on how exactly one must approach running as a beginner.
Let’s tackle the basics first: How is running a beneficial form of exercise?
In a nutshell, running boosts your cardiorespiratory fitness. According to WebMD, at least 10 minutes of running every day can lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Running lowers your resting heart rate, which is the number of times your heart beats every minute when you’re at rest. A resting heart rate is a measure of the efficacy of the heartbeat: the lower the resting heart rate is, the better the heartbeat’s efficiency is. In addition to this, running regularly improves your knee and back health and can reduce the risk of contracting an upper tract respiratory infection by 43% (WebMD). There are also mental health benefits to consider such as lifting one’s mood as well as enhancing their concentration and memory.
Running is one of the most favoured forms of cardio for a reason. It doesn’t demand much in terms of equipment and has almost no restrictions in terms of time and place. It is a convenient and inexpensive form of exercise. This is exactly why it is very easy to get injured. As per Yale Medicine, 50% of regular runners get injured every year. While some of these injuries may be attributed to some form of trauma, they are mostly caused due to running too much. Many first-time runners run too many times a week and run large distances at great speeds during those sessions. This increases the risk of injury as the body has been thrown into something completely new and hasn’t had time to acclimatise to the intensity of running.
So how should you go about the first few runs?
According to former Olympic runner, Jeff Galloway, to ease your body into running, you must focus on your walk-run ratio. Start off by running for 5 to 10 seconds every minute, and spend the rest of that minute walking. Even if the bulk of your workout during the initial days of running is walking, you are still making incredible amounts of progress. Galloway maintains that walking is the best cross-training. As your muscles and joints start to strengthen and adjust, you can slowly start to shift the ratio and fill in every minute with more running (WebMD).
However, you’re not out of the woods yet when it comes to running too much. You want to make sure you don’t start to fill your weeks with more high-intensity runs and fewer recovery runs, or you’ll put yourself at risk of getting injured.
What is a recovery run and why is it important?
A recovery run is a form of active recovery as opposed to passive recovery. Essentially, it’s putting on your running shoes and heading out for an easy-paced run instead of staying in as a form of rest. According to a study, recovery runs cause blood to reach the muscles at a faster and more effective rate to repair them. Hence, recovery runs help you come back stronger and faster. These runs have a plethora of benefits. They can teach your body how to burn more fat efficiently, build denser capillary networks within your tissues to improve your endurance, and strengthen your muscles and joints without putting too much strain on them. Recovery runs are the hidden gems of running, especially when it comes to increasing your mileage. If you want to add extra days of running to your week, make them easy-paced, enjoyable, and comfortable. This will ensure that you’re building up your mileage without any risk of injury.
Add as many days of recovery runs you’d like to your running schedule, and as you start to get fitter, you can cut down on those days a little. Nonetheless, it’s better if you include at least a day or two allotted to active recovery. If all your days include a high-intensity, demanding run, you’re more likely to get bored and plateau (Nike).
The importance of cross-training
Fundamentally, cross-training is partaking in other physical activities and sports to support your main sport. While running is a beneficial form of activity, there are certain downsides to it. Particularly for runners that take to concrete or uneven roads, running is a high-impact sport and can make your joints sore. It also doesn’t strengthen all of your muscles, only select areas. Cross-training can take care of these disadvantages. With cross-training, you can reduce the risk of injury by fortifying your untrained muscles, so they can support the others. Low impact activities, such as swimming, can reduce the strain on your joints as well. There are more obvious benefits to consider as well: for example, your cardio fitness will get better, and you won’t get bored as you’ve been switching your regime up (very well fit).
Keeping your body hydrated and nourished
To keep your body healthy, happy, and in its prime during your running journey, it is of paramount importance that you ensure you are giving your body the fuel it needs.
High-intensity training can have an inflammatory effect, sometimes putting the body in an immunocompromised state. If consumed in adequate amounts, micronutrients can minimise those inflammatory effects. A balanced diet inclusive of an appropriate amount of fruits and vegetables will ensure the intake of the required amount of micronutrients. Carbohydrates are the most vital component of a runner’s diet plan. Carbohydrates are very easily broken down and are therefore the body’s most accessible form of energy. Hence, when you set out on a run, your body will dig deep into those carbs first. Finally, you need to accommodate protein into your diet layout, so you can give your body something to work with when it needs to repair your muscles and facilitate a quicker recovery. According to a study conducted in 2008, a post-run snack rich in carbohydrates and proteins promotes the storage of glycogen, which helps with muscle recovery (MedicalNewsToday).
Running can be one of the most exhilarating activities, and an incredible mood-booster. Now more than ever, we encourage you to take that first step, not necessarily towards running, but to any form of physical activity that gets your body moving and makes you feel good about yourself. And when you do, make sure you’re doing it right by checking in with our articles. Happy running!
https://www.verywellfit.com/cross-training-for-runners-2911952 (accessed from OpenMD)