With more than 180,000 fitness clubs around the world, it is no surprise that losing weight and living a healthier lifestyle is among the top resolutions being set every new year. Our bodies were made to move and be active, but it can be difficult to figure out what works for you. It can be intimidating going into a gym for the first time, and even more difficult to learn how to lift weights and the proper form that comes with each exercise. This is why most people abandon their new year resolution within the first 30 days of setting their goal. If you are looking for a way to jumpstart your health and fitness journey, consider giving running a try. Although running may make you reflect on dreading the mile run back in middle school, you may be surprised to learn that it can be more enjoyable than you knew. If you follow these tips, you’ll be achieving your fitness goals in no time.
Proper Running Form
Many new runners may be surprised to learn that there is a proper form you should practice when you run. Similar to other forms of exercise, not using the proper form can cause injury, as well as make the process of completing your run harder by causing breathing difficulties. If you’re new to running, or simply just want to improve your form, check out these ten components of proper running form.
Being flexible helps you feel more comfortable when you run, and is important for preventing injury. Sitting at a desk all day or not moving around while at work can cause your muscles and ligaments to become stiff, so it is recommended that you do some dynamic stretching for 10 to 15 minutes before you run. The goal with dynamic stretching is to loosen up your body so that it can perform properly. These can include leg swings, lunges, hip circles, and ankle circles. A pre-run stretch can also help increase your range of motion, which can help you prevent pulling a muscle.
Keeping your body loose and flexible can also help improve your posture when you run, which can, in turn, make your body move more effectively and help you feel more comfortable. Having a poor posture can also restrict your blood flow while running, which can increase your likelihood of developing a cramp. To practice proper form, try standing straight up with your ankles, hips, and shoulders aligned. You can have a relaxed bend in your spine if it feels more comfortable, just make sure you don’t slouch as this can hinder your breathing.
Practicing good posture while you run can also improve your body’s coordination. An uncoordinated body can put too much pressure on specific muscles instead of spreading the impact equally throughout the body, and it can require more effort to run forward. To practice proper coordination while your run, imagine having a pole horizontally in your waist. As the upper half of your body is leaning forward to run, the lower half of your body should be leaning backward. Another way to think of this is to imagine you are a foosball character on a foosball table. As your upper body leans forward, your lower body propels your body forward by pressing backward with your feet.
Bend Your Knees and Elbows
This may seem obvious, but it is important to keep in mind the science behind bending your knees and elbows. The shorter your arms and legs are, the less amount of effort you will have to put in to move them back and forth. Having a proper bend can make your run easier, and feel less awkward. Imagine how difficult it would be to run with completely stiff arms and legs.
Smart Use Of Legs
The easiest way to develop an injury while you run is to overextend your stride. Your feet should remain under you with each stride, not in front of you as if you were doing a lunge. The same can be said for how you move your feet. When you run, the propulsion should mostly come from your core muscles, which is the opposite of how you propel yourself when you do a lunge.
Cadence refers to the number of strides you take in a minute while you run. For most people, you will want to make sure your cadence isn’t to low as this can make your run uncomfortable because a single foot has to bear the weight of your body for longer. A good rule of thumb is to try to keep your cadence around 175 steps per minute. If you’re looking for a good way to practice your cadence tempo, consider training with a metronome or metronome app.
Breathing properly while you run is paramount because your muscles need oxygen to function properly. Most people take shallow breaths when they run, which is also known as chest breathing. Instead, you should be breathing with your diaphragm which will also help you build endurance. To practice this, breathe in deeply through your nose, then slowly exhale through your nose. Practice feeling the contraction in your diaphragm, and allow your exhale to last twice as long as your inhale.
Listen To Your Body
Your body will tell you when something doesn’t feel right, or if an injury may be forming. By paying attention to tight muscles, the technique you use to breathe, and minor injuries like shin splints, you will be better equipped to keep your body in the best shape possible. Taking the time to treat aches and pains sooner will also help you recover faster and avoid minor injuries from turning into serious complications.
Stay Mentally Alert
Staying mentally aware while you run requires you to be intentional about how you feel. Thinking about your form, your breathing, and how your muscles feel with each stride can help you become a better runner. Staying focused on your run can also help you enjoy the process more, and help you ignore negative thoughts about how your run is going.
It can be difficult practicing these ten components to running properly, but staying relaxed can help keep your body stay loose and free from injury. This also means keeping a relaxed mind and staying open to improving your form or trying a new technique. It can feel embarrassing or silly to focus on these things as you train, but being able to roll with the punches will help you quickly transform into a well-seasoned runner.
Stretching After Running
Similar to stretching before you run, completing at least 10 minutes of static stretching post-run can help keep your muscles stay healthy, and keep your body free from becoming injured. This is also a good way to help minimize the lactic acid that builds up in your muscles after a run, and increases circulation which can help get rid of built-up lactic acid. Lactic acid is produced in your muscles during any form exercise, and is essentially what gets leftover from your muscles producing energy. Lactic acid is also the reason you feel sore after a workout, so stretching can help your body recover faster. Some top static stretches for runners include the calf stretch, quad stretch, hamstring stretch, Achilles stretch, and iliotibial band stretch. In addition to static stretching, you can also try these two recovery methods after your run:
Heat treatments help improve blood flow, and are best for muscle spasms, stiff muscles, and chronic soreness. If you belong to a gym, you may be able to sit in a hot tub after your run and lightly stretch. Or, if your gym has towels you can place a warm wet towel on your muscle to help soothe your symptoms. You can also use a heating pad at home if that is more convenient.
Ice is best for reducing swelling and inflammation. Unlike heat, ice restricts blood flow which is why it can reduce swelling. Ice is also best when applied within 48 hours of experiencing an injury. You should never place an ice pack directly on your skin. Instead, wrap it in a towel first and apply for 15 to 20 minutes.
Benefits Of Running
Choosing to run can seem like a daunting task at first. You have to learn the proper form, warm-up and cool down properly with stretching, and stay mentally alert enough to notice if an injury is forming. With all of this hard work you will be putting in, you will be happy to know that there are a lot of benefits you can reap if you run frequently. These can include:
The most obvious benefit that comes with choosing to run is weight loss. It is the second most effective form of cardio at burning excess calories, and it can help you maintain a consistent weight. You can even try different intensity variations to get a better workout in a shorter amount of time. For example, you could try high-intensity interval training (HIIT) which involves sprinting for a short period of time, then jogging for twice the amount of time you sprinted. So you if you sprinted for 30 seconds, you would jog for 60 seconds. This helps increase your heart rate, and give you a better workout.
Exercise helps your body expend energy and release feel-good hormones like dopamine. This can help you sleep better by releasing stress and regulating the cortisol levels in your body. So consider going for a run next time you’re thinking about getting a new bed or bedsheets for better sleep.
Choosing to run can do more than just help you fall asleep or feel less stressed. It can also help lower blood pressure, reduce your risk of having a heart attack, help manage osteoporosis, and even lower your risk for developing breast cancer.
When To Utilize A Pain Relief Center
Running has many benefits that can help your body stay healthy and strong. Unfortunately, just like any other form of exercise, there is a risk of serious injury if you do not have proper form, or if you are neglecting your warm-up and cool-down routine. You should seek a medical consultation for pain that lasts for more than three days, or if you feel pain during your normal day to day activities. If you do need medical treatment, there are numerous therapeutic options you can choose from. These can include:
Visiting a chiropractor can be a drug-free alternative to receiving pain relief. For runners, one of the most common reasons to visit a chiropractor is for the treatment of runner’s knee. A chiropractor can also help prevent the onset of injury by aligning your body and helping your muscles work properly.
Cupping therapy involves having glass cups suction portions of your skin to increase blood flow to your muscles. This can help you stay flexible and lose, and it is an effective treatment for runners who suffer from plantar fasciitis. You may also choose to receive this treatment before special events, like a big race, to help your muscles recover from training.
Deep Tissue Massage
Similar to cupping therapy, a deep tissue massage can help elongate your muscles and help them stay flexible. A massage can also increase blood flow, assist in muscle recovery, and restore proper range of motion to your joints. Just make you drink plenty of water after a massage, and refrain from exercising for at least 24 hours.
Final Running Thoughts
The art of running can seem intimidating to get into. It’s uncomfortable in the beginning, and it can feel silly if you aren’t used to how the motion feels. Thankfully, it is very easy to learn how to run. As long as you keep an open mind and practice proper form, you will be reaping the many benefits in no time. Running is one of the most effective forms of cardio, preceded only by cross country skiing, and it can ward off diseases like breast cancer and osteoporosis. You can also utilize relaxing therapy treatments like a deep tissue massage to keep your muscles working at optimal levels. And best of all, choosing to run will help you relieve stress and get a good night of sleep.