It’s nearly impossible to deny the physical benefits of running. Running torches more calories per minute than just about any other form of exercise. It offers a host of other benefits as well, including decreasing the stress and tension that clouds our judgment. This can make you more productive all around, not just on the track. Runners even sleep more soundly at night.
Even though you have so much to gain from a running regimen, you still may find yourself unsure of how or where to start. Don’t let that stop you. Here are six tips for getting in shape with a great running routine this summer!
- Warm Up and Cool Down Properly
Warming up and cooling down properly can make your run more pleasant, but more importantly, it helps prevent both injuries and excessive soreness. Many people associate warming up with stretching, but that’s not necessarily what it is. Think of your muscles like a rubber band. If you gradually warm up a rubber band by stretching it in your hand, it doesn’t break. However, if you put that same rubber band in the freezer and then try to stretch it, you will break it.
When you’re starting your workout, your muscles are similar to that cold rubber band. So instead of stretching, warm up by walking, jumping rope, or even marching in place before your run. The idea is to gradually warm the muscles and prepare them for the work ahead. Save the stretching for your cool-down. Stretching your muscles when they’re good and warm not only aids flexibility, but it also helps you avoid soreness as well.
- Set Small Goals
If you’re brand new to your running routine, be careful not to set yourself up for failure by taking on too much from the get-go. No one trains for a marathon or even a 5k in a week’s time, so stay patient and gentle with yourself. Easing your way into your running routine not only helps you avoid burnout and stick to the program, but it also helps you avoid injuries that can derail your training, as well.
Remember, no matter how long the “race” is, your journey to the finish line begins with a single step. Set reasonable goals for yourself. If you’re already fit, start with a half-mile or mile-long run, and gradually build up your distance from there. If you’re out of shape, start even smaller. Try running for 30-second intervals, followed by a minute or two of walking. Set micro-goals, such as running for a slightly longer time before walking each time you head out.
- Practice the Run-Walk-Run Method
Alternating intervals of running with intervals of walking isn’t just for novice runners. Advanced runners, including many elite marathoners, also practice this technique. There are two ways to measure your intervals — by distance or by time. Alternating intervals by time revs up your metabolism by alternating periods of hard work with rest. Alternating intervals by distance helps you gradually increase your mileage without overworking yourself.
- Grab a Partner
Some people enjoy the meditative aspect of a long solo run, but for others, seeking out a little help from their friends helps them to stick to their workout program. Not only will you feel even more guilty about missing a run if you know someone is waiting for you, but having a companion to chat with also helps the miles pass by almost effortlessly.
Being able to hold a conversation while running also helps prevent you from pushing yourself too hard. If you find that you can’t hold a conversation, you know it’s time to slow down your heart rate a bit.
- Cross-Train for Greater Benefits
Running is an excellent cardiovascular workout, and it will tone your legs, as well. However, strength training is also a critical part of any well-rounded fitness routine. Strength training helps you run even faster by engaging muscles that running doesn’t always fully use.
Aim to strength train at least two to three days per week for maximum benefit. You can also alternate your strength training and running days to avoid overuse injury, as well.
- Reward Yourself
Many runners find that the physical act of running is a reward in itself. However, most people appreciate a little extra reward for work well done, especially when they’re first starting out and seeking to establish a new routine.
You can reward yourself with an order of French fries if you’d like, or you can focus on non-food-related treats, like a nice pair of running shoes or an eye-catching running outfit. This takes the emphasis off of the calories-in-calories-out mindset, which helps you avoid developing obsessive food and exercise habits.
The Journey Starts With A Single Step
Nearly anyone can start a running routine, and just as many people can benefit from one. It may seem daunting at first, but don’t get discouraged! Once you get into the swing of things, running can become a healthy and enjoyable routine. So, get out there and hit the pavement — happy running!