Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday: The Basics of Running

Running is the most effective exercise for losing weight and improving physical fitness. It requires very little equipment, all you need is a decent pair of running shoes, and it can be performed almost anywhere. When I travel my favorite way to learn my way around a new setting is to go for a run.

For those just starting out or returning to running after a long hiatus, I recommend the Galloway Method. Jeff Galloway was a long distance runner that wrote several books on the subject. He advocated running a mile, then walking a minute, then repeat for as many miles as you plan to run. Many runners have used his method to complete marathons.

If that seems too difficult there is an app called “couch to 5K” that takes you through the beginning stages of running, gradually building to run a 3.1 mile race. Many communities offer couch to 5K classes through their recreation departments for a nominal fee.

Most injuries in running are related to the “3 Ss” – shoe, surface, and speed.

Start by spending some money on a decent pair of running shoes. Running shoes can often exceed $100 but you can save some money by purchasing last year’s model. Nike, Asics, Puma and others are constantly updating their running shoes. All running shoes are rated on 3 factors – cushioning, stability, and durability. I recommend a shoe with high cushioning with neutral stability. Stability shoes reduce supination or pronation (a foot that falls outward or inward excessively). However, mild pronation of foot is a normal action that acts to absorb some of the shock of running. If you reduce pronation, the shock is transferred to the knee, often with disastrous results.

Your local often determines the surface. Short mowed grass (like the edge of the fairway at the local golf course) is the best. My recovery run takes me from home to a nearby park where I run around the football field. It’s a little boring, but easy on the legs.

Asphalt is the next best choice. Most runners run the roads. Always run facing traffic (the opposite of biking) so you can see the cars coming and make eye contact with the drivers. I have a little 5 mile route that takes me to the beach and back, primarily on residential streets.

Try to avoid concrete – sidewalk or roads. It is unforgiving and much harder than the asphalt. If you have been on a long run (more than 10 miles) you can feel the hardness of concrete when forced to run on it for even a few steps.

Speed is all relative. I was never a fast runner and have been compared to a diesel engine – just slow and steady. However, be careful when trying to increase your speed as that is a common source of injury.

Recent studies have shown that people who run everyday have no greater longevity than couch potatoes. However, people who run or jog 3 days a week have a significantly longer life span. So try to run every other day.
Do one long run per week and keep the other two runs short. My recovery run to the football field is always the first run after a long run. You can increase your long run by a mile per week for a maximum of three weeks in a row. Then back off for a week to recover. If you are trying to increase your distance, repeat that three week build as needed.

Technology abounds for runners. I highly recommend a heart rate monitor. They can be purchased for less than $100 at any sporting goods store. Once you compute your aerobic zone, modify your pace as needed to stay in the zone. The new fitness watches will compute heart rate, distance, pace and even calorie burn. I’m waiting for the cost to drop a little more before purchasing a device. If you want to keep it simple, a good rule of thumb is you are within your aerobic zone if you can carry on a conversation.

That brings me to my final tip – find a running partner, a least for the long runs. It is much easier and more fun to run with someone else.

The Bottom Line:
Get out there and run, it will transform your body.

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