Why run? There are innumerable reasons. But the number one reason you should consider is the many running health benefits you can obtain every time you run. Now that busy and cramped lifestyles are pushing people to become more sedentary, running provides an easy and fuss-free avenue to getting fit and healthier. But although running proves to be tedious and rigorous, all the sweat is worth the following physical benefits:
1. Healthier Heart
Your heart is responsible for pumping blood to carry oxygen to the body. When you run, you cause your heart to work harder, pumping more blood. Over time, running makes your heart more efficient so that even if you are at rest, your heart is pumping more blood with each heart beat. The arteries also benefits from running. As you run, the arteries become more elastic and more able to flush out the fatty deposits that may have developed in you the walls of the arteries and that could potentially obstruct the delivery of blood to the heart. If not addressed, these obstructions in the blood’s pathway can cause heart attack.
2. Lower Blood Pressure
As a result of elastic arteries, blood pressure among runners is usually low. In fact, a study involving an observation of long distance runners showed that these runners recorded almost a 50% decrease in the blood pressure. Their use of medications to lower blood pressure was also reported to have over 50% reduction.
3. Lower Cholesterol
Also according to a study, runners generally have lower cholesterol. When running, HDL cholesterol (the good fat) level increases, while the bad fat and triglyceride levels decrease. This results in reduced risk of heart diseases.
4. Stronger Lungs
Running makes your body more in need of oxygen, prompting your lungs to work harder by using 50% of otherwise unused lung potential. Running also increases the number of your capillaries, the tiny blood vessels through which blood passes to the lungs, and carries out respiratory functions more efficiently. The lungs then, when exposed to regular running, improve and eventually get used to working harder. The result is efficient breathing whether you are running or idle.
5. Firmer Muscles
The most obvious benefit of running is toner and firmer muscles. This is because when running, you expose them to constant and rigorous activity and leave them fit and stronger. Regular running also improves muscular strength and endurance, making you more adept at handling activities that require a great deal of physical efforts.
6. Stronger Bones
Although widely associated with age, osteoporosis, a condition characterized by hollow and brittle bones, is pointed to be the result of lack of exercise. Running can decrease your chances of suffering from osteoporosis and other bone problems. By keeping them always at work, joints and bones develop flexibility, endurance, and strength.
7. Better Bowel Movement
Among the running health benefits, improved bowel movement is perhaps the least known. By increasing breathing, running helps in the wavelike movement of the bowels, making them easy to release. This prevents constipation and hemorrhoids.
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Running in the good old days used to be uncomplicated and simple. Some people remember runners before going out running with nothing with them. After a time, they come back and drink their water. Drinking (or hydration) was not such a big deal before. Today, there are some runners who carry their own water and enough gadgets to monitor their exact intake during a run or a race.
HYDRATION AND DEHYDRATION
Of course, we all now know how important water is when it comes to strenuous exercises like running. One thing about water is that it is not ideal either to get very little or too much of the fluid. Severe dehydration (loss of water) and over-hydration both cause serious consequences on the body, including death. Knowing the difference is sometimes hard because the symptoms are the same.
In dehydration,the symptoms include weight loss, lethargy, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, confusion and dry mouth or lips. Over-hydration includes weight gain or swelling, headache, nausea, lethargy and confusion or disorientation. What is terrible is that nobody knows about the problem until the symptoms are already in the advanced state. Even medical personnel can be hard put in figuring out what exactly is happening. (This usually happens after a hard race.)
Knowing how much fluid you need can prevent either dehydration or overhydration. One way of knowing is that your performance will decrease significantly if you are dehydrated by as little as 1%. Your running slows down by about 2% if you are dehydrated by only 1%. Another point to consider is that hydration is important not just for your performance but also for your health. As a runner, you need to know how much you need to hydrate yourself daily, and in the critical times of before, during and after running or a race. One formula given by experts to calculate your daily fluid needs is as follows: multiply your weight (in pounds) by 0.55 to know how many ounces of fluid you need every day.
The hydrating beverages include water , sports drinks, tea, decaf coffee, low fat milk, yogurt drinks, juices, soda and soups or other foods with water.Water, of course, is the best source for body hydration. Intake of beverages with sugar and other additives should be limited, especially if you are trying to lose body fat. Alcohol is one drink that significantly dehydrates the body. It is a total no-no to drink before races, or even the night before any race.
After your daily fluid intake, you need to know how much you need before, during and after exercise (like running) to achieve optimum performance. Most people need 8 to 16 ounces of fluid one or two hours before any exercise. During exercise, your fluid needs depend on the rate you perspire which is different from person to person or the weather. The best estimate is to take 4 to 8 ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes and weighing yourself before and after exercise. This is to check if you are losing or gaining weight, and adjusting your intake the next time. Depending on its intensity, running is considered strenuous enough for your body to need more fluid than ordinary. Listen to what it says.
As one ignorant non-runner said, running is boring, exhausting, and sometimes painful. Yet today, running is one of the most popular individual sports in the world, counting millions and millions of followers. This number does not even include yet those who are engaged into serious competitive running. How do they keep themselves motivated and stay at that?
Loss of motivation
Because it is a solitary performance at most, running sometimes CAN be boring, exhausting and painful. Some runners (newcomers and veterans alike) declare that it can be difficult sometimes to stay motivated on a regular basis. Loss of motivation is triggered by many things, including boredom, muscle pains, and most of all, lack of time. Some other times in your running years you were probably attacked by lack of motivation. It starts out slow (skipping a run or two) and without your knowing it, gradually moves to a point where you notice you are not running regularly anymore.
One of the better ways to fight loss of motivation is to set realistic goals. One of the more common goals to stay motivated is simply to complete a race.
Choosing your race, training for it, and finally competing in it is another good source of motivation. Your selection should depend on your personal goals. If motivation is your only goal, perhaps choosing to compete in those periodic short races is the best option. Setting realistic goals is the easiest way for a runner’s motivation to stay up and intense enough.
Of course, you can always choose your favorite distance (5K or 10K or a marathon). The choice itself, the thought, and the actual preparations and the competition proper are enough factors to keep you busy (training) and motivated (prestige and awards) enough. Other runners are motivated by setting bigger goals to their training (if competing) or in just plain running. They set up faster times, or longer distances as their next goals. Naturally, they will not get it right the first time. The attempts of bettering them are very good motivators.
Runners can also stay motivated by adding some variety into their program. They can vary the courses (and terrain) they are running (jogging across the woods or the tracks), distance, speed and intensity (doing sprints in straight tracks and jogging in curves) among other things. Running with a friend (in twos or threes) can sometimes perk up an otherwise monotonous activity. Thinking of someone going with you on a run can sometimes be a very good motivation to do it. Working alone makes staying in bed in a cold morning seems extremely tempting.
Occasionally, runners have to take some time off from running. This may look counter-intuitive but it is effective. One way is doing some cross-training which can also help you stay in shape other than running. (This is aside from the fact that you DID take some time off from running.) Add to your workout schedule a week for every two months perhaps of not running at all but doing another physical activity of your choice. The break from running makes you feel recharged and raring to go back running.
Although running barefoot was the preference of many running legends, it can’t be denied that running shoe is your most important equipment as a runner. It acts as your first line of defense against any danger and injury, while helping you achieve your fullest potential. But because running shoes greatly affect your performance, choosing the best pair should be a careful process. To help you, here are a few buying tips.
1. Know your foot type.
There are three types: neutral-arched, mid-arched (overpronators), and high-arched (underpronators). One way of identifying your foot type is by checking your footprint. A neutral-arched foot shows a distinct curve along the inside of the foot, which connects the heel and the toe. This type of foot pronates normally, meaning that when the foot lands, the outside of the feet rolls inwardly in order to absorb shock. The mid-ached foot, in comparison, rolls far too inward so that the print shows a slight curve along the outside of the foot. Mid-arched foot print looks almost like an entire foot; hence, the nickname flat foot. Among the three, mid-arched foot is the most prone to injuries. High-arched foot, on the other hand, doesn’t pronate enough, which is why its print has a very pronounced curve, showing a narrow band that links the heel and toe. Because the outside of the foot doesn’t evenly roll inward, it gets much of the stress.
2. Choose the shoe that is compatible with your foot type.
For neutral-arched foot, stability running shoes are appropriate. Made with supreme durability and cushioning, stability shoes offer medial support. Mid-arched foot runs best with motion-control shoes that function to reduce excessive foot inward rolling. Although quite heavy, they are durable, have firm midsoles, and adapt a straight shape for support. To promote foot motion, people with high-arched foot need to wear cushioned shoes. These have soft midsole and curved or semi-curved shape.
3. Take note of the size.
And make sure that the shoes fit you right. Some runners, however, mistake the appropriate fit for tightness. But with tight shoes on, you might end up with blisters and black toenails. The shoe with the right fit has about half-inch space in the toebox, leaving enough room for the foot when it swells during a run. The best shoe, without cramming it in, keeps the foot in place so that when you run or walk, the heel does not slip up or down.
4. Try the running shoes on.
Run with them. Jog with them. Walk with them on a treadmill. In other words, never leave the store without finding how the shoes work in your feet. To make a better judgment, use the socks you normally wear when running. Another important point: Try shoes on in the afternoon, when your feet are in their largest size. And because both feet have different measurements, one is always larger than the other, make sure to measure both and go by the size of the larger foot.
5. Avoid being floored by style.
When it comes to running shoes, function comes before style. So don’t be tempted to buy the handsomest, most stylish, and latest pair in the market; rather, get the shoes that will most likely allow you to perform superbly.
One of the more important aspects of running is the proper way of breathing. Running is not just about the legs and thighs and feet. It is also about the lungs and how to bring greater amounts of oxygen into the system efficiently. Unnoticed by many, even by the athletes themselves sometimes, the nature of your breathing during your running affects your performance. Those runners who can correctly deliver oxygen into their system are stronger than their counterparts who struggle when they are running because they do not know the technique.
One training technique is to breathe slightly slower than your body requires when you are not running. This starves your system for oxygen and forces the heart to beat faster. After a time, the body learns to compensate for the lack of oxygen so that when this technique is not in use, your body is already more efficient in processing your breathed air. This is demonstrated in swimming. Swimmers do alternate breathing which is breathing every third stroke. This
enables them to breathe on alternate sides without taking a breath with every stroke. At the start, their body demands more oxygen, but will learn to adjust to the decrease in oxygen. In time, the body becomes more efficient in processing the limited air. Runners who swim often have excellent breathing efficiency.
Sometimes, in long races (or even those short races) a runner may lose focus and is thrown out of his breathing rhythm. It could be caused by the simple forgetting to concentrate on the breathing or its pattern.
One way to avoid this is for the runner to time his breathing in rhythm with his steps. This is like the style of the swimmers who breathe at every third stroke. Runners who get to this state can keep running like a clock, with consistent pace and a great deal of efficiency. This concentration on breathing can also take his mind away from pain or soreness that may have developed at this stage and can cause him to quit the race.
One other technique that can be used when running is deep breathing. It has several benefits when correctly done and practiced.
It helps the runner to stay relaxed, which in turn, helps to decrease fatigue. The ability to relax decreases the chances of performance decline.
Runners who forgot to relax find themselves making inadvertent changes in form until they feel the resulting pain. Examples include clinching of fists too tightly and running with the shoulders too high to be effective. This type of poor form often results in muscle fatigue and soreness.
Deep breathing helps promote relaxation while running. This is done by taking a larger-than-normal breath and exhaling all the way out.
During the exhale part, you should concentrate on releasing all the tension in your arms by shaking them, opening up your hands and moving your head in circles. This combination of activities will give you an easy way to remain relaxed during the run and does not even need to break stride to do all of them. This is true to all the other breathing techniques in running – no requirement of great efforts but just as effective.
So practice these techniques this week in your runs. Check back next Tuesday as we look at Common Mistakes In Running.