I just joined the ASICS Rock ’n’ Roll Running Series Manila (10km distance) last Sunday. I am very enthusiastic to engage myself in this type of fitness activity once again, especially after a few years of just working out at home plus the weekend outdoor runs. I joined my last race seven years ago. The exciting experience of running with a big crowd while pushing myself to run at my best, and knowing that I could still perform well at this age, considering the circumstances brought about by the pandemic, motivated me to set a new goal for myself – to train more and run faster.
My recent running experience inspired me to write this story. I would like to introduce and share the positive effects of running (or even walking) and give tips on how you can start or restart your running journey.
How to achieve your best health (and have a runner’s body)
Running can do great wonders for your health such as fat loss, improved heart health (blood pressure, cholesterol level), stronger bones and joints, faster metabolism, increased lung capacity and decreased cancer risk.
Studies show that your genetic makeup says a lot about your running performance and how your body can tolerate and recover from running. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to give up your goal of making running (joining marathons or doing short-distance runs) your major form of physical activity or a part of your workout routine. You just need to prepare your body for the demands of running.
- Achieve a normal body weight
To avoid injuries and improve your running performance, achieve a normal Body Mass Index (BMI), which is staying within your appropriate body weight based on your height. Keep in mind that you produce a force that is equivalent to three times your body weight for every heel strike. I’ve dealt with hundreds of leisure runners, beginning and experienced marathoners who gradually managed their weight through the course of their training programs. Their weight loss results played a huge role in running performance and ability to finish a race (from 5km to full marathons). Balancing the load of running with your food intake and recovery should always be taken into consideration. Lack of awareness when it comes to proper eating and sufficient amount of recovery can always backfire especially with a high volume of run trainings. Keep in mind that overtraining can mess up with your appetite and sleep patterns. With the correct balance, you can achieve weight loss results while improving your runs.
- Improve your body composition
Your weight and body composition has big effect on your running performance. If you are still carrying extra weight, you need to focus on improving your body composition (lower body fat and more muscles) and not just total weight loss. Studies show that running is one of the most effective ways to lose body fat. You can only achieve the right balance by incorporating strength training to your cardio routines and achieving a caloric deficit by eliminating food that wont give nourishment to your body such as junk foods, alcohol, sweets and processed foods. You are what you eat. Nourish your body with vegetables, protein, good carbs, good fat and hydrate well with water.
- Train your running muscles by balancing your workout routine
You need to train your whole body, not just your lower body muscles to be more efficient in running. Your total body training for running involves cardio, strength, core, and flexibility workouts. Develop a strong core so you can maintain a good posture and endure the whole running session without hurting your back. Strengthen your upper body and back to improve your running efficiency, which is important in improving endurance while avoiding fatigue. Your lower body (buttocks, calves and thighs) is very essential for your running performance (or power which combines strength and speed).
Cross training is also essential to avoid injuries and focus on other fitness aspects that can make you become a better runner. You can try to do workouts focusing of rotation and lateral moves such as sports like tennis, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), boxing and even dancing.
Flexibility is important for injury prevention and improving your range of motion for your overall performance. You can have flexibility exercise routines before and after the run and engage in intensive stretching activities like yoga and special stretch classes designed for running. Now, you can access these types of exercises online.
How to empower yourself with running
- Embrace the idea of gradual progression
You can’t just decide to run now if you are coming from a sedentary lifestyle or if you took a long break from running. You need to start with the most basic form of fitness activity- walking. Observing your progress, one step at a time, can motivate you more to be consistent with your active lifestyle until you achieve your initial goals for yourself, such as finishing your first 5km run, or briskly walking for one hour straight without experiencing shortness of breath.
- Reset your mindset
Just sticking to a regular running schedule can already strengthen your discipline and motivation. The running experience is a great opportunity to renew your goals and create positive thoughts. Finishing a desired run training gives you a positive feeling, knowing that you are doing something for your health and fitness. In effect, you can also start dealing with other life issues with a healthier mind.
- Improve your relationship with food
Running can change your perspective when it comes to eating – that you need to eat the most nutritious food that can strengthen your body, needed to improve your performance. Now you can start abandoning your unhealthy diet behaviors like starving and restricting your body with the most important nutrients just to lose weight or feeding your body with foods that can be detrimental to your health.
How to start running
I started running seriously in 2005 with my husband alongside some of our weight management clients. The most popular races at the time were the Milo Marathon and the Yakult 10-miler run. Our enthusiasm for running made our group sign up for international full marathons (42.195 km). Prior to that, I would occasionally do outdoor runs or run on a treadmill for 20 to 30 minutes. Discovering my strengths and achieving progress motivated me to go the extra mile.
Here’s how you can start your running lifestyle:
- Prioritize safety
Consult a medical doctor and ask for clearance if you are 40 years old and above and you have existing injuries and other health conditions before you decide to pursue serious running.
- Prepare your running clothes and gear
The most important things you need to prepare are your running shoes and socks, running clothes (supportive bra, running pants or shorts and shirts), hydration or accessory belt for phone and keys, and running cap or headband. You can also get a fitness watch so you can accurately monitor your heart rate, distance, duration, and training pace.
- Proper form and breathing
While running, bring your shoulders up and back, engage your core by gently activating your abs (navel to the spine or scoop your abs), keep your torso in an upright position, bend your elbow around 90 degrees and keep your gaze forward. Breathe through the nose and out through the mouth.
- Always include warm-up and cool-down
Get the right amount of warm-up by doing brisk walking for 5 to 15 minutes, depending on how quickly your body can adjust to a faster pace. Don’t forget to cool down by walking for 5 to 15 minutes and then stretch right after the run holding each stretch for at least 15 seconds
- Try various run programs
You can start a 20 to 60-minute walking program two to three times a week, progress to walk-run, and eventually run continuously. You can increase the running duration, pace, and frequency, depending on your goals and current fitness level. Eventually, you can sign up for run races, so you can commit to your run training.
- Consider the best areas to run
You can run or walk on a treadmill, around your village, or at nearby parks. Explore new areas for running especially while you’re visiting other places while you’re on a vacation.
- Consider your overall lifestyle
Schedule your runs during the most convenient time of the day so you can make it a habit. Make sure that you always get a good amount of sleep (7 to 8 hours), get proper hydration, and include a pre and post-workout snack or meal.
- Make running fun and social
Run with your spouse, family, or friends to increase your motivation and make the overall experience exciting, especially if you are a social exerciser. You can also join a running group in your area. Share your running photos on social media or make your running blog so you can share your stories with others.
- Get some help from a coach and learn more about running
Consider getting a running coach or a fitness trainer experience in running to teach you the proper running form and technique and give your running programs appropriate for your fitness level and training goals. At the same time, read and research more about running to stimulate your interest and keep your motivation strong.
Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Instagram @mitchfelipemendoza