Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that running has been the workout du jour for the past few years. There was a time when a weekend couldn’t go by without a marathon or a fun run being held somewhere, sometimes even two or three at different locations. Although its popularity isn’t what it used to be, running is still the go-to exercise of many a fitness buff.
It’s easy to see why people like it – it’s much like a gateway drug; easy to start, with minimal investment in equipment. What’s more, pretty much anyone can run. We’ve been doing it pretty much since we could walk on our own.
But as a proper fitness regimen, running isn’t as simple as it seems.
Why running is good for you
As a cardio workout, running is pretty great. A full-body workout, it’s ideal for losing weight and getting fit. It’s easily scalable, and can be integrated with other exercises to form an awesome interval training routine.
Because it’s usually classified as a mid-to-high intensity workout, running strengthens the bones and joints. Paired with a little strength training with the use of weights, it’s a cardiovascular exercise that is hard to beat.
Why running isn’t for everyone
However, as easy as it is to get into, running has some drawbacks. One of the most prominent being that it’s a little deceiving. Most people believe that anyone can run, and while it’s true that anyone with a functional set of legs can take up running, a certain percentage of people can’t run for exercise, and a number of those actually shouldn’t.
Why isn’t running for everyone? First, it’s hard on the joints. If you are significantly overweight, most trainers and doctors would not recommend that you take up the sport. Your joints will not take it well, and it may lead to serious injury.
Secondly, running can be bad news for the flat-footed. If your feet naturally have a low arch, then your feet have a lower capacity for absorbing impact – which running is kind of known for. If you have this foot type, running for long periods and over long distances will eventually result in pain and possibly, injury.
Third, joint health plays a considerable role in the decision of whether or not you should be running. If you have a trick knee or a naturally unstable hip, you may want to look for other alternative workouts.
Finally, if you have ever been injured before while running, you are likely to be injured again doing the same motions. So if you’ve had an ACL injury, you can’t run long distances – in fact, if you want to keep your ability to run at all, you shouldn’t.
Getting started running safely
Okay, so let’s say you’re already in prime condition to begin a running regimen. You are of moderate weight, possibly a smidge on the heavy side, with decent joint health and arches that have never given you trouble before. How do you get started?
First, you gear up. Running may need minimal equipment, but that doesn’t mean you can just go and hit the road in flip-flops and jeans. In fact, the wrong type of shoe can give you a hard time, or worse, cause you to injure yourself.
You don’t have to buy top-of-the line shoes though. Just buy the best running shoe you can afford, and if you have a pair that hasn’t seen action in years, know that you can’t just dust them off and use them again. Buy new ones. It’s an investment, and the proper shoe can save you a lot of pain in the long run.
When it comes to clothes, there’s a lot of fancy stuff on the market. However, being in a tropical climate, we do not need a lot of it. What’s more, as a beginner who is still figuring out whether running is right for you, you should not have to dish out a lot of cash for compression gear and designer tops.
You need a good, sturdy sports bra if you’re female, but other than that, anything comfy and allows you to move freely is good. You may want to upgrade your wardrobe later on, but as a beginner, it’s not as important.
Secondly, find a route. Part of being safe while running is knowing where it’s okay to exercise – preferably someplace with flat paths away from traffic and is well-lit at night is the optimal choice. You should check out running parks in your vicinity, or opt to visit athletic tracks such as those found at the Philippine Sports Plaza and Rizal Memorial Sports Complex.
Next, find a running group or a trainer. An uninitiated beginner can do damage to themselves trying to do too much too soon, or wind up hating the sport because they simply weren’t doing it right. What’s more, having exercise buddies may take the anxious edge off of starting something new and help build your dedication to keep trying.
Finally, just do it. You’ll never be perfectly prepared for everything, and trying to be is just procrastinating. Hit the road, listen to your body (and your trainer) and maybe you’ll find that you love running just as much as the thousands of people who enjoy it on a daily basis do.
Running is a great sport, but it’s possible that as a beginner you can injure yourself. Start with these basics to get running safely and develop a possible healthy lifelong habit.