One of the many movements that come naturally to most living beings is running. You take one step after the other and that becomes a walk; then you increase the pace to start jogging and finally break into a run. Unfortunately, what once came naturally has now become strenuous and exerting for most of us. We hardly remember the last time we went out for a quick jog.
Taking the stairs rather than the elevator is usually the first step towards being active. And making a commitment to start running isn't easy as well. After years - or probably decades - of rusting (not resting), running seems alien and unnatural to the body. But if your determination is rock solid and here to stay, it is imperative to take caution and start slow, gradually building up your stamina and complementing it with a well-balanced diet.
New to running? Fret not. Follow these points to amp-up your running routine sans the injuries or discomfort -
1. It's Not a Rat Race: Don't try to rush back to being how active or fit you were at a particular stage in life. You'll get there and beyond but you first need to understand the current situation. Also, don't compete with anyone else around you. Start slow, make a solid foundation so that you don't get hurt in the process.
2. Time on Feet More Important: You'll notice that in the running community everyone is too obsessed with numbers of all kinds. I suggest you don't worry about distance and speed for the first few months. Simply focus on 'time on feet'. In a couple of months, once your foundation is solid, you can decide to do what you want to do. But till then simply enjoy the journey. Do it because you want to do it, not for the rest of the society around you.
3. One Step at a Time: Start by alternating gentle walking for 1-5 minutes with brisk walking for 1-5 minutes. Repeat 3-6 times. For the first week or two, simply stick with this. Yes, no running yet.
4. Walk and Jog: Once you are comfortable moving at brisk pace 5-10 minutes non-stop, it's a good idea now to start jogging a little. Start alternating a 1-5 minute brisk walk with a 1-5 minute jog. Repeat 3-6 times.
5. Strength Training is Important: You need to start doing whole-body strength training to make it more comfortable for you when you run. It'll help you run more efficiently, preventing injury. Strength training could be done at home or at a gym, using body weight, machines or external weights.
6. Don't Resist, Just Let Go: It might sound very philosophical but this is the most basic tip for running. The more you resist, the more unnatural will it become and more mistakes you'll make. Start by relaxing your shoulders and jogging in one spot.
7. Easy Long Breaths: Whether walking or running, you need to start working on your breathing. Don't take it for granted. Soon enough, when you start running, you'll get out of breath and start taking very shallow ineffective breaths. Practice breathing when you start walking by taking a long breath, hold it for a second or two and then breathe out. This will then become a natural process even when you are running at a very fast pace.
8. Listen to Your Footsteps: If you can hear them, you are too loud. Be soft on your feet.
9. Listen to Your Body: Initially your body will tell you to just stop because it's not going to be comfortable. It is suggested that for the first 3-4 weeks follow the above advice, but if there is pain that persists for a couple of days, seek medical help. In a month, you'll know what feels right.
10. Proper Running Shoes: For people who have just started running, barefoot running is not a good idea. First learn how to run better and then do what you feel like, but for now, just pick up a decent running pair based on your needs, keeping a lookout for proper cushioning and midsole technologies.
11. Hydration and Diet: Have a sip or two of water every 10-15 minutes, but no more. It is also a good idea to have an electrolyte mix like Electral over plain water. Never run right after a meal. Give a break of at least two hours between your last meal and the run. After a run, it's important to have proteins within 20-30 minutes.
So be at it, and don't give up. Happy Running!
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