Running for Health and Fitness - Better Health Solutions

Running for Health and Fitness

Running for Health and Fitness-A special Report

 Introduction:  Why Run?

In every city, state, and country around the world you’ll find people who run. Yet each of these people has their unique reason for running. And trust that some of them started running for one reason and it changed or evolved as they changed and grew.

Ask anyone whey they run and you’ll hear a variety of answers including, but certainly not limited to:

  •  Because it’s fun
  • It helps me sleep
  • It’s my stress reliever
  • Because my doctor told me to
  • Because my husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend does
  • To lose weight
  • To get the race t-shirts
  • To control my blood pressure
  • To keep my metabolism humming
  • To increase/maintain my hormones/libido
  • To be part of a community
  • It’s easy
  • It’s the fastest way to burn the most calories
  • To lose weight
  • Because you don’t have to join a gym
  • For the runner’s high
  • To avoid cancer/diabetes/heart disease
  • Because my friends do

The list could go on and on. The point is that everyone has a reason to run. Before you begin running it’s important to find your reason. You can have many reasons of course and like many your reasons may change over time. However, if you try to start running without a reason, it’ll be difficult to stay motivated. Running because you think you should usually isn’t enough to get through the first mile.

Since you’re reading this report, it’s safe to assume that you’re already interested in running. You may have already laced up your running shoes a few times and hit the pavement. Great!

The goal for this report is to introduce you to the benefits of running, the different types of running and then take you through the planning and training process. You’ll learn about the different types of gear, gadgets and online support tools you can use. You’ll also learn how to create your own running program, stay motivated and how to take your running program to the next level. At the end of the report you’ll find a nice glossary of terms because runners have their own language.

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Inside This Report

Over the next twenty pages you’ll discover…

  • The benefits of running – including a better sex life!
  • How to find your reason for running
  • How to get and stay motivated to run
  • How to track your runs, and why it’s important
  • If barefoot or minimalist running is right for you
  • How to sign up for your first race
  • Why you may choose to run on a treadmill
  • How to find the perfect shoes for your feet
  • New running apparel choices to consider
  • How to calculate your MHR or Maximum Heart Rate
  • How to set your personal running goals
  • What type of running is best for you
  • How to get off the couch and start running pain free
  • How to increase your speed
  • What to do before and after your run
  • How to stay hydrated
  • How to prevent the most common running injuries
  • How to take your running program to the next level

How to Use this Report

This report is designed to help you start a running program that fits your personal needs, style and goals. Every runner is an individual. Some people run to reduce stress, others run to lose weight

Some people run three miles every day without fail. Others prefer to switch it up and run as part of a larger fitness program. You may decide that you want to run a mile a day or you may train for a marathon. The great thing about running is that you can find a style and goal that makes you smile.

Running is fun. The key is to make sure you’re running for yourself and that you have created a running plan that is motivating and enjoyable.

Let’s get started!

Benefits of Running

 Chances are, if you’ve decided to start running, that you are aware of the many benefits of running.
Significant Weight Loss

One of the most significant benefits of running is the opportunity to lose weight. In fact, you can burn an average of one hundred calories per mile when you run. This number increases with intensity and with weight. A person who weighs 200 pounds will burn more calories at the same intensity level than a person who weighs 150 pounds. This is because the heavier person has more mass to move.

Longer, Better Life

Studies have also show that people that run have reduced disability later in life. They also live longer. Many people run because it is good for their heart and lungs but did you know it’s also good for your bones? Yes, running is also a strengthening exercise, like lifting weights. It reduces a person’s risk for Osteoporosis.

Reduced Risk of Disease

Exercises like walking, jogging, and running also reduce your risk of diabetes by 58%. And studies have shown that running strengthens your heart. The Nurse’s Health Study found that women that exercise three or more hours per week reduced their risk for heart attack by 35%. It also reduces your risk of breast and colon cancer.

Smarter and Happier

Running makes you smarter! It has been shown to improve your cognitive function by 40%. And running has been shown to reduce the risk of depression and actually improve mood.

 Better Physical Consciousness

When you run you are in tune with your body. You’re conscious of each breath and each step. You pay attention to the signals your body is giving you.

Improved Sleep

Several studies have found that scientists have shown that people who exercise regularly and intensely spend more time in stage 3 and 4 slow-wave sleep. They also found that runners, particularly older runners, fell asleep faster and were more alert during the day than non-runner. There is a caveat. Endurance runners, people who run ultra marathons, see a decrease in their quality of sleep.

A few more benefits to consider…

Better sex drive – Studies have shown that both men and women enjoy an increased libido. Additionally, men who run are better able to maintain an erection.

Slowed aging process – Running seems to slow the aging process. And the older you are the more pronounced the benefits.

Pattern of success – Each running goal you achieve, no matter how small, is a success. With each success you begin to feel more powerful – as if you can accomplish anything and guess what..? You can!

 How to Get Started Running

 So you know the benefits of running and you’re ready to get started. Before you tie your shoes and head out the door it’s important to make sure you’re getting started on the right foot, literally and figuratively.

Step One: Why Do You Want to Run?

 Here’s the kicker, if you’re running because you should or because someone told you to, it may be difficult to get and stay motivated. It’s important to want to run. If you don’t want to run, consider trying another sport – one that interests you. It sounds harsh but running can be challenging. You may grow to love it, many do. However, unless you’re super disciplined it may be tough to get to that point.

So…why do you want to run?

Here are some reasons people run:

  •  To lose weight.
  • To get in good shape.
  • Because running is fun, or it looks like fun.
  • Because you’re competitive.
  • To do smoothening with a friend or partner.
  • Because the doctor said to.
  • To prevent disease
  • To reduce stress

If you’re unsure, spend some time thinking about your motivation. Here’s the interesting thing about running. Your motivation and reasons for running will change over time. Most people start running for one reason and continue running for another.

For example, an endurance runner may have started running simply because it was an efficient way to get to work in the morning and much faster than taking the bus or driving. Over time, he realized how great he felt when he ran and expanded his distance and view of running. Now instead of running two miles to work he runs 10 miles a day and thirty on the weekends.

Another runner may have started running to lose weight and enjoyed it so much that she now competes locally in most races wearing her race t-shirts like trophies.

Trust that your reason for running may change over time. And your motivation may wane from time to time too. When your motivation wanes or if you have difficulty getting started, use these motivation tricks of the trade:

Tricks, Secrets, and Tools for Running Motivation

The Ten Minute Test

Many runners, even those who love to run, find it difficult to get out the door some days. Try this trick. Instead of telling yourself that you have to run for your full time or distance, just give it a five or ten minute effort. It’s easier to motivate yourself to run for five or ten minutes than it is for thirty.

And once you’re out and running you’ll likely want to continue your run. If you don’t, don’t sweat it. We all have bad days. At least you gave it the five or ten minutes you had.

Journal and Track Your Runs

Most running experts, personal trainers, and fitness enthusiasts share this bit of advice – track your workouts!

Why?

Tracking helps you see where you’ve been and where you want to go. It is motivating. For example, if you’re tracking your runs and you see that you are gradually increasing your pace it may motivate you to run a little faster and reach a new personal best. When you can see where you’ve been it helps you set bigger and better goals for your future. And writing down your runs hold you accountable.

There’s also an information benefit. For example, many running journals offer room for notes. They ask about pace, distance, and perceived intensity level too. So you can write down how hard you worked, if your water bottle leaked, if you had side stitches or if your shoes were rubbing in a new location on your foot. All of this information can help you plan your runs and have a more enjoyable experience.

Let’s talk a little bit about they types of running journals available.

Mobile Applications and Websites

In the age of the internet and mobile devices that can essentially organize your entire life you probably won’t’ be surprised to learn that there are websites and mobile applications that you can use. Some common ones include:

MapMyRun

This is a fun online tool that also has a mobile application. In addition to being able to log your runs and track vital information, it’s a nice tool to find good running routes in your community too. You can review courses based on length in your area. You can also add your own run, comment on other people’s runs and use the site to find friends, form online groups, and connect with other runners.

Nike+

The Nike+ community is particularly useful if you use Nike+ technology. However you don’t have to have anything Nike to gain benefit from the site. You can set goals, track your runs, and connect with other runners for tips and motivation.

LogMyRun

This is an easy to use, and free, mobile application that provides a wealth of features including a weekly and monthly mileage average.

Devices and Gadgets

Technology has also come a long way. The old fashioned pedometer, while still a useful tool, has been replaced by accelerometers. These tools measure your steps and movement in three directions. They can also measure intensity and track your calories burned.

They’re amazing data collection devices!

While they can be expensive, ranging from $99 to several hundred, if you’re motivated by data and are devoted to your new running program you may find them well worth the expense. Some of the most notable devices include (but are not limited to):

FitBit

The FitBit device was one of the first accelerometer devices. It tracks steps, calories burned and calories consumed. You clip it on your clothing and can wear it 24/7. It also tracks your quality of sleep.

BodyMedia

The BodyMedia devices are armbands that you also wear 24/7. Like the FitBit they track steps and calories. The BodyMedia fit also tracks intensity.

Nike Fuel

The Nike Fuel Band is a new device that tracks all of the same information that the FitBit and BodyMedia devices track. However, it also tracks something they call “Nike Fuel.” The “Fuel” component is a new concept and is likened to effort, intensity and quantity of movement. You earn fuel points the more you move.

Most of these devices also have mobile applications and/or websites. You can log on and track the food you eat each day, the calories you’ve burned, the miles you’ve walked and much more.

#3 Reward Yourself

Are you motivated by rewards? Many are and it’s a nice way to celebrate your accomplishments. For example, do you have your eye on a new fitness gadget or apparel? Instead of buying it outright, work for it. Set a goal and when you’ve achieved that goal then you buy the item as a reward.

Other rewards might include things like:

  •  Watching your favorite television show
  • A night off
  • A day off
  • A hot bath
  • Your favorite comfort food
  • New music for your MP3 player
  • Relaxation time reading a book or listening to music
  • Time out with friends

Think about what you value and set up a system of goals and rewards. It can be extraordinarily motivation and its fun to celebrate your success.

#4 Sign Up for a Race

There’s little that competes with the excitement of a race. The day is filled with anticipation and anxiety. You want to do your very best. When you sign up for a race it’s almost a surefire motivator.

You’ll begin planning immediately to train for the race to achieve your desired results. It kicks your rear into action to be sure.

For example, if you sign up for your first 5K race, and be sure to give yourself at least two months to train, you’ll almost immediately sit down to determine your race goal.

Maybe you want to finish in 27 minutes. That’s about a nine minute mile. If you’re currently running 11 minute miles you’ll need to create a training plan to achieve your goal.

#5 Social Accountability

Online and in person, the people around you can be motivating. Offline you can find accountability partners by teaming up with friends or joining running clubs.

Online you can use the power of social networking to hold yourself socially accountable. For example, you might post your daily run on Facebook or connect with runners on a forum like Runner’s Lounge.

There are many ways to hold yourself accountable for your running goals. Your family can be incredibly supportive. Running with a spouse or having your child ask you if you’ve completed your daily run can be fun and motivating.

Finally, set small and achievable goals to stay motivated. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed if you’re focusing on large goals like running a marathon. Smaller goals, like trying to add one mile to your distance each week are easier to accomplish and focus on.

Large goals are good, however it’s easier to succeed and to find motivation for smaller goals like running every day or decreasing your running time by thirty seconds.

Step Two: Explore the Different Types of Running

Once you know why you want to run and you’re motivated to get started, it’s time to think about what type of running you want to do. There are actually many different types of running and places to run.

Barefoot Running

Every decade or so there’s a new running movement. This seems to be the decade for Barefoot or minimalist running

Barefoot running is the practice of running without shoes or with minimalist shoes. The theory is that standard running shoes force your foot to work unnaturally.

In traditional running shoes your toes are smooshed together. They’re unable to spread out and absorb the full impact of each foot strike. Additionally, traditional running shoes have thick heel cushioning. The toe of the shoe is actually quite a lot lower than the heel. This forces your foot to hit differently than it is designed to by nature. Your heel hits first and then you roll through your foot and push off with your toe.

This type of impact and foot strike can cause injury. Barefoot and minimalist running shoes are designed with little or no heel raise. The shoe is flat. Your foot feels the ground beneath it and responds naturally. You’ll find that if you run barefoot you run more lightly and your foot will strike the ground in the center of your foot rather than at your heel. The theory is that this natural foot strike is better for your body. You’ll suffer fewer injuries to your knees, shins, ankles and hips.

Now there’s a lot of news lately about the number of injuries barefoot runners seem to be incurring. The reason is simple, they’re doing too much too soon. If you’ve spent your life running in shoes and you take them off and try to run the same amount you’re going to hurt yourself.

Your foot needs time to spread out, adapt to running without shoes, and get stronger. Barefoot running isn’t for everyone and it’s not the right answer for people who have foot problems. However, if you’re interested, it is definitely worth further investigation. Just remember to take it slowly!

Trail Running

If you love being out in nature or running in less trafficked areas then trail running might be right for you.

Trail running is exactly what it sounds like, running on trails. The trails can be paved and wind through your community parks. They can be gravel or dirt too. One of the reasons some people prefer trail running over other types of running is that running on gravel or dirt is softer and easier on the joints.

Trail running can be peaceful too. There’s nothing like communing with nature while you exercise. You may encounter animals, cyclists, and hikers when you run but you most certainly won’t have to breathe in car exhaust or stop to cross a street. Trail running also provides variety.

There are downsides to trail running. If you’re running alone you will want to take extra safety precautions. Carry mace or pepper spray and tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back. You may want to carry a cell phone too. And trails can be uneven and require more attention to your footing. Trail running shoes can help you maintain traction and support your foot and ankle too.

 Chi-Running

Unlike trail running which is location specific and barefoot running which is equipment specific, Chi Running is something you can do anywhere and you can wear any type of shoe.

Chi Running is a running form and philosophy. Created by Danny Dreyer a notable ultra marathon runner, Chi Running is a combination of the practices of Tai Chi and running. It’s a form that works with your body’s natural movements to make running more natural and less prone to injury.

“The cornerstones of Chi Running are postural alignment and relaxation because the combination of the two is the best way to run faster, farther and injury-free. Chi Running includes: landing with a midfoot strike, using a “gravity-assisted” forward lean and engaging core strength for propulsion rather than leg strength.”

This may sound a bit complicated, however once you learn the movements, you’ll immediately notice the difference. Chi Running offers books, videos, and local coaches to help you learn the running form.

Treadmill

For many new runners, the treadmill is the go to apparatus. It’s convenient. You can run in the morning in your pajamas or in the evening as you watch television. A treadmill also offers you the ability to modify your run on the fly by pushing a few buttons. And many treadmills come with integrated technology so you can run with a personal trainer like Jillian Michaels motivating you as you go. And there are fun programs that let you run on the beach, through the mountains or on the streets of Paris.

The downside to running on a treadmill is that it’s a different running form than outside. You generally don’t hold onto anything when you run outdoors, unless you’re pushing a stroller. Additionally, people tend to run with a different posture on a treadmill. One common complaint about treadmill running is that it is boring. That can be alleviated with music or some other form of entertainment. If you’re looking for a convenient way to get into running a treadmill may be your answer.

Here are a few other types of running to consider –

  •  Competitive – sign up for a race and train to win.
  • Long distance/endurance – marathons and ultra marathons are the foundation of endurance running.
  • Track running – if you have an outdoor track nearby consider using it. The surface is good for your joints and it’s easy to track your distance. It’s also a nice way to easily measure intervals. However, indoor tracks that are in gyms can be harder on your joints than cement so take care.
  • Cement/Asphalt – if you run in your community this is what you’ll be running on. You may find that one surface is easier to run on than another.

Step Three: Get Geared Up

Okay, you know why you want to run and you have a plan for where you’re going to run and perhaps the type of running you want to do. The next step is to get the gear and equipment to run.

One of the wonderful things about running is that you really only need one thing to run is a good pair of shoes. Running shoes run from $30 to $300 and they come in a variety of styles, types, and materials.

Your choice of shoe may depend on your running style. For example, if you’re going to try barefoot running you may start with a pair of finger shoes like the Vibram Five Fingers. If you’re running on rough trails then you may want trail running shoes.

If you’re running on a treadmill, track, or around your neighborhood then you’ll probably opt for traditional running shoes. There are three types of running shoes. Each type is designed for a specific foot type and foot strike. They include:

Motion Control Shoes

otion Control shoes are rigid and prevent a person’s foot from rolling around. These shoes are generally recommended for people with low arches, flat feet, or overpronation meaning their foot rolls to the inside edge when they run. Motion control shoes can be quite heavy because of the structure needed to keep your foot rolling optimally.

Cushioning Shoes

Cushioning shoes as you might suspect offer an abundance of cushioning. They’re recommended for people with high arches. If you have a high arch then you’re likely running a bit on the outside of your foot. This impact can cause problems up your leg. The extra cushioning in this type of shoe can reduce or eliminate those problems.

Stability Control Shoes

Stability Control shoes combine both motion control and cushioning elements. They’re generally lighter shoes and are designed to support a person’s existing running motion without altering it. They’re generally recommended for people with normal arches and an even foot strike.

So How Do You Find The Right Shoes?

There are three essential ways to find the right shoe for your foot and running form.

#1 Trial and Error

Try different running shoes until you find the shoes that work the best for you. This method is not recommended because it is expensive and can hurt your feet.

#2 The Wet Foot Test.

Wet your foot and step on a piece of paper. Do you have flat feet, high arches or a normal arch? Use this to choose your shoe type. You might also take a look at the bottom of your shoes. Where are they worn?

#3 Gait Analysis

This is the recommended way to find the right shoes. A gait analysis is something that is provided by many specialty running stores. They’ll put you on a treadmill and video tape you running for a minute or two. It sounds a bit intimidating but it isn’t. It’s actually quite interesting and informative.

The staff member will then talk to you about your running style and ask you a few questions. Based on your answers and your gait analysis they’ll recommend a few shoes. Try them all on and give them a test jog. And remember that you don’t have to buy the shoes from the associate. You can take their recommendations and search online for the best price.

Your shoes are definitely the most important piece of equipment you need to get started running. However you may find a few other pieces helpful too.

Shorts/Tights

When you run you want something that won’t rub against your skin. Friction can be painful. Look for loose running shorts for warm weather and tights for colder weather. You might also enjoy compression tights and shorts. These are said to help support your muscles so you can run with less energy and it takes less time to recover.

Support

It goes without saying that when you run you bounce. Male or female, there are some things on your body you just don’t want to bounce. Wear support garments like compression underwear for men and sports bras for women.

Shirts/Tops/Jackets

Like shorts, you ideally want a top that doesn’t rub. Some people prefer cotton t-shirts while others enjoy moisture wicking technical shirts. You may find that you have issues with friction on your nipples – this happens to men and women. A tighter shirt may reduce the friction. Some runners have been known to tape their nipples too. This generally happens more to endurance runners.

Wind breakers and wind vests also help keep you warm and keep the wind off of your skin. They’re useful during all months except the warmest summer months. If you’re running in the cold weather, layers under a wind breaker may be the best option. You can unzip and remove layers as you warm up.

Accessories

  • Gloves – Running gloves are great for the coldest days and should both wick away moisture and keep your hands warm..
  • Hat/Visor – Look for a hat with a brim so it keeps the sun out of your eyes. During the winter you may prefer a knit hat. In the summer a baseball hat or visor works well.
  • Traction – In the wintertime, if you’re running on snow and ice, consider getting traction devices. These strap to your shoes and prevent you from slipping on the ice. If you’re running in the snow gaiters can keep the snow out of the top of your shoes.

Other Gear to Consider

Reflective Gear

If you run in the dark or at dawn or dusk consider adding a bit of reflective tape or gear to your equipment. A reflective vest, head lamp and even a flasher that attaches to your waist can help cars and bicycles see you.

Sweat Band

If you struggle with too much sweat consider sweat bands for your wrist and/or head. They make visors and hats with built in sweat bands.

Road ID

Road ID bracelets are small bracelets with a metal placard on them. They contain your emergency contact information. They’re light and easy to wear and may save your life.

We already talked about gadgets like pedometers that can track your steps and intensity level. You may also be interested in an MP3 player and GPS tracker. You can buy them individually and there are companies like Motorola and Nike that sell combination devices.

Let’s talk about heart rate monitors…

There are two basic types of heart rate monitors. There is the traditional method. This includes a strap around your chest and a receiver on your wrist. The receiver is usually a watch and may offer some other health tracking features.

Newer heart rate monitors look like watches. There’s no strap that you put around your chest. Instead, you touch a specific location on the watch and it measures your heart rate through your finger.

There are pros and cons to both. Some people struggle to get accurate readings with the watch style of monitor. Others dislike the feeling of a band around their chest. Regardless of the method you choose, there are definite benefits to wearing a heart rate monitor. The most important benefit may be that it helps you know how hard your body is working. You can also use your heart rate monitor to guide your training runs. Here’s how:

Step One: Know Your MHR

Maximum Heart Rate. There are two common ways to calculate this number. The first is to subtract your age from 220. So if you’re 40 years old then your MHR is 180.

The other is to use this formula – 205 – (.5 x your age). If you’re 40 then it’d be 205-20 which is 185. Note that there’s not much difference between these two calculations.

Step Two: Your Running Goals

Your target heart rate is usually based on a percentage of your maximum heart rate. For example, if you’re going out for a relaxed run then your target heart rate would be 65% of your MHR. Continuing with the example of a 40 year old that target heart rate would then be 117.

Target heart rates for a tempo run would be 85% and interval repeats might push you all the way up to 95% of your MHR.

So a heart rate monitor can help you know if you’re working hard enough or too hard. Additionally, if you’re overweight or struggling with disease your doctor might recommend using a heart rate monitor so you don’t push your body too hard too fast. Heart rate monitors aren’t expensive and they can be a very useful running tool.

At this point you’re probably wondering if you’re ever going to get around to actually running. You’ve collected your gear and gadgets. You have your shoes and you know how and why you’re running. Guess what..? It’s time to put your feet to the pavement.

It’s time to start running!

Step Four: Start Running Already

 If you’ve never run before then there is one word of advice that most experts will give you….

Start slow.

Pushing yourself too hard too fast can result in frustration, pain, and injury. Try to get up off the couch and run for three miles and you may very well make it and do a respectable job. However, you may not enjoy it and the aches and pains that follow will not be worth it.
Give your body, and your mindset, time to acclimate to running. How? Easy. Use the walk, run, walk method.

One of the best ways to quickly acclimate your body to running is to start with a plan that alternates running and walking. It’s called interval training and you’ll use it often throughout your running life.

Step One: Set the Foundation

Go out for a mile walk/run. Walk to warm up your muscles. Once you’ve walked for about ten minutes, run. Run at a moderate intensity. You’re not gasping for breath but you feel your body moving. Run for as long as it is comfortable. In the beginning this may be just a minute or two.

That’s fine. Record how long you ran. Now, slow down and walk again and walk until you feel ready to run again. Record how long you walked. Run for the same amount of time you did the first time. So if you ran for two minutes the first time, run for two minutes now. Alternate walking and running until you’ve completed your mile.

Step Two: Repeat

The next time you go out for a run, hopefully within a day or two, repeat the same time and distance. Walk and run for a mile alternating walking with running. If you ran for two minute intervals the first time then run for two minute intervals this time.

Step Three: Begin Increasing.

On your next run try to add at least half a minute to each running time. IF you ran for two minutes last time try to run for two and a half this time. If you can increase it by a full minute, wonderful. With each subsequent run, add more time to your running time. Eventually you’ll be running the full mile.

Step Four: Adding Distance

Most new runners eventually start running about three miles each time they go out. The three mile goal is a good one because it’s about thirty minutes per workout. It may be longer or shorter depending on your pace and fitness level. Once you’re running for the full mile you may want to begin adding distance. Add a quarter mile to your run each week.

For example, you’d run 1.25 miles this week, 1.5 next week, 1.75 the week after and so on. This gradual build up helps ensure you don’t deal with overuse injuries. It’s also motivating because the goals are achievable and it gives you a quantitative number to aim for.

Step Five: Increasing Your Speed

Once you’ve reached your three mile mark and are running three miles on a regular basis, three to four times a week, you may want to begin increasing your pace. Interval training is a wonderful way to do that. Remember how you walked and ran in the beginning?

Now, instead of walking and running, you’re running at a comfortable pace and alternating it with segments of running full out. These short sections of increased intensity will help you build stronger muscles and increase your speed. They also burn more calories!

If you’re wearing a heart rate monitor you can use it to help guide you to choosing the right intensity for your intervals. This five step plan works well for the majority of runners. The benefit of a program like this is that you set the foundation based on your needs and fitness level. You’re in control of the pace and how intense your runs are.

Now, regardless of your fitness level and running goals there are a few things to do before and after each run.

Pre and Post Run Preparation

There’s a long standing myth that you should stretch before you run. You can stretch but you certainly don’t have to. It’s more important that you stretch after your run when your muscles are warmed up and pliable. In fact, some people believe that if you stretch before you run it can affect your performance and cause injury.

It is important, however, that you warm up before you run. You can jump rope, jog in place or just walk for a few minutes to warm up your muscles. After your run, take a few minutes to stretch your hips, hamstrings, quads, and calves. You might also stretch your feet, neck, sides and ankles too.

What about Food and Hydration?

If you’re going to be out running for more than thirty minutes, or it is particularly hot outside, it is recommended that you take water with you. You can carry a water bottle, use a hydration belt or carry a small hydration pack on your back. It depends on your preference.

If you’re going to be out running for more than an hour you will likely want additional calories. Gels, bars, and beverages with calories in them like Gatorade can help provide the additional energy you need.

With both food and hydration it’s important to experiment to find the system that works best for you. Experts recommend taking a sip of water every ten to fifteen minutes. If you need to set a reminder on your watch, then do it. Staying hydrated is important to your health, performance, and safety. When you return home after your run, drink enough that you have to use the bathroom within an hour.

Post Running Food

While you may not need to eat much, if anything, on your run when you return you may feel hungry. One common challenge people find with running is that they consume more calories post run than they just burned. If you’re running to lose weight this can be a problem.

There are a few things you can do. The first is to drink when you get home. Don’t eat right way. Instead, drink a full glass of water, or two. Wait twenty minutes. Thirst often mimics hunger and it can be easy to confuse the body’s signals. Eat foods that are high in fiber and will fill you up quickly. Lean protein is excellent for your muscle recovery too. Peanut butter on an apple or a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread can do the trick.

Proper food and hydration are essential to staying healthy and injury free on your runs. Speaking of injuries, let’s take a look at a few of the most common injuries and how to avoid

Common Running Injuries

Shin Splints

Shin splints are a throbbing, aching, and sometimes burning pain in your shin. It’s also called tibial stress syndrome. It can be caused by overpronation (running on the outside of your feet). It can also be caused by stress fractures and overuse. Good shoes and proper running form help reduce the potential for shin splints. Also, remember to start slowly. Injuries are often caused by overuse.

Runner’s Knee

One of the most common injuries to runners are knee injuries – specifically, runner’s knee. It is caused by overuse. People who suffer from runner’s knee feel pain under and around the kneecap. Work on strengthening the muscles round your knee on your off days. Leg lifts are a good way to strengthen those surrounding muscles. When the muscles around your knee are stronger they help keep the kneecap in place and thus reduce the potential for runner’s knee. #3 Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis

This foot injury is caused by low arches, weight gain, overuse, and shoes with little or no arch support. The Plantar Fascia is a thick band that stretches from your heel to your big toe. Injury to this band is extremely painful. The good news is that it can be avoided and treated by purchasing supportive running shoes and following a moderate training program.

Blisters

Most every runner gets a blister from time to time. They’re caused by friction in your shoe which may be the result of moisture collecting. Ill fitting socks and shoes can cause them too. If you have a large blister, drain it. Reduce the pressure by popping the blister and make your way home.

If you have a small blister, you may want to leave it in tact and finish your run. When you get home clean the blister thoroughly and cover with a bandage.

Preventing injury is usually a matter of starting your running program slowly and increasing your distance and speed realistically. Tools like a running journal and a heart rate monitor can help you create the kind of gradual program that ensures you meet your running goals without injury or incident.

So what do you do once you’ve reached your original running goal? That’s what the next and final chapter is dedicated to.

Step Five: Kicking It Up a Notch

 Once you’ve reached your initial goal what’s next? How do you stay motivated to run? How do you continue to improve? The world of running is wide open to you. Once you’ve achieved a solid three mile base you can do anything you set your mind to. Let’s explore some of the options.

Sign up For a Race

If you can run three miles without stopping you can run a 5K. This is the introductory, and most popular, race distance. It’s a good way to step up your running program, challenge yourself, and learn something new about running. Many people love the 5K race distance so much they never race any other distance. Others gradually increase their race distance until they’re running marathons and ultra marathons.

The choice is yours and there is no right or wrong way to race. Race because you love it and you find it motivating. Even if you don’t consider yourself a competitive person you may enjoy the camaraderie a race provides. Race days are exciting days. Everyone is out cheering and you feel motivated to run.

Improve Your Running Form

Signing up for a race isn’t the only next step you can take. You can try to become a better, faster runner. One way to do this is to improve your running form. Very few people have perfect running form. However, the better your form the easier it is to run. You expend less energy when you have good form.

What Does Good Running Form Look Like?

Your upper body including your shoulders, arms and hand are relaxed. Your arms move side to side in response to your feet. They match your stride. However, they do not cross in front of your body. If they cross your body it causes your torso to rotate which uses energy.

Good form includes good posture. It means you lean forward from the hips instead of at your waist. One good way to accomplish this is to visualize a string running from the top of your head down to the center of your belly, keeping your spine in alignment.

When you need to increase your pace, lean forward at the hips, keeping your spine straight and your shoulders relaxed. Gravity will pull you forward. When you want slow down, if you’re running down hill for example, stand up straight or lean back just a touch. You’ll automatically slow down.

What about your feet? You want your feet to stay underneath you. If they stretch too far forward you’re forced to land on your heel. If your feet are behind you then you may land more on your toes. Keep them under you for the best foot strike. If you want to increase your pace, instead of making your strides longer, increase your turnover or how fast your feet hit the ground.

It is worth the effort to improve your running form. The better your form, the easier your runs will be and the fewer injuries you’ll suffer.

Increase Your Speed, Endurance and Strength

Another goal you might consider is to increase some aspect of your running abilities. You may decide to run further or faster, or both.

There are a few practices that can help you improve your running endurance or speed.

Cross Train

Add strength training and/or flexibility training to your weekly workout plan. Try yoga, lifting weights, or Pilates.

One Long Run

You can add distance to your running program by adding one long run to your weekly plan. Remember to take it slowly. If you normally run three miles a day, then make your long run a five miler.

Speed Workouts

Add intervals or hills to your run to increase your speed. Intervals are short periods of intense exercise. For example, if you’re out for your daily three mile run and you’re running at a comfortable pace, you might increase your speed and effort for two minutes and run as fast and as hard as you can.

You then return to your comfortable pace. Alternating between a comfortable pace and a higher intensity pace helps burn more calories and improves your ability to run faster. .

Conclusion

You may decide that you’re content to run three miles a day several days a week and that’s enough. There’s no reason to change your running program or set new goals if you are content. The key is to make running something that you enjoy and look forward to every day.

At this point you are now ready to lace your shoes and head out the door to start your new life as a runner. You’ll find that you’re happier, more energetic, and you’ll enjoy better health.

The first step is to read through this report from beginning to end. Then sit back and think about why you want to run and what you want to accomplish. Then create a step by step plan that supports you to achieve your running goals. You can do it!

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