Many people have tried running, and many people have hated it. The roots of this displeasure can be traced to the running boom of the 1970's, when running proponents, caught up in a near orgiastic buzz, loudly pronounced that the best approach to running was longer, faster, and harder, and they did exactly that - until succumbed to debilitating injuries.
But if you do it correctly - meaning, with moderation - running doesn't have to mean pain and discomfort. More important, its potential for weight loss and fitness gains is impressive. For example, running at a sedate 12-minute-mile pace burns roughly 10 calories a minute. Kick that up to an 8-minute-mile, and you'll burn 15 calories a minute. That's 600 calories burned in a 40-minute run.
The most important concept is to stay below the threshold of fatigue and soreness. Running is great exercise, it's a great fat burner, and it's convenient . But you have to be smart about it.
Running in Moderation
Smart running means ignoring people who say that you won't get any benefits unless you're spitting your lungs up. Even the best runners intersperse hard training with plenty of slow running and outright time off to allow for recovery.
Running puts a lot of stress on your body. Each time your foot strikes the ground, it hits with a force equal to three to four times your body weight. Runners who ignore this fact and consistently push themselves to fatigue do so at their own peril.
Begin With Caution - If you're out of shape, you'll need to start slower than if you're already active but not running. The really important thing is to monitor your soreness.
If you're sore, you're doing too much, and you need to back off.
Out of shape runners start with 30 minutes of walking, three times a week. When this starts feeling comfortable, kick up the pace, but still limit the walk to 30 minutes. Then add some jogs to that 30 minutes.
Add Time To Your Routine - A lot of people are already running, though not much. Typical is the runner who notches 2 to 3 miles in 15 to 30 minutes. That's not a bad workout, but if you want to really burn some fat, you need to increase the time to a minimum of 45 minutes.
Follow The 10 Percent Rule - If your normal run is 20 minutes and one day you decide to go for 40, you're going to get hurt, not fit. Stick to a more measured approach. Each week, boost your running time by 10 percent. By giving your legs (and lungs) time to adapt, you'll find that you're no more tired after a 45-minute run than when you were doing one half as long.
Break It Up With Walking - There isn't a running cop out there who will bust you for changing pace when you start getting tired. A lot of runners, experienced and beginners alike, will alternate 5 minutes of running, with 5 minutes of walking. By allowing time to recover, you'll find it's easy to stay on the move for 45 minutes or more, and the run will be more comfortable.
Interspersing a run with walking may sound tame, but you lose little and gain much. For example, when you jog for 5 to 8 minutes, then walk a minute, you'll burn 95 calories a mile. Jogging continuously will burn only an extra 5 calories. It might sound sedate, but a combination of walking and running will turn you into a fitness animal, and it'll keep you at it.
Change Your Running Pace - Even if you're beyond walking/running stage, it's still smart to incorporate easy jogging into your hard runs. Advanced runners often take a slow jogging break every 10 minutes.
Don't Skip The Preliminaries - In a perfect world every run would begin with 10 minutes of light jogging to warm up the muscles, followed by 10 minutes of stretching. But the real world is not that generous with time, and trying to cram a run plus stretching into a lunch break is impractical. A quick way to prepare your muscles for the run ahead is to jog very slowly for 10 minutes before running. If it is cold out or you're unusually stiff, walk for 5 to 10 minutes before taking that easy jog.
Don't forget to cool down when you're done. Ending a run with a punishing sprint and a screeching halt will leave your muscles wallowing in lactic acid (a by-product of hard exertion), making you sore and stiffer. Ending your run with a 10-minute jog allows blood to flush lactic acid from the muscles.
Running is a hard sport (if it weren't, it wouldn't burn many calories), and it's crazy not to try to make it easier. Before setting out, here are a few things that you should keep in mind.
Think Soft Surfaces - As mentioned earlier, every time your feet hit the ground, they're generating a tremendous amount of force. To reduce shock to your joints, seek out soft surfaces on which to run.
Cement and concrete are the worst. A better surface would be dirt or grass, or, if there's one nearby, a running track. These are often made from spongy rubber surfaces such as Tartan, which are very forgiving on the feet.
Drink Often - This is obvious advise that runners all too often ignore. In fact, runners typically replace only 50 percent of the fluids lost during exercise. That's why they're continually confronting thirst, headaches, dizziness, and even vomiting, the various stages of dehydration.
It is possible to lose tremendous amounts of fluids when you run - up to 6 pints an hour during vigorous exercise in the heat. Neglect to replace those fluids, and you might find yourself bent double examining your shoes.
Drink 16 ounces of fluid 2 hours before a run. While you're on the road, drink 5 to 10 ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes.
Many runners swear by sports drinks. While these drinks do replenish carbohydrates and electrolytes, their most important ingredient is water. Water is the most commonly overlooked athletic aid.
Save Your Lungs - The key benefit of running is that it gets you breathing hard, but when you're an urban dweller in a sea of bus exhaust, the equation seems a bit less straightforward.
You can't avoid pollution entirely, but you can time your runs so that it's a little less noxious. On sunny days - when car exhaust and sunlight combine to form ozone - it's smart to run later in the day after the ozone has been depleted or early in the morning before it has a chance to form. Running on cloudy days is good. So is running after a thunder storm because rain flushes ozone from the air.
Running doesn't have to be drudgery, though every day thousands of runners do their best to make it so. If you're going to stick with running (or, for that matter, any exercise program), you have to shake things up now and then. Often we develop a sort of teeth-clenching, rigid approach to our exercise. We need to open our eyes, look around, and remember that we're supposed to be enjoying this.
Change Course - Many of us run the same trail in the same direction and at the same time of day - day after day. Why not do things differently?
Run With Friends - It's fun to have someone to run with. Plus, having a regular running companion means that there's someone who will boost you out of bed on days when you would just as soon blow it off. They can give you a swift kick in the rear if you're thinking about not getting out there.
Go Wild - Running off-road has lots of advantages. There's no traffic, no yammering toy poodles, and few, if any, people. Plus, dirt and grass trails are more forgiving on your joints, and the terrain's ups and downs offer a challenging workout.