Everybody knows running is good for you. It gets your heart pumping, makes your brain and body feel euphoric, strengthens your joints and core, and you can do it almost anywhere! That doesn’t stop a lot of people from making excuses not to do it; however, a little knowledge can be a great motivator.
Here are five do’s and five don’ts to get you in the know, and get you moving:
Things to Do When Running
1. Do Stretch
It’s always a good idea to prime your body before you do any sort of exercise or go about your day for that matter, but it’s especially important when it comes to running. It will give you more flexibility, wake you up a bit, and, most importantly, help you avoid injuries; a pulled hamstring is going to affect more than just your running life.
Make sure you’re doing it right, though. Static stretching (meaning holding stretches for a long period of time) can actually reduce performance. Instead you want to focus on dynamic stretches, which means that you’re keeping your body in motion during the stretch. Things like:
- Hip circles: Rotate your hips clockwise 10 times and counterclockwise 10 times. The motion is similar to using a hula hoop.
- Walking lunges: Take long strides, and dip down into a lunge after each stride.
- Butt kicks: Walk forward and kick your back leg up towards your glutes with each stride.
- Foot circles: Rotate your foot clockwise 10 times and counterclockwise 10 times.
After your run, you can do your static stretching. Focus on the hamstrings, quadriceps, groin, and hips, but don’t forget about your upper and side body. All of you is working when you run, even though the legs get the brunt of it. A forward fold and a quad stretch is a great place to start.
2. Do Warm Up/Start Slow
Start off light. Whether you’re jogging through your neighborhood or running a 5k, don’t explode off the starting line and burn yourself out at the start. It’s tempting when you’ve got all that unused energy, but setting an unsustainable pace is a way of slowing down and getting discouraged when you’ve still got 90 percent of your run left. Ease into it and it’ll seem less daunting and also can prevent injury. A muscle that isn’t warm is easier to injure.
3. Do Watch Your Form
Form is everything. Landing heel first might be a good stride for walking, but with running you want to touch down on the front of your foot. Let the forefoot muscles catch you and absorb the impact, instead of putting it all on your knees and joints through your heels.
4. Do Breathe
Oxygen is good. Having a rhythm to your breathing is even better. A good method is to breathe with your dominant foot; that’s the foot you tend to lead with when starting from a standstill, not necessarily the one you use in kickball. As your foot lands, breathe in. The next time it hits the ground, breathe out. Simple.
Oh, and if you feel yourself getting faint, focus on breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth to quell the dizziness. If that doesn’t help, just take a break. You’re building up too much carbon dioxide in your body, so it’s good to take a moment to let you body normalize.
5. Do Push Yourself
That said, do push yourself a reasonable amount; you should be getting better at running as time goes on. Run a little farther each day or week, get a little faster, walk between intervals of running for an active rest, train like a marathon runner. As with the majority of exercises, there’s a level where you maintain your body, and there’s always another level to improve it. You’ve got this.
Things Not to Do When Running
1. Don’t Run With Traffic
It’s one of the most basic rules of the road: drive/bike with traffic, and run against it. You can only go so fast, and be so aware on two feet; increase your safety tenfold by seeing danger as it’s coming. A driver isn’t always going to see you first when they’re more concerned with sending a text or checking their makeup. One average, a pedestrian is injured every eight minutes in the United States and killed every 113 minutes. Don’t be one those.
2. Don’t Run in the Dark
That means being aware of your surroundings in a few more ways. Running in literal darkness without a light or reflector is dangerous not only because of oncoming cars, but because of roots, rocks, and anything else that can trip you up and cause you harm.
This is a contentious point since it seems so common, but don’t run with headphones in and music on. Eliminating your sense of hearing while hurtling through the outside world isn’t the safest thing to do, even though you love that song, and it helps you get in the running mood.
If you really must have that auditory satisfaction, it might be a better idea to stick to the treadmill.
3. Don’t Use Inappropriate Footwear
A good pair of running shoes is essential; it’s a major factor in your form, comfort, and ability. Make sure they fit so you can avoid blisters and another excuse not to run, but don’t get too comfortable; they should be supporting you, but too much comfort will put the power in the pumps, and take away the work from your arch and other muscles. There are a lot of running shoes to choose from, so take the time to figure out what works best for you.
In the same vein, consider investing and working up to wearing some barefoot running shoes like Vibram Five Fingers. They offer about as much support as your natural foot, but with additional protection from the elements. Another pair of running shoes wouldn’t hurt either so you can rotate them out to prevent wear, tear, and the occasional odor.
4. Don’t Be Discouraged By the Weather
Running isn’t the most enticing thing to do if you live in a place of extremes. The sweltering heat of Texas is sure to burn you out, and a New England blizzard will knock you down if it doesn’t freeze you first. The gym can be a savior, but you can’t always get there. It may seem like space in your pad is an issue for treadmills, but they’re consistent and there are plenty of treadmill models nowadays for different needs. Plus, pro-marathon runners use them, so they must be doing something right.
5. Don’t Overdo It
Running is great, but don’t run yourself into the ground. Listen to your body; if you’ve pulled something, have shin splints, or any other major pain, it’s not going to help to pop a painkiller and run through it. Stop for a break when you need to, just get back up again eventually.
Running can be a great way to lose weight, improve your cardiovascular system, and improve your overall health. But remember to take care of yourself. It may be a gradual process, but you’ll feel the benefits for the rest of your life.