Stories of people shedding five stone, raising thousands of pounds for charity, even people brought back from the brink of suicide have amazed me, in my quest to discover the benefits of running.
Why is running such a popular way to keep fit? Obvious factors would be the weight-loss and fitness benefits, which are quickly reaped from running, but there are also impressive psychological gains to be made. It is now a recommended sport for people who suffer from clinical depression and can also help people battling with addictions by releasing ‘feel-good’ brain chemicals called endorphins. Sufferers report feelings of empowerment and ability to focus when they run, allowing them to be alone without pressures.
Most people begin running to lose a few pounds as it turns your body into a calorie burning furnace! Combined with healthy eating, jogging is an efficient way to get into shape with the added bonus of physical fitness thrown in.
Getting the best results in the shortest time will mean jogging little and often, it will be a slow process if you are only willing to go once a week. But, bear in mind that you can run anywhere at anytime, why not take your trainers to work with you and run in your lunch hour, replace driving to the shops with running or make a day of it and go out somewhere picturesque where you can enjoy beautiful scenery. That’s the beauty of running it’s versatile and it’s free!
It is important for beginners to start slowly and cautiously and not expect too much too soon. Going it alone means you will be your own mentor and remembering to take these steps before and after running is essential for your own well-being;
Jog slowly around to warm up and get the blood flowing to your muscles. Remember; don’t stretch before you run.
Sip your drinks. Guzzling too much water too quickly can flood your body.
Stretch all your muscle groups for 15 to 20 minutes afterwards. This is important for your muscles to cool down and for your heart rate to return to normal.
Continue to re-hydrate your body over the next 24 to 48 hours.
Purchasing correct fitting, comfortable running shoes is a must for everyone, if only for the fact that sore feet make running become a painful and unpleasant experience. Shoe specialist Graham Richardson explained to me some of the fundamentals about finding the best shoes for you.
“For a beginner I make sure that the shoes are as snug as possible so the person will want to keep going, for the runner who is a bit more established we can look at taking pressure away from certain areas of the body to help keep your running style as efficient as possible for longer. Hopefully making your running more enjoyable.”
With over 20 years experience in the running industry Graham is extremely knowledgeable and is an expert in footwear. Visited by ‘wannabe’ runners frequently, I asked him how he encourages fresh faces to take up the sport; “I would always say; be sensible in how you approach this new adventure, is there someone you know who also might want to do this? It is great to have a partner to share your ups and downs with. The biggest hurdle is your own mind and getting past the fear of people seeing you if you are not the Amazonian goddess type female. Once you get past this you can progress quite quickly, but again, sensibly.
Incentives which may entice some of us to take to our feet are endless:
• Sense of achievement (work towards goals)
• Improved health
• Mental and emotional strength
• Clarity of mind
• Raise money for charity
• To enjoy time alone
• Meet new people
• Boost self-esteem
It is understandable that people feel they can reach new heights when running, nurturing emotions and dealing with dilemma’s as they go. The only few things to remember are that it’s not a race (initially!) and well fitting trainers are paramount.
Remarkably, finding out about running has completely changed my view. Bad memories of plodding along red-faced and gasping for breath have been replaced by a genuine desire to begin a training programme and what’s even more astonishing is that losing weight and getting fit are merely the beginning.