Guest post by Evolve MMA, Asia’s premier championship brand for martial arts. It has the most number of World Champions on the planet. Named as the #1 ranked martial arts organization in Asia by CNN, Yahoo! Sports, FOX Sports, Evolve MMA is the top rated BJJ gym in Singapore.
Running is one of the most popular exercises for many reasons. For starters, running is one of those things you can do anytime or anywhere, and you don’t need any equipment besides a nice pair of running shoes. Especially if you are into Muay Thai or boxing, you should get familiar with running (or roadwork as practitioners would call it) and incorporate it into your training routine.
Running provides you with many benefits, and even running sporadically decreases your risk of heart disease and cancer by 30 percent and 23 percent, respectively.
Benefits Of Running
A lower risk of cancer and heart disease aren’t the only benefits you get from making running part of your exercise routine. Some of the other benefits of running include:
Improved Cardiovascular Health
Running is a great way to improve your cardiovascular health and endurance, regardless of your fitness levels. Running for as little as 10 minutes per day lowers your risk of heart disease, and it cuts your risk of dying from a heart attack in half.
Running also lowers your resting heart rate – the number of times your heart beats per minute while resting. The lower your resting heart rate, the more efficient your heartbeats are. As a result, you’ll be able to enjoy your favorite physical activities for longer without feeling winded.
Improved Sleep Quality
Regularly getting quality sleep is an essential part of keeping your body healthy. Your body does most of its repairs while you’re rested, which is why you feel refreshed after a good night’s sleep. Try to schedule your runs for the earlier part of the day since running late in the day can reduce your sleep quality. This is due to another benefit of running: the release of feel-good hormones that reduce stress.
However, these chemicals activate your brain, making it harder to shut it down when you go to bed. It’s better to run earlier in the day to enjoy the stress-reducing benefits of these hormones and the alertness they cause.
Improved Back And Knee Health
Running on hard surfaces or improper shoes puts undue stress on your knees, but doing it the right way improves your knee and back health. A study on marathon runners revealed a lower risk of arthritis than the general population.
The more you run, the less likely you’ll develop back and knee problems as you age. Just make sure you try to avoid running on hard surfaces as much as possible and wear appropriate running shoes that cushion the impact on your joints.
Reduced Risk Of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections
Running helps to trigger your immune system, protecting you against upper respiratory tract infections like colds. People who run five times a week are 43 percent less likely to contract respiratory infections.
Improved Mood And Energy
Running improves energy levels and mood thanks to the feel-good endorphins discussed earlier. It also improves concentration, making it easier to handle day-to-day tasks. The positive effect of running on your mood and energy levels is so high that many experts would describe it as addictive. It’s called a runner’s high for a reason.
Builds Stronger Bones
Running is a weight-bearing exercise that helps build stronger bones, especially in the lower part of your body. Ensure you’re getting enough calcium in your diet to ensure your body has the building blocks to strengthen your bones.
Running is an aerobic exercise which means your body burns glucose or fat and oxygen as you run. It helps eliminate stubborn fat layers on your frame and burns up many calories. An hour spent running at a moderate pace burns about 500 calories.
Running is an effective way to manage your weight while improving the tone and definition of your muscles.
20 Tips To Become A Better Runner
Ready to make running a regular part of your routine? Here are some tips you should keep in mind:
1) Take Things Easy
There is no need to run long distances when you’re just starting out as a runner. As with other forms of exercise, it takes time for your body to get used to the stress running places on it.
Avoid focusing so much on distance when you’re first starting out. Instead, start by running for around 20 minutes and build up from there. Focus on the minutes spent running instead of the distance covered when you’re new to running. Run two to three times during your first week and take the next week off so your body can recover. You can then start running each week.
You can use the “talk test” to ensure you’re moving at a good pace during your runs. You should be able to chat with a running partner, even if you have to huff and puff a bit. You’re running too hard if you can barely get a word out, so slow it down.
2) Wear Running Shoes
A good pair of running shoes is a must for all runners. No, tennis shoes, sneakers, or basketball shoes are not the same. You want a shoe that is designed specifically for running. Running shoes are designed to absorb impact, reducing the stress running puts on your joints.
3) Wear Proper Attire
Proper attire makes a difference when running. Wear clothes that do not restrict your movement and keep you cool, like shorts and a T-shirt or sports bra. Clothes that wick up sweat tend to be ideal since they keep you dry and cool during your runs.
4) Eat The Right Foods
The things you eat give you the fuel you use during your runs. Running also increases your appetite since you burn up calories during your runs. Avoid eating unhealthy foods and consume healthier options like smoothies, grains, and fruits to get the most out of your runs.
An hour spent running can burn up to 500 calories, but that doesn’t mean you should stuff your face with unhealthy foods like pizza that contain more calories than that before or after your runs.
5) Keep Your Upper Body Relaxed
Try to keep your arms, shoulders, and jaw relaxed when you’re on your runs. Avoid clenching your fists or jaw while running since that can lead to cramps and soreness. Maintain good posture while keeping your upper body relaxed.
6) Use Interval Sprints On Busy Days
Some days, you might only have 20 minutes or less for your runs. It’s not a huge problem since a few minutes spent running is better than not running at all. Interval sprints are a great way to squeeze a lot of running into a short period.
Warm up with a two-minute run at a moderate pace, then sprint as hard as you can for 30 seconds. Rest for a minute with a slow-paced run and repeat the sprint.
7) Avoid Stretching Cold Muscles
This is one of the most crucial tips you should take away from this article. It’s only natural to think stretching before your run is a good idea, but there’s a specific way to go about it. Stretching cold muscles only increases your risk of injury. Instead, warm up with a light jog or walk, then perform your pre-run stretches.
8) Stay Properly Hydrated
Make sure you’re well-hydrated before your runs, regardless of the weather. The need to hydrate is even more critical if the weather is hot. Water is the foundational building block of life and makes up most of your body. Water helps regulate your overall body temperature via sweat, carries blood to organs in the body, and lubricates ligaments, tendons, and joints. Drink some water before your runs but try not to overdo it.
9) Listen To Your Body
Listening to your body prevents you from pushing yourself too hard and reduces your risk of injury. Take time off if you experience pain in any part of your body during your runs. It’s okay to run through boredom and minor fatigue, but you should never run through pain. If your runs are becoming painful or you find the soreness afterward overwhelming, you’re overdue for some rest.
10) Don’t Worry About Your Pace
Here’s a secret many people don’t know about running: your pace isn’t as crucial since you burn the same amount of calories per distance covered. It just takes you longer to cover the same distance when running slower. Go at a pace that feels good.
11) Power Up With Music
Boredom is one of the things runners often complain about, and music is one of the most effective ways to get past it. Find a genre of music that gets you motivated and excited. You want songs that make you feel like dancing in public with your two left feet. These songs will motivate and energize you during your runs.
Come up with a playlist of your favorite songs and make them a treat you only listen to during your runs.
12) Set Goals To Push Yourself
Setting goals like entering a charity race can serve as motivation for your runs. It gives you something to look forward to and more reason to get out of bed and go for a run. It also allows you to mingle and interact with other runners you can learn from.
13) Mix Things Up
Try to avoid running the same way every time you go for a run. Mix in some interval sprints to push your body more. Run as fast as you can for 30 seconds, then run at a moderate pace for about a minute before repeating the sprint. This pushes your cardiovascular system more and forces your body to burn up more fat.
14) Don’t Forget To Rest
Resting is as important as any physical activity like running. Your body does most of its repairs when you’re resting, so getting quality sleep regularly helps with recovery after a run. Make sure you have at least two days off each week when you train.
An excellent way to determine if your body needs to rest is by monitoring your morning pulse rate. Ten or more beats higher than your daily average means your body hasn’t fully recovered from your last run. Take a day off and resume running once your morning pulse returns to the average.
15) Enjoy Your Morning Coffee
A cup of coffee before your run helps to improve your endurance and speed. Avoid adding milk to it since that creates mucus that can restrict your breathing.
16) Push Yourself
No rule states you have to stick to running on flat surfaces. Move up to running up hills as your running endurance improves. Start your hill runs at a moderate pace and increase your speed as your body grows stronger.
Use a treadmill for your hill runs if you have bad knees since running down a hill puts lots of additional stress on your joints.
17) Massage Your Feet
Your feet take a severe beating during your runs, but they are often the most ignored part of the body when it comes to pre and post-workout routines. Your legs aren’t the only part of your body that need a nice stretch or massage after a run, so spend some time massaging your feet.
A simple way to do that is by placing a small ball – like a tennis ball – on the ground and rolling it from the ball of your feet to the heel. Spend about 30 seconds doing this with both feet before and after your runs.
Breathing correctly during your runs allows you to run longer distances, meaning you burn more calories on your runs. Many new and intermediate runners breathe too fast during their runs, bringing in too much oxygen while not getting rid of all the carbon dioxide in their lungs.
A simple trick that helps you to breathe properly during your runs is breathing through your nose and out of your mouth.
19) Weight Train
Improving your overall strength with weight training improves your pace and endurance. It also leads to your body burning more calories during your runs.
20) Commit To Stretching
Keeping your muscles loose and relaxed reduces your risk of injury and speeds up recovery after your runs. Make it a part of your lifestyle and aim to stretch your body at least two times daily.
Sample Running Plan
If you’re just starting out with running or have been away from it for a while, it’s crucial to ease into things. After all, you don’t want to risk injury by attempting too much too soon. Here’s a sample plan that gradually builds up your mileage and intensity over several weeks:
Week 1: 3 days/week
- Day 1: 1 mile
- Day 2: Rest or cross-train
- Day 3: 4 miles
Week 2: 3 days/week
- Day 1: 1.5 miles
- Day 2: Cross-train
- Day 3: 1.5 miles easy
Week 3: 4 days/week
- Day 1: 2 miles
- Day 2: 2 miles
- Day 3: 2 miles easy
- Day 4: Rest or cross-train
Week 4: 4 days/week
- Day 1: 2.5 miles
- Day 2: Cross-train
- Day 3: 2.5 miles
- Day 4: Rest or cross-train
That’s the basic idea of building a running plan. Gradually increase the distance you run by half a mile each week until you reach the target distance you want to be able to run. Taking a week off is okay if you feel exhausted after your first week of training. Get back to training the next week and slowly increase the distance you covered. If you can’t run a mile when starting, try to get as close as possible and time your runs to measure your improvements.