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Fitness Article – The Science and Art of Running Part I

“I always loved running…it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.”
Jesse Owens

Running can be liberating and fun

Running is one of the most popular sports in the world. Very much so because, you just need a pair of shoes and a good route, and you are off. Running is very liberating and it is like a not-so-quiet meditation we have with ourself, when we pant and sweat burn off the stress while subdue the raging maniac within us to find peace within ourselves. Running is a very credible and enjoyable sport in itself. IF we do it in our own pace and IF we do it correctly.

Why Running is Good 

1) It makes you breathe stronger – Long distance running helps your breathing capabilities. It enhances your lung capacity. Also do note that using proper breathing techniques like the Pranayam breathing techniques together with running also helps immensely as most of us simply don’t breathe deeply enough. The more oxygen in your blood, the less fatigued and more mentally alert we feel. We normally use shallow breathing in daily life and this does not exercise the diaphragm and lungs enough.

2)Your heart literally gets stronger from running, which makes sense because your heart is a muscle as well as the most important muscle in your body (you can live without a bicep but not a heart).A stronger heart improves your resting heart rate, which in the long run would mean that you will tire less easily. Your heart rate after a slow jog would be that of a person sitting down and playing the piano. In short – Very important for vitality.

3) Reduce blood pressure, Increased red blood cells and Increased energy levels , these all work in tandem, as you heart gets stronger and pumps blood more effectively, it conditions a reduction in blood pressure (and with it all the diseases related with a high blood pressure). Red blood cells also increase making you more efficient in carrying oxygen with less blood. These work to increase your energy levels and ability to sustain straneous activity for a longer period of time.

4) Running makes you smarter, according to scientists Cambridge and the National Institute of Ageing, running generates new grey matter in the brain. This means running can literally improve your memory. Also, physical benefits like the release of endorphins (“Runner’s high”) and reduction of stress hormones also are good reasons why you should start putting on your running shoes.

Running Makes You Smarter ? Maybe NOT in this case.

How to run correctly

Starting a running program is tricky because usually when we start running we punish and push ourselves to incredible lengths. Most times only to give up when a debilitating injury hurts us. Running is most dangerous for the beginner and most precautions should be taken when you start running. It isnt as simple as hitting the track and running your guts out and hoping to be slim  and achieve a six pack ( a diet and eight training could help you achieve that in no time).

Running is more of an Art and you have to approach it carefuly. Theres alot of noise about the pushing and never-give-up mentality and pound the ground with nothing but pure frustration and a better timing. But hold your horses for a while because …………………

Running is a high-impact activity

It has a strong potential to cause injuries from overuse, and this is especially dangerous for beginners who are high in enthusiasm and low in fitness. Beginners have lower bone density, joints and muscles that are ill suited or adapted to the stress of impact. A normal 5 km run would see your feet strike the ground at about 3-5 times your body weight for about 6000-9000 times, once off alignment, You would be asking for injuries in the long run. Thus it is important to ease gently into running and proceed cautiously.

That’s because running is a repetitive high-impact activity. Consequently, it has a strong potential to cause overuse injuries, especially in beginners whose bones, joints, and muscles have not yet adapted to the stress of repeated impact. Therefore it is important to ease gently into running and proceed cautiously. Otherwise you will surely get injured and have to take a break and start over.

Ease into it 

Start with brisk walk (or based on higher fitness level, a slow jog ) to mobilise major joints especially the lower body such as your ankles, knees and hips before moving into a sustainable and moderate or easy pace. From here gradually increase the jogging segment until you are able to jog for 20 minutes straight with proper warm up. (Aim for time first then distance)

Program Yourself 

Try not to grind yourself into the ground by working out everyday, chances are that your muscles and knees would likely give out before you do. Your legs need a good 48 hour rest between runs to repair and get stronger (especially if you have not been running for some time). Alternate runs with non impact exercises, such as weights and cycling or swimming. Over a period of a few weeks, try to increase the duration and/or frequency of each run, until you are at a comfortable and challenging position.

As below are a few running schedules for Beginner and Advanced levels

1) Couch to 5K Running Plan – For the ultimate beginner , a good guide.

2) 5 K Race training – For speedier 5K runs for beginners.

3)Advanced Marathon Training – For those who would like high levels of progression and probably end up in a marathon some day.

More in Fitness Article – The Science and Art of Running Part II (Get the right shoes!)