Strong legs, strong lungs, strong will. Such is the portrait of a typical distance runner. The good news is that you can be a runner, too.
Running carries with it the same benefits of all cardiovascular exercise: it helps reduce stress, strengthens the heart and lungs, reduces risk of certain diseases, increases confidence, brightens your mood, helps you sleep better, gives you more energy, and, in general, provides a better sense of well being. It is also a great way to burn calories.
How many calories do you burn running a mile?
Conventional wisdom says that, for every mile you run, you will burn 100 calories. But other factors play into the equation as well, including your running speed and your body weight. Generally speaking, a 135 pound person will burn about 100 calories per mile. A 200 pound person, running at the same speed, may burn 150. Obviously, the faster you run, the more calories you will burn.
Starting to run
Running can be stressful on your body, particularly on your leg muscles and knees. But you can minimize your risk of injury with a few simple tips.
Make sure to stretch before and after every run. Walk briskly for at least 5 minutes at the beginning of each run. Once you feel your body starting to warm up, do some gentle stretching exercises. Focus on steady, continuous stretches and avoid bouncing through the stretch.
If you are new to running, here is how you can work up to a 30 minute running routine while reducing the risk of injury.
Your first goal will be to make sure that you can walk at a brisk pace for 30 minutes. If you can do that, start to run at a slow pace until you become short of breath. Then walk briskly until you feel like you can run again. Continue with these intervals. You can challenge yourself by timing these intervals and working toward longer intervals. For example, maybe the first day you will run for 30 seconds and walk for 2 minutes. As your endurance increases, run longer and walk for shorter distances.
Another interval technique involves counting your footsteps, instead of measuring time. When you are first starting your running routine, you may do 100 or 200 running footsteps with 300 or 400 walking footsteps in between. Then you can work up to 400 or 500 running footsteps with 200 walking footsteps in between. Each day, try to extend the number of running footsteps and reduce the number of walking footsteps (even by just a few footsteps) until you are running for a full 30 minutes. Counting steps can help give your mind a clear focus toward an achievable goal.
It is important to not push yourself too hard. Even if you simply walk for 30 minutes and can manage to get in a couple of one or two minute runs, you are getting your heart rate up, and you will be reaping some of those health benefits. The rule of thumb is this: run at a pace at which you can still talk. If you are very short of breath, slow down or take a walk break.
Once you are running for a full 30 minutes, keep up this interval training to maximize the benefits of your running routine. For example, run at your normal pace and then speed it up for 30 seconds or one minute (or 200 or 300 footsteps).
After every run, walk for a few minutes, and stretch your muscles again.
Making the most of your running routine
Here are a few more tips to help you make the most of your running routine:
Invest in a good pair of running shoes, which will increase comfort and reduce your risk of injury.
Plan to rehydrate about every 10 minutes during your run.
The best places to run are smooth dirt roads or paths, which are not as hard as asphalt and concrete. Ask around (at your local running store, for example) for recommendations of good routes.
Finally, make sure to follow these simple safety precautions: Running with a friend (or even a dog) is safer than running alone. At the very least, tell someone when you are leaving, where you are going, and when they should expect you to return. Leave your valuables at home, vary your routes, and stay in busy, well lit areas. Pay attention to what is going on around you. That means leaving the headphones at home, or turning the volume down low. Lastly, always jog against traffic, so you can assess oncoming cars for potential danger.
A running routine is a rewarding way to build strength and endurance. Enjoy the process of developing your own strong legs, strong lungs, and strong will.