Monday, April 7, 2008

[Feature] Born to Run - A Non-Runner's Guide to Running

When I tell people that I enjoy running, I usually get 1 of 2 reactions: the 'Good for you! That's so awesome, I run too' reaction, or the 'Ugh, I HATE running!' one. I'm a newbie to running myself, but I have to say that there is really nothing like a runner's high, or knowing that you pushed your body to the limit and was successful at it. And as someone who just six months ago couldn't run a mile without thinking she was going to DIE, I think I've come a long way in a short amount of time. I'm here to tell you that, yes, running is hard no matter what level you're at, but it's never too late to start doing it, nor is it impossible for you to become a runner. I'm not an expert on it by any means, but I've come to really enjoy the sport, and I know that if I can do it, you definitely can too.

Why I Started Running
People start running for various reasons, whether they want to lose weight or get healthier. Basically, I've secretly wanted to be a runner all my life. It just seemed a cool thing to do, but I never could get myself to actually do it. One day, I got tired of my usual elliptical-for-an-hour routine at the gym, and I got on a treadmill. I wanted a challenge, and running was definitely it. The great thing about running is that you're constantly challenging yourself, and it's definitely a battle with your mind, not with your body. Everyday is something different- I'm either pushing myself to run longer, harder, or faster, but it's always something new, and I really enjoy that aspect of it.

Benefits of Running
This is a no-brainer. Running is one of the most rigorous cardiovascular exercises you can engage your body in. It allows a person to burn an average of a 100 calories per mile, which is a lot more than say biking or walking, which would only burn a fraction of that. So for weight loss, running is a great exercise option. Health-wise, running helps lower blood pressure by maintaining the elasticity of arteries. Running also keeps your lungs strong by encouraging the use of the 50% that normally go unused, maximizing its potential. And running regularly will prevent muscle and bone loss, thus helping to fight the aging process. Convinced yet??

Where to Begin
Ok, so great, you now know why I started running and the benefits of it. But what do you do when you're new to the game? Well, for starters, I like running because you don't need an equipment and you can do it anywhere. All you need are your sneakers and a road.

Make sure you have good shoes, because that's really important. To make sure you're getting the right fit, it's not a bad idea to get a shoe fitting from an expert. Road Runner Sports (there's one in Paramus) has what they call a Shoe Dog, a system in which they ask you questions about your running style and analyze the way you run to find your perfect shoe match. You don't need to get this extreme about it, but investing in a good pair of sneakers will go a long way.

A good posture is also important. You want to be efficient with your running so you're not spending any unnecessary energy. Stand tall (NO hunching over), keep your abs tight, and keep your arms at a 90 degree angle by your side. Also remember to breathe properly, meaning deep breaths in and out, no shallow ones.

Set a goal. Mine was to just start with 1 mile. I slowly but surely worked my way up from that. I have a couple of pending goals at the moment, which include more mileage and faster runs, but it's good to start small and build up. If you just want to run, I wouldn't necessarily worry about distance or speed, and just concentrate on time. Run at a pace you feel comfortable with, for about 15 minutes and build from there.

Another goal of mine is to start running outside more, once the weather becomes warmer. Right now, I prefer the treadmill because it is easier than outdoors running, and I go to the gym at night when it's dark, so I can run without worrying about being kidnapped or getting hit by a car. But treadmill running can become habitual and stagnant, so I figure a nice change of scenery, running partners, and my ultimate 08 goal of running a 5K will motivate me to run outside more. If you're also looking to run a 5K or a half/full marathon, there are plenty of training guides out there for that kind of stuff, like these: 5K, Marathon

I can't run without the music on my iPod. Studies have shown that listening to music during activity makes people exercise longer and harder, as well as distract them from negative inhibitors like fatigue. So experts suggest that to really pump you up, you should be listening to songs that are between 120-150 b.p.m. (beats per minute). Most commercial dance and rock songs fall somewhere in this category. So make a playlist and get running!

A couple of songs on my running mix:
Young Love - Find a Way
Muse - Hysteria
Fort Minor - Remember the Name
Janet Jackson - Feedback
Notorious B.I.G - Hypnotize
The Dandy Warhols - We Used to Be Friends
Jennifer Lopez - Do It Well
Madonna ft. Justin Timberlake - 4 Minutes

So that's pretty much it. There's a ton of literature out there about running; I've only covered a couple of things here. Bottom line: running is not that bad, it won't kill you, and anyone can become a runner with a little dedication. Remember, it's like 80% mental, 20% physical. And I'm serious, if I can do it, anyone can do it. See you on the road!


Anonymous said...

ohh, that's so cool

Anonymous said...

Summer, I shall run again.

Anonymous said...

really makes me want to go running!

Leo said...

Muse is pretty kicking music to run to. No Britney? gasp.

Howard said...

"running partner", eh? =)

And any specific 5k's in mind??

Howard said...

umm... nix the double quotes from my last comment. They don't belong there =P