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healthy lifestyles

Running - What Can It Really Do For You?

Runners and jogging. Running is the common denominator of most sports. Fitness experts generally agree that such loping along is one of the best exercises you can do to keep in shape. But is it?

The main criticism levelled at it is the stress running places on the body. The knees and leg muscles do take a beating. But there are plenty of runners in their 60s and 70s who have been running for years and continue to do so.

For others, it's simply a life-saver. As Eelco de Boer said: "I was always tired, I didn't sleep well and I just wasn't happy. At work I wasn't productive at all and I got tired very quickly. I wanted to achieve something, but I didn't know where to start.

"If someone would have told me back then that I would lose over 47 pounds, be happy about myself and that I would run a marathon, I wouldn't have believed one word of it.

"Fast forward six months ... I ran the Rotterdam Marathon!"

Running is simply too great of an exercise to dismiss. Here's a way to make running a lifelong exercise with minimal injuries.

  • First, warm up is very important. Ideally you should walk at a brisk pace for 5 minutes of more. After the body starts to get warmed up, some stretching exercises will help loosen the muscles and prepare them for the workout to come.
  • A continuous steady stretch should be used. Do not bounce!
  • Forget distance - think time. We want to work up to a nice 30 minute workout.

Your first goal should be walking at a brisk pace comfortably for 30 minutes. If you can do this now, you can move to the next step. If not, work towards that goal.

Once you can walk briskly for 30 minutes, you can move to the next step. Warm up by walking for at least five minutes. Now, begin to walk briskly and then run at a slow pace until you become winded. Then walk briskly until you recover. Begin running again. If it's 15 seconds, fine. 30 seconds - go for it. The idea is to gradually build up your running time.

Start out doing this 3 - 5 times during your exercise. You can do more if you have been exercising regularly.

Running Hot

Here's the good news. Just doing that will be a good exercise routine. Even walking for 30 minutes but getting to the point where you throw in five 1 minute runs is great! You get your heart rate to climb and when you drop back to walking, the rate stays elevated - at least for a while.

Now, if you're up to it and are so inclined, start increasing the running part of your routine. Again, a little at a time. If you injure yourself, not only do you have to stop the exercise for what might seem like ages, but you also might be less likely to pick it up again. So walk and then begin running for a couple minutes at a time. Or jog at a slow pace for as long as you feel comfortable.

Here's another tip to remember if your routine works up to running the entire time. If you run at a steady pace, then throw in faster runs of 30 seconds or more, and return to running at a steady pace to recover, you will actually get more benefit in your running routine. The sprints (not all-out but we'll call them sprints to make it easy) will force your body out of its comfort zone. You will become much fitter than you would by running at a slow and steady pace for your entire routine.

Runner's High

Now, if you want to break the boredom, run some hills. You'll feel it in your shins and the front of your thighs as you run up the hill but -and this is good news - it's actually less strain on your knees. However, be careful, and slow it down while running down the hill. Here's where your knees can really take a beating. There's a tendency to pick it up while running downhill as you have great momentum. Ignore that tendency.

Obviously, if you are training for racing, this type of routine will not apply to you; unless you are just starting to run. If you want to decrease your forty yard dash by .2 seconds in 8 weeks, you'd do well to look at something like Mark Strasser's Develop Killer Speed. But this running routine is something you can do to keep yourself fit while minimizing the risk of injury.

You will have less chance of injury and you're more likely to do it for a lifetime! It may be old hat and far out, but 'runner's high' is real - and a very enjoyable part of your exercise. Running rocks!