Running is one of the most common ways to exercise globally, and in the last year, it has increased in popularity tenfold. According to CNN, running is “enjoying a boom” due to coronavirus and the closing of gyms, and we are here for it!
We recently published an article covering the benefits of exercising outdoors. Many of us know the benefits of exercising, but implementing it is another story. In this article we’re going to give you the 411 on how to start a running routine, so that you can stay fit and healthy in the great outdoors.
What are the benefits of running?
Running is considered a type of cardiovascular activity - cardio - for short. The benefits of performing cardio regularly are extensive. We’re not going to bore you with long explanations of what you probably already know, so here’s a quick summary to get you up to date.
Running strengthens your heart, helping it to pump blood throughout the body more efficiently and intake more oxygen, resulting in a lower resting heart rate and delayed fatigue, signifying that you are getting physically fitter. This means that your heart is effectively transporting oxygenated blood to your working muscles more easily. This is known as your VO2 max - the volume per time (V) of oxygen (O2).
Running helps to lower your blood pressure and clear the arteries by improving cholesterol levels. Studies have shown that running helps to increase the ‘good’ cholesterol - high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, while decreasing the ‘bad’ cholesterol - low-density lipoprotein (LDL). One such study that examined this relationship found that the number of miles run each week directly correlated with levels of HDL cholesterol.
Those who perform cardio regularly have lower insulin and blood sugar levels, and a healthier body weight, decreases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. In fact, studies show that even if you are currently overweight, cardio has a similar effect on your body to an individual at a healthy body weight.
The outcome of improving cholesterol is a reduced risk of blood clots, stroke, high blood pressure and heart disease, as shown in research, all common causes of mortality.
Aside from the benefits for your physical health, running is also connected to some pretty amazing benefits for your mental health. You may have heard the phrase ‘runner’s high’ - a term that refers to the euphoric feeling you experience during and after a run. This isn’t simply because you did a good thing and went for a run, it refers to an altered biochemical state.
During a run, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and endorphins are released. As explored in this 2002 study, BDNF promotes neuroplasticity and acts like a ‘reset’ button in the brain - improving decision making and rational thinking, giving you a clear mind. Endorphins are feel-good chemicals that act as analgesics - meaning they reduce the perception of pain, triggering a positive feeling in the body similar to the effects of morphine, as explored in this study.
In short: running is pretty damn good for you.
How to start a running routine
Before you put on your running shoes and run out the door - it’s important to understand the best way to start a running routine, because if you are new to running, you might be pretty disappointed with how difficult it can be. As mentioned earlier, the fitter you are, the better your VO2 max. But if you’re not already a fitness junkie, you’re going to get out of breath and fatigued soon into your run because your body is not efficient at shuttling energy and oxygenated blood to your working muscles.
The best way to start a running routine is to start slow. According to Runner’s World, start a running routine by walking for 30 minutes. After doing this a few times, start to integrate short intervals of running. When you start to feel fatigued, go back to walking. As per their advice, transitioning from walking to running for the full 30 minutes can take up to 12 weeks! That may sound long, but in reality, you’re getting fitter and increasing your stamina with each workout.
The key is to slowly increase your heart rate and then maintain it. If you are new to running, what you don’t want to do is sprint and exert yourself beyond the point of no return. So start slow and keep it steady, if your heart rate spikes, slow it down, even if that means stopping completely. No one is judging you!
Even once you are able to run for a full 30 minutes, the advice still remains the same: keeping a steady pace is the key to running success. Once you’ve mastered that, you can then start to increase your pace, still keeping it steady throughout. For more information about increasing your pace, check out this article by Daily Burn.
How to make running a habit
Now that you know what to do, let’s talk about how to make it a routine. The book titled The Power of Habit gives an interesting insight into the psychology of how new habits are formed. According to the research, habits are formed by creating and reinforcing a feedback loop consisting of: cue, routine, reward. Here’s it in action:
- Cue = you see your running shoes next to your bed as soon as you wake up
- Routine = you see the running shoes, so you go for a run first thing in the morning
- Reward = you experience runner’s high and start to get fitter
The key, according to this theory, is to leave cues, reminding you to actually do it. In the case of starting a running routine, leave your shoes next to your bed, leave sticky notes on the mirror, set reminders on your phone - whatever reminds you to run, do that!
On the topic of running shoes, having the right gear is also a key component of starting a running routine. For example, you don’t want to be attempting to run in flat tennis shoes! The type of footwear you use during a run can make all the difference to your stride, posture, and performance.
Choose footwear that supports your foot's natural arch, protects against the impact of the ground, and stabilizes your ankle. FitMyFoot creates custom insoles based on state-of-the-art foot science and technology, that you can put into your running shoes to adjust the way your shoes fit you for maximum support.
We hope this article has given you some motivation and inspiration to get outside and get moving! Remember, when it comes to running: start slow and steady, and be prepared and patient - and you will get there! To learn more about FitMyFoot custom insoles for running shoes, click here. Good luck!