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Happy Friday, everyone!
It’s actually surprising that I haven’t gotten to running yet in these exercise posts.
My husband was a Division 1 runner in college for a while, and my son was a nationally-ranked distance runner until he hit his growth spurt. I even ran track through high school. Running was always a big deal around our household.
This weekend’s fitness posts are going to cover this sport.
Today – some basic tips for beginners…
Is Running Good for Your Health?
People who want to start running for fitness may be looking for confirmation that running, amid some of the bad press around the sport, has more benefits than drawbacks.
The truth is really that there are some of both. However, knowing this allows you to make decisions that may allow you to avoid some of the bad things. Here’s the truth about whether running is good for your health.
Pros to the Sport
Let’s start with the things about running that have good affects on your health. First, running reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease. In the Nurses’ Health Study conducted as a collaboration between Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, researchers found that the most active women had a heart attack rate that was up to 40% lower than those women who were sedentary.
Running has other positive effects on cardiovascular disease risk such as strengthening the heart muscle, reducing the risk of clot formation, preventing hardening of the arteries, lowering triglycerides and cholesterol, and raising HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. Running also reduces your heart rate, blood pressure, and the risk of stroke.
Studies have also proven that physical activity will lower the risk of breast cancer. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that those who were the most active had a 37% lower risk of breast cancer compared to the group of women who were sedentary.
Physical activity, including running, can help diabetics better control their blood sugars. It can also keep the intestinal tract running regularly, help you maintain a healthier weight, and enhance and strengthen the respiratory system. Running also helps to ease menstrual and postmenopausal symptoms, to prevent bone loss associated with age, and to prevent a decline in reaction time.
Cons to the Sport
Although there can be many benefits from running, there are cons to the sport, such as damages to muscles and joints. If you run strictly for fitness, about 30 minutes several times each week, then your risk may be lower—although injuries can happen at any time. Running on soft surfaces (trails, dirt, grass, sand) whenever possible can also mitigate the risk of injuries.
On the other hand, when you push harder, it can push your body to the limit. This can increase the occurrence of damaged cartilage, torn tendons, and potentially increases your risk of arthritis. There is also the potential for running to get expensive when you pay for gear, shoes, and any race entry fees.
Knowing these risks can help you to prevent damage by protecting your joints through stretches and strengthening of the muscles that support the ankle, knee, and hip joints. You should also listen to your body while running because you may get a warning that something is amiss.
What Do I Need to Run?
Now that you have considered some of the pros and cons of running, we can talk about some of the necessary gear.
The best running clothes should meet three requirements: fashion, function, and durability. During the hot summer months, runners should look for materials that wick moisture away from the body, breathe well, don’t chafe, and offer some support.
You should select clothing appropriate for the climate where you are running – t-shirts or tank tops, shorts or leggings, and some type of sun hat and perhaps sunglasses. Protecting your skin from the sun is also a must so sunscreen or sunblock is a consideration. Even if the sun is not obviously blazing down on you, you can still feel the effects.
However, during the winter months, the best running clothes must fit the criteria of function first. The outermost clothing should be made of material that wicks but can still keeps the runner warm. Sweat that stays close to the body will only evaporate or freeze and cool the runner’s body in a way that can be dangerous when running long distances. This layer could be an insulated light waterproof jacket or — if it’s very cold – a heavier one with a waterproof shell. The runner should also invest in running tights or wind-resistant pants to keep the legs warm and protected from the elements.
Inside the outer layer should be an under (base) layer of wicking material. This can be made of Coolmax, Thermax, Thinsulate, Thermion, polyporpolene or other materials. Men should also keep the scrotum warm. Although the body will draw the scrotum tighter to the body, some runners use the added layer of a wool sock or a special strap or athletic supporter to keep it warm.
Runners also need to be concerned about exposed skin during the winter. Many of the specialty running stores carry socks that are especially made for extra warmth and to keep the feet dry. Headgear is very important because heat is lost quickly from the head during cold weather runs. For example, if you’re running in the cold, you should use a wool hat or knit skull cap that can be tucked into your waistband if needed. Gloves and earmuffs/earbands may also be needed depending on the temperature.
The face also needs protection from the cold — Vaseline can be utilized for this purpose. It’s protective for your eyelids, nose, and other delicate skin on the face. It can also be used on the lips and cheeks to prevent chapping, between the legs to prevent chafing, and on the eyelids and lashes so they don’t freeze shut. Some people wear googles or neck protection (neck gaiters) as well.
Other Stuff: The Support Story
Support during running is an issue for both sexes. Women need a good running bra to support the breasts during the pounding from the pavement or track. Without adequate support, the breast tissue can be stretched, a condition that isn’t reversible.
Many of today’s running shorts have an undergarment attached to the shorts. Some men may find that this doesn’t offer the support that they need as they run. Instead, a pair of briefs or athletic supporter may be just what the athlete ordered.
The best running clothes for either hot or cold weather will be functional, fashionable, and very durable. They’ll last for several seasons, make you feel great when you put them on, and function to keep you warm and dry – or cool and dry depending upon the weather. Choose your clothing wisely and you’ll be very happy with the results.
Finding Running Shoes
The next step: A good pair of running shoes.
While you can buy shoes at a department store or shoe store in the mall, it may not be the best plan. Go to a good running specialty store to have your feet fitted and measured before investing time and money in a possibly problematic shoe.
A proper fit for running shoes is important to ensure the health and well-being of your feet, legs, and hips. Without the correct cushioning or function for your feet, your legs may be incorrectly positioned with every step you take.
Types of Gaits
Shoes are built for the three different ways your feet strike the ground: normal gait (neutral), pronation (overpronator), or supination (underpronator).
With people with normal gait. stability shoes are the most appropriate type of shoes. For people who overpronate, motion control shoes are the first type of shoe to try. For people who supinate or underpronate, most will need cushioning shoes. The running store personnel have been trained to evaluate your stride and recommend shoes that are appropriate for your running needs. They may need to watch you run, or they may have some other method to look at your gait. It’ll be important to discuss what type of running you plan to do –trails, streets, etc.—with the salesperson as well.
Basics of Build
The build of a running shoe begins with a strong last. The last of a shoe is the base upon which the rest is built. The heel counter should be rigid and durable. This is the part of the shoe that keeps your foot from sliding up and down in the shoe while walking or running. The outersole is the rubber on the base of the shoe.
The midsole is the most important part of the shoe. This part of the shoes is what changes depending upon the biomechanical function of the foot. The midsole controls excessive foot motion. This has implications for people who pronate, supinate, or have a normal foot position. The cushion that the midsole provides breaks down over 400-600 miles. (My husband suggests 300 miles from personal experience.)
Fit Is Key
Before trying on new shoes, you need to have your foot sized. Don’t assume you know your size. The size of your foot can change as you grow older or after changes in weight – including pregnancy.
Try to go to the store at the end of the day when your feet are their largest. It’s very important to allow for about ½ an inch from the end of the second toe to the end of the shoe. Since your foot continues to slide forward during the running stride, even after the shoe has stopped, this allows for movement and will decrease the risk of blackened toenails.
If you have orthotics that you use for running, bring them. Most of today’s running shoes have removable inserts. Try to determine the orthotic fit at the store before getting disappointed at home.
A proper fit for running shoes doesn’t depend upon the size on the outside of the box but rather how the shoe fits the foot. Many manufacturers of running shoes have different ideas about how the size matches up to the number. What is most important is that the shoe fits at the heel, across the midfoot, and at the toes.
Note: Running shoes should fit right out of the box – no breaking them in and making them feel better if they’re too short. However, you probably shouldn’t wear a brand-new pair of shoes of race day for instance.
The best shoe for the average runner is really not much different from the shoe for the elite, competitive runner. Both runners are looking for a shoe that provides great support and cushioning that also accounts for their particular biomechanical style of running. So, while you may think your needs are different than those of other elite athletes, they aren’t. Protect your feet and legs so that they will give you years of running!
This article is an overview. If you plan to start running, do your research to get more in-depth information before making any purchases. Remember, though, you should consult your physician or other health care professional before starting this or any other fitness routine.
Whew — I found this information fascinating. When I was running, I literally sprinted in Converse (Chuck Taylors) tennis shoes (I was eight). But when my son started running, he went to the specialty running store and the fitting ritual with his dad.
How things have changed! For the better I think!
There’s is tons of information about starting running. Are there any tips about shoes or clothes that any runners in the audience want to contribute? Tell us in the comments!
Tomorrow, the running topics will focus on two issues: how to start distance running and 7 tips for beginning runners.
Loving Life–The Reboot!