Healthy and Safe Running: A Detailed Guide - 6 Things You Need to Know
Running is probably the easiest form of exercise for beginners to get into. Some of the benefits of running include burning calories, building stamina and endurance and even improve overall health.
The history of competitive running dates back to the Tailteann Games; held in Ireland in 1829 BCE. The first Olympic Games including running was more than 1,000 years later in 776 BCE.
Under most conditions, people have the ability to run. You don’t need to be rich to enjoy the benefits of running, you just have to get outside and take the first step. Before you can understand the health benefits of running, you first need to know how to start running.
“Your body is a machine, and your diet is its fuel. When you train for a marathon, you quickly notice that your fuel will run out, causing your body – your machine – to feel the impact. As a marathon runner, it is imperative to infuse your body with the vital nutrients, minerals and supplementation (i.e., recreational oxygen) it needs to thrive and cross the finish line.” states Lauren Carlstrom, COO of Oxygen Plus.
Benefits of Running Starts with Safety
While running may seem very safe, there are still some things to keep in mind. Always follow safety rules and guidelines for your specific area. Any good running program starts with running safety.
Stretching is a critical part of running safety. Before exercise, your muscles are cold and tight. Moving too quickly, or too far, can easily lead to injury. According to Runner’s World, five of the best exercises to warm up before running are:
- Hip Flexor Stretch
- Leg Flexor Stretch
- Leg Extensor Stretch
- Plantar Flexor Stretch
- Hip Extensor Stretch
According to RunnersWorld, running is a whole body exercise, so don’t forget about your core, neck and arms. The same stretches used before running can be repeated after the workout to cool down muscles.
Before you head out on the road or trail running, tell someone. Inform them of your running routes, how long you’re running and your running location. How long are you running and your running map.
If you’re road running, you’ll want to face traffic. You’ll see oncoming cars easier than when you’re facing the opposite direction.
Wear Bright Colors
Your running gear should include wearing bright colors. Even when running during the day, it’s a must to wear brightly colored clothing. If you’re into night running, wear reflective materials and use a headlamp, handheld light or shoe lights to make it easier for others to see you.
Carry ID and a Phone
Carry an ID, cell phone and emergency contact information with you when you run.
Be Aware at All Times
Be aware of any vehicles or dangers around you when running. Don’t assume everyone sees you.
Alter Your Running Routes
Change your running routes based on the time of day. Altering your running routes keep your routine fresh.
Run with a Partner
Whenever possible, run with a partner. Even running with your dog is better than running alone.
Follow the Rules
If you run on multi-use trails or anywhere outside of regular roads, make sure you follow the rules. Some trails have strict rules, while others are not so strict. It’s best to make sure you follow all of the rules of the area to ensure safety.
- 6 Running Safety Tips
- 4 Essential Safety Tips for Female Runners
- Road Runners Club of America General Running Safety Tips
- Safety Tips – Running
- How to Practice Run Safety
Health Benefits of Running
Running provides many health benefits. It’s one of the best forms of exercise available to every single human capable of putting one foot in front of another.
“Running triggers the release of hormones and endorphins that are known to bring about feelings of happiness and a sense of well being. However, it’s possible to miss these effects entirely when your mind is elsewhere and you are disconnected from the running experience. Using mindfulness to tune out hectic thoughts circulating through your mind allows you to notice the transformation that happens while running. These physiological changes are central to what makes running a stress-relieving activity. Running mindfully allows us to maximize these stress-reducing effects and experience better running outcomes. Mindful running isn’t hard to learn or require you giving up running’s social and competitive aspects. But it does involve conditioning your “muscle” of attention, just as you condition the muscles of your legs.” states Elinor Fish, CEO and Founder of Run Wild Retreats + Wellness.
Some of the most common health benefits of running include:
Running for Weight-Loss
Is running good for you? If you’re running for weight loss, then yes. It’s a great form of cardio exercise allowing you to burn extra calories. In fact, running is the second most effective exercise when it comes to burning calories.
Running provides many physical benefits, but also provides plenty of emotional benefits. One of those benefits is better self-esteem. When you set and achieve goals, it helps you feel empowered and happier.
Have you heard about getting a runner’s high? Well, it’s a real thing, and it’s very healthy for your body, similar to healthy foods. When you run, your brain will start to create two chemicals which make you feel great: endocannabinoids and endorphins. These two chemicals cause the pleasurable feeling you get from running.
When you run, you develop stronger joints. Runners have been shown to be half as likely to suffer from joint issues compared to walkers.
Great Core and Leg Workout
Your legs will be used significantly during running, but so will your core. If you’ve been looking for a way to work your core, running is the answer. You will work the obliques, erector spinae, transverse abdominis and other abdominal muscles when you run.
Meditate While Running
Spending time alone away from the noise of the world provides plenty of health benefits. When you run, you can do this, and some even consider running a form of meditation. Of course, this only happens when you take the earbuds out and listen to nothing but the natural sounds around you.
Running provides many excellent health benefits. You can do it anywhere, and if you want to use one of the best forms of calorie-burning exercise, it’s time to start running.
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- FUNdementals of Youth Running
How to Start Running
Running may not be something you feel like you need to learn how to do. But, one of the benefits of running is proper technique. Good running technique helps reduce risk of injury; allowing you to run longer and enjoy running.
As a beginner to running, the right technique will help. It’s also important to understand how to get started with running. Most beginners will need to start with run/walks instead of expecting to go running for a half-hour or longer without stopping.
A run/walk allows you to learn pace and work on stamina and endurance. You will simply start by adding short running times into a regular walk. Increase the amount you run with each run/walk until you can run the entire time. One minute of running for every four minutes of walking is a good place to start.
Keep your Hands Relaxed
Don’t allow your hands to flop when you run, but don’t allow them to become tense, either. If they tense up, it could cause tension in your shoulders and back, too.
Keep your Head Up and Straight
You always want to be looking about 50 feet in front of you with your head up. Don’t look down aft your feet as it will create tension in your neck. It’s also important to keep your neck and jaw relaxed when running.
Proper running technique will have you leaning forward slightly while running. You don’t want to bend forward but lean just a little bit. Make sure you don’t bend at the waist, however. This can cause pressure on your hips.
Arms at 90 Degrees
Making a 90-degree angle with your arms is another part of the proper running form. You want to swing your arms back and forth in this position and not across your body. This helps to move you forward faster and won’t waste as much energy.
Short, Light Steps
You don’t want to take heavy steps as it will put more pressure on your joints. Aim for a mid-foot strike with the ground, and it should feel like a light and quiet tap. If you hear a loud slap when your food hits the ground, you are running with heavy steps.
Breathe in Rhythm
Runners have to know how to breathe because it will cause you to breathe deeper. However, your breathing needs to be in rhythm. Avoid taking any quick or shallow breaths as well. One deep breath for each stride is about the right rhythm for most runners.
- How to run correctly
- How To Run Properly For Beginners – 5 Running Secrets (video)
- Best Running Tips of All Time
- Proper Running Form
- New York Road Runners – Form 101 (video)
Benefits of Running Includes Choosing the Right Running Gear
Technically speaking, you don’t need running gear. However, the right running gear makes a world of difference. Beginners should start with the following:
Good Running Shoes
You’ll find good running shoes at local sporting goods stores as well as specialty retailers.
Some of the top running shoes include:
- Minimalist running shoes
- Barefoot running shoes
- Lightweight running shoes
- Waterproof running shoes
- Custom running shoes
“While there are no general statistics relating to the injuries to a specific shoe, almost every year, nearly 7 million Americans are led to consulting a doctor for foot- and toe-related discomfort, according to the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS). Moreover, recently the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) has found that more than 7 out of 10 people get blisters, suffer the pain in the heel and the bottom of the foot (plantar fasciitis) and other foot disorders. A study showed that 9 out of 10 deformities were caused by bad shoes or improperly fitted footwear. Most podiatrists are concerned about these tendencies and warn that if people don’t stop wearing the shoes only because they look fashionable ignoring comfort, this could cause serious health issues over time, particularly in old age.” states Helen Rogers from The Crossfit Shoes.
When it comes to running apparel, there’s no special clothing needed before you head out the door. But, for maximum comfort and support, you’ll want to consider the following running apparel:
- Supportive running socks
- Moisture Wicking shirts
- Running shorts
- Running tights
- Outerwear (based on the weather)
- Hat or headband
Optional Running Gear
While the basic running gear needed includes good running shoes and running apparel; there’s optional running gear to help improve performance.
- Fitness Tracker
- Waist belt pack
- GPS watch
- Eyewear for running
- Runner ID tags
- Running Gear for Beginners: The Essential, Helpful and Fun
- Basic Gear for a Beginning Runner
- Running Gear You Need – And Gear That You Don’t
- What Should I Wear?
- Running Apparel
- 11 Tips for Newbie Runners
- 10 Tips to Run Better and Recover Faster
- 20 Tips That Will Actually Help You Start Running
- Running Your Best in the Teen Years
- Why Teenagers Should Take Up Running
- Girls on the Run – 5K Training Planner
What Users Are Saying
“Man reading this reminds me of myself a year ago lol. was 240 pounds at the age of 17 , now 165 pounds. If you’re on a healthy diet, and with your age a healthy diet can just be eating real food. Tbh i lost so much weight in my first 6 months of doing cardio it was crazy. Now being a year and a half in all my leg muscles are jacked / have veins in my quads popping out. Say you run 6.0 mph pace on the treadmill Just spend 1 week or 2 doing that and increase the pace by 0.1 and keep doing that till you get to a 7 pace which is definitely the bar for running. I also recommend doing 5 minutes of sprints at a 9, 10, or 11 pace just for a minute take a break and do it again. Sprints are really good for you, and they’re short :). Keep doing what your doing man . 2 things i need to remind you is “Pain is temporary, regret is forever””
“Run mostly easy. Run some of your runs a little harder. Don’t increase your speed or your distances too quickly. But the more you run, the easier it will get.”
“Think long term. A year. It will fly by and you’ll be much faster at the end if you are patient. Also, cadence, breathing, and recovery are far more important than heel vs mid foot.”
Bottom Line on Running
Running can make a great addition to a healthy lifestyle when done safely. This kind of exercise can provide multiple health benefits, like increased strength, stamina, core strength, and joint health. However, a healthy lifestyle needs to incorporate more than running, especially since this kind of workout isn’t right for everyone.
If you are looking to combine a running routine with a weight-loss program, make sure to choose one that can be personalized to your needs.
One of the best weight-loss apps we’ve found is Noom. We love that this app offers virtual community support, an extensive food logging database, and human coaching sessions. The program’s benefits are also backed by multiple clinical studies, something that many other plans don’t have.
Right now, Noom is offering all readers a free trial.
Summer Banks has researched over 5000 weight-loss programs, pills, shakes and diet plans. Previously, she managed 15 supplement brands, worked with professionals in the weight loss industry and completed coursework in nutrition at Stanford University.