9 Surprising Benefits of Running and What They Can Do For Your Health and Fitness
Running has definitely been having its moment over the last few months. Gyms have been temporarily closed and exercise classes put on hold (or gone virtual- urghh more screen time!). Some centres are only just beginning to open up again, or if you’re like me, some of us still don’t fancy working out in a potential Covid-spreading hotbed! A run around your local park, or through the empty streets of London has become increasingly popular, and a preferable choice- and for all the right reasons too. Have a look at some of the benefits of stretching your legs and getting them moving in the crisp, fresh air. And read on for some top tips to getting the most out of your run.
Running is a brilliant form of aerobic cardio exercise, firing up your respiratory system and working your whole body. From your calf muscles, to your glutes, core, and arms, running will work each area, whilst increasing cardiovascular health and encouraging breathing control. It’s a great way to build up your fitness levels, by gradually upping up your time/ speed and stamina. Just make sure to stretch before and after to avoid any aches and pains/ injuries. Regular running is the perfect exercise to maintain a healthy lifestyle, whilst partnered with a balanced diet and a good night’s sleep. It’s also a great activity to reduce the risks of future illnesses, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. With a push for anti-obesity at the moment, running is a good option to burn calories, boost metabolism and leave you in a great shape, feeling energised, strong and recharged.
Not only is running uber beneficial for your physical health, it’s a great way to gain some mental space, and as a study by Asics in June revealed, 82% of runners in the UK found running a great way to help clear their mind. Whilst running, endorphins are released, encouraging positivity and a more optimistic outlook. It’s a great opportunity to destress and have a break from screens/ work etc, especially when based behind a desk at home. Spend some time to take in your surroundings on your runs- appreciate the green spaces and nature around you. You can even grab a running buddy for moral support- just remember to keep socially distanced of course! Running can also benefit your sleep cycle, with daily movement and exercise improving your sleep quality and the length of time you are asleep for. This is bound to end in more positive sleep, subsequently leading to a more positive mood. What’s not to like?!
So grab your trainers and take them for a spin around the block- it’s free, no equipment needed and totally enjoyable!
Useful Running Tip
Listen to your body
Warming up and stretching post runs is key in order to avoid injury. Your legs will need limbering up and stretching out, and your heart rate and breathing will need to feel controlled. Learn a few basic stretches or have a look at a wide range of apps which offer some great pre and post- workout routines. Fiit and The Nike Training Club apps are personal favourites of mine- both fun, quick and super easy to follow. It’s important to listen to your body and don’t push it. Inevitably, you will have tired days, some aches and pains days, and sometimes just off days. Rest days are important for muscle repair and for your mind to unwind. Allow yourself to be in tune with your body.
Keeping hydrated and fuelled up is absolutely necessary when running. As you increase your distance, you will need more energy to maintain your pace and stamina. Ensure you eat energising foods, but make sure you leave enough time for it to digest pre- run (approximately 3 hours is recommended). Slow- releasing carbs, for example porridge oats and sweet potatoes, are great for sustaining energy. As it suggests, it takes longer for them to digest, keeping blood sugar levels more stable and energy levels sustained for longer. Start your day with a bowl of porridge with berries/ banana to see the full effect on your run. Drinking lots of water is key to recovery after you’ve finished your run. Around 60% of our bodies is water, and when exercising we can lose a substantial amount of fluid through sweating and breathing, so it is important to replenish once finished.
"A study by Asics in June revealed 82% of runners in the UK found running a great way to help clear their mind"
All the gear, ALL the idea. What you wear on your runs is so important and can make a huge difference to your performance. Opt for lightweight, sweat-wicking fabrics with high compression and support. Feeling comfortable and confident whilst exercising is key. Sweaty Betty and lululemon offer some great workout gear, tailored for your body and running needs, whilst being totally chic and unique. Or for a more affordable option, but equally snazzy yet sporty, have a look at GAP and H&M. The right pair of trainers is paramount - it’s estimated that three times your body weight is exerted onto your feet when you run, so fitting the right trainer is crucial. Look for durable and breathable styles, with comfortable cushioning for high impact use. And for women, having the right sports bra is essential for the ultimate support and comfort, protecting from any chafing or unnecessary damage.
Your running playlist can make a big difference to how you feel on your run and how well you perform whilst out. Choose the right music- tunes with a good beat to match your pace, uplifting songs to increase your endorphins. Everyone has different taste, so tailor-make a playlist for your own likes. Or if you’re struggling, have a look on Spotify which has some ready-made running playlists you can give a follow!
Grab yourself a running buddy! Who said exercising couldn’t be fun and sociable? You’ll keep each other motivated and can encourage one another when you feel you’re struggling. You’ll have moral support right at your side. Or why not joining a running club? It will be great to have team incentive- run together, chat together and enjoy that post run drink! A great way to meet like-minded people too, and of all running levels and abilities. Have a look at this list of local running clubs in London here.
Set Yourself Goals
It’s great to make plans, stick to them and watch your running improve. Keep a running diary, write down your aims and tick the runs off as you go. You’ll feel a great sense of achievement and success. Gradually increasing the distance, your fitness will optimise along the way and so will your running morale! For running beginners, Couch to 5K is a great place to start- with weekly running plans provided and coaching tips to help you track your progress. This has become very popular during these strange times; find out more here.
Get Involved With Charity Events
Though they may currently still be virtual, it’s great to get involved with charity running events. Sign up to a 5km, a fun-run, or even a half-marathon, and raise money for some fabulous causes. Friends and family will be happy to sponsor you for a worthy cause and this will be a great incentive to keep up all your training.