If it suddenly seems like everyone you know has been bitten by the running bug, it's not your imagination. Running had grown in popularity as a sport even before the pandemic, but the number of people participating in running exploded during the shutdowns.
In a recent survey conducted by a popular athletic shoe review website, 28.76% of those surveyed said they'd begun running from 2020 to 2021. The survey also found that outdoor sports, including running, were the most popular fitness trend of 2021. In other words, running for fitness is more popular than ever, and for some very good reasons.
If you're thinking of taking up—or have recently started—running for your health, we have some tips, tricks and information to help you stay motivated and motivated. From understanding the benefits and choosing the right equipment to setting reasonable goals, here's our guide:
- Why Running Is So Good for You
- Types of Running
- How To Start Running: 10 Tips for Beginners
- Running in Different Types of Weather
- Need Some Motivation? We All Do
- What Are You Waiting For?
Why Running Is So Good for You
The proverbial runner’s high gets a lot of press, but it's only one of the many mental, physical and emotional benefits of running. From better cardiovascular health to improved self-image, runners get a lot of perks from their chosen activity.
Running Is Good for Your Body
Running regularly does so many good things for your body. Like any aerobic exercise, it has benefits for your cardiovascular system, but it doesn't stop there. Research shows that running can:
- Improve your heart health
- Lower your cholesterol
- Reduce your A1C
- Help you reach and maintain a healthy weight
- Support your immune system
- Brighten your skin
- Reduce blood pressure
In fact, it turns out that — despite years of belief to the contrary — running may actually be good for your knees if you do it the right way. More on that later.
Running Is Good for Your Brain
That runner's high mentioned above? It's absolutely a real thing. In fact, running—whether indoors or out—has quite a few benefits for your brain. They include:
- Enhanced cognitive function.
- Memory boost in older adults.
- Improved ability to focus.
- Increased blood flow to the brain.
That increased blood flow to the brain carries a whole host of benefits, both mental and emotional. Good blood flow is essential to brain health. Blood carries nutrients and oxygen to your brain and removes metabolic waste products. Maintaining healthy blood flow to your brain helps keep your brain cells younger and more flexible. Maintaining healthy cerebral circulation reduces the risk of memory loss, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, cerebral hemorrhage and cerebral edema.
Running Is Good for Your Spirits
The emotional, spiritual and mental health benefits of running have a lot of crossover with its physical effects on the brain. Better blood flow also means a more efficient and healthier neurotransmitter response, which helps regulate and boost mood. The emotional and mental health benefits of running include:
- Reduced levels of cortisol, the stress hormone
- Improved mood
- Reduced risk of depression
- More positive self-image and increased self-confidence
These benefits continue long after your workout. There's even evidence that regular workouts that include activities like running may rewire your brain's response to stress in the long term, and some early research suggests that running may help grow new brain cells.
Types of Running
"Running" is a huge umbrella covering a whole world of different activities. There are long runs, short runs, fast and slow runs, running on smooth surfaces or over obstacles, trail running, cross-country running, races, and so many more. These are some of the best-known running events and activities you'll likely encounter.
Meep meep! Road running includes any type of running on paved roads, paths or sidewalks. It's one of the easiest ways to start running because you don't have to hunt down a track or a gym. All you have to do is step out your front door and get started (just remember to warm up first!).
When you step off the beaten path, you're getting into the realm of trail running. Trail running takes you out into nature and exposes you to obstacles and hazards that can trip you up. While the risk of injuries is higher, you get to enjoy nature up close and personal.
The track, whether at a gym or an outdoor track at your local college or high school, offers a combination of safety and convenience when you're training. It's especially suited for speed training and sprinting, though it's a good choice for beginning runners who are just trying to learn their stride. It's also a good place to meet other runners if you really don't enjoy running alone.
Treadmills give you the option of running without braving the bad weather outside. Running on a treadmill at the gym or in your living room is generally easier on your joints than running on pavement or track. Most treadmills let you adjust the incline, pace and resistance so that you can vary your workout, and there are excellent apps that let you simulate known trails and train for running races on them.
If you've got that competitive spirit, racing might be just the ticket for you. There are races of varying lengths and terrains, from 5K’s to ultramarathons of more than 100 miles. If you're interested in racing, a charity fun run—often less than 5K—is a good way to get your feet on the track. Raising money for charity with each step you take is a powerful motivator.
How To Start Running: 10 Tips for Beginners
It's relatively simple to get started running. You don't have to pay a small fortune for equipment, training, and gym access. You can run on the street, in a gym, on a trail or on a treadmill in your living room. You can run alone, with a group of friends or as part of a team. Running is easily one of the simplest, most affordable, most flexible and most beneficial types of physical activity.
As easy as it is, you should follow a few best practices before you hit the pavement for your first serious run. Being prepared will help you get the most out of each workout and reduce the chance of overdoing it or getting discouraged and giving up.
Talk to a Health Professional: Getting a physical checkup before starting any new training regimen is always a good idea. This is especially important if you've been relatively inactive for a year or more or if you have any chronic conditions or physical limitations. Your doctor will probably be happy to support your efforts to get more physically active and can offer you advice and cautions based on your specific needs. Note: If you are diabetic, you absolutely should talk to your doctor. Running is excellent exercise, but it can affect your blood sugar differently. There's no reason you can't run, but you should take a few extra precautions.
Invest in the Right Shoes: A good pair of running shoes is the single essential piece of equipment for any runner—but the definition of "good running shoes" depends on how and where you intend to run. Visit a shoe store that specialises in running gear and get an expert fitting, preferably with gait analysis. Keep in mind that your shoes should also be right for the surface you'll be running on. The more information you have, the better fit you'll get.
Find a Training Plan: Whether your goal is to run around the block or finish a marathon, you need to train up to it. You'll find some great beginning runner training plans online, or if you prefer a more personal touch, you can talk to a trainer at your local gym. The key is to create consistent, achievable goals that work with your lifestyle and gradually increase your endurance and capacity.
Learn How to Warm Up and Cool Down: Running puts a lot of stress on your body. Stretching before and after your run reduces the risk of injury and helps keep you more mobile and flexible. Most experts recommend dynamic stretches before you run and static stretches post-workout.
Start With Interval Running: The run/walk method combines short periods of running with periods of walking to give your body time to rest and recover. Interval running puts less stress on your body, making you less likely to overdo it and get injured. Most trainers recommend you start with one minute of running and one minute of walking, repeated 10 times. That gives you a gentle 20-minute workout to start. You can gradually increase the amount of time you spend running until you are running a full 20 minutes.
Keep It Light: Keep your workouts manageable but consistent. Run with a buddy and keep a conversational pace—you should be able to speak in complete sentences. Slow down and walk a bit if you're too out of breath to do that. You'll build endurance as you train. For now, you want to avoid burning out.
Practice Good Posture: There's much to be said about running form and plenty of time to get technical about it. For your early training, though, focus on maintaining good posture. Keep your head up, eyes focused on the road about 10 feet in front of you. Try to keep your back straight and your shoulders relaxed and back. Swing your arms naturally from the shoulders, with your arms bent at the elbows and hands relaxed.
Stay Hydrated: Whatever the weather, you're going to sweat, and when you sweat, you lose water. It's important to start hydrated, stay hydrated and end hydrated. You should aim for 6 to 8 ounces of water for every 20 minutes of running.
Nutrition for Running: You also shouldn't run on an empty tank. Eat a light snack that's high in carbs but low in protein, fibre and fat about 90 minutes to 2 hours before you start running. Pack some high-energy snacks to take along with you as you get into longer runs. The accepted rule is to eat about 100 calories after running for an hour and another 100 calories for every additional 45 minutes of running.
Include Other Types of Training in Your Routine: Other types of training can enhance your running by improving your cardio health, core strength, endurance and other physical attributes that make you a better runner. Consider strength training, yoga, cycling, swimming or some other sport.
Running in Different Types of Weather
In an ideal world, you'd always be running in perfect weather. In the real world, however, you'll have to consider the temperature and weather conditions when you head outside for a run. Running safely means different things in different kinds of weather.
Cold weather running:
- Keep your runs short in the extreme cold and avoid running in the early morning and late evening.
- Dress in multiple layers and take advantage of sweat-wicking technical materials. That includes your socks! Cotton socks can be absolutely miserable in the heat or the cold.
- Dress as if it's 15 to 20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature. You will warm up once you get running.
- Do go by the "feels like" temperature. Wind chill and dew point can make it feel colder than it is.
- Cover as much exposed skin as possible. That means hat, gloves, running tights and a neck gaiter.
- Use Vaseline and lip balm to prevent chapping and windburn on exposed skin.
- Wear running shoes with extra traction if you're running in slick conditions.
- Wear light, reflective clothing for visibility.
Hot weather running:
- Know when it's safe to run. Stay inside if the temperature is above body temperature and the humidity is high.
- Dress in loose, light-coloured clothing. Again, technical fabrics that wick sweat away from your body are your best options.
- Wear sunscreen.
- Hydrate before you run—about 10 to 15 ounces of water 15 minutes before you head out is a good rule of thumb.
- Stay hydrated during your run. Bring water with you and drink every 20 to 30 minutes during your workout.
- Be alert for signs of heat illness. If you feel nauseous, dizzy or have the chills, stop running, get out of the sun and drink water. Call for help if you don't feel better.
- If you're feeling overheated, splashing water on your head, the back of your neck and under your arms can help cool you off quickly.
- Don't push yourself. It's easy to get overheated quickly when the temperature climbs.
Need Some Motivation? We All Do
Getting started running is easy. The trick is staying motivated after the novelty wears off. These tips and tricks can help you stick with running even when the going gets tough, and you're tempted to slack off.
Pick a time to run when you feel most energised. If you're a morning person, schedule your runs before you get started for the day. If you need a pick-me-up at the end of the day, set aside time for a post-dinner run. You can even take off at lunch to get in a 20-minute run. Having a regular time for running will help establish it as a habit.
Run with a group. It helps keep you accountable and can provide some social stimulation to spark your anticipation.
Set achievable goals and track your progress. There are some great apps that help you track and map your runs. You can even share your progress on social media and collect high-fives from friends who tell you how inspiring you are.
Ramp up slowly. Pushing yourself to the limit may be tempting, but running doesn't have to wear you out completely. Aim for running at a comfortable pace for about 80% of your workout, and save the hard pushes for race training.
Sign up for a race. Whether it's a fun run or a marathon, you'll have the incentive to keep training—and your friends will cheer you on the whole way.
What Are You Waiting For?
The biggest motivation of all is this: Running quickly becomes its own reward. Once you get into the habit of running regularly and feel all the benefits, you'll find yourself looking forward to your daily break from routine. So what are you waiting for? Now that you know how to start running, you just have to take the first step.
- RunRepeat - 120+ Running Statistics 2021-2022
- Johns Hopkins Medicine - The Truth Behind the Runner's High and Other Mental Benefits of Running
- The American Journal of Sports Medicine - “Running To Lower Resting Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis”
- American Academy of Dermatology - How Your Workout Can Affect Your Skin
- Medline Plus - Exercise and Immunity
- The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness - “Does Running With or Without Diet Changes Reduce Fat Mass in Novice Runners?”
- Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise - “Significant Dose-Response Between Exercise Adherence and Hemoglobin A1c Change”
- Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology - “Walking Versus Running for Hypertension, Cholesterol and Diabetes Mellitus Risk Reduction”
- American College of Cardiology - Reduced BP, Arterial Stiffness in First Time Marathon Runners
- Healthline - Is Running Bad for Your Knees?
- Scientific Reports - “Benefit of Human Moderate Running Boosting Mood and Executive Function Coinciding With Bilateral Prefrontal Activation”
- Journal of Alzheimer's Disease - “Exercise Improves Memory, Boosts Blood Flow to Brain”
- University of Texas - Exercise Boosts Blood Flow to the Brain
- Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise - “Differences in Sustained Attention Capacity as a Function of Aerobic Fitness”
- Healthline - Cerebral Circulation
- Harvard Health - Exercising To Relax
- International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health - “A Scoping Review of the Relationship Between Running and Mental Health”
- Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise - “Effects of Emotional Exposure on State Anxiety After Acute Exercise”
- American Physiological Society - “Running Changes the Brain: the Long and the Short of It”
- Women's Running - Running To Boost Self-Confidence