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Running - A Beginner's Guide

By Patrick Drew, updated November, 2013

runningOriginally running came from our need to either run after and kill some food — or run away from some danger and survive. These days — as you see the multi-colored range of spandex and lycra, in some cases bulging in some not too flattering ways — you can see that things have moved on a long way from our original need. When beginning running, you need to consider your first steps.

Why running — health benefits

Running is a great way to stay healthy and feel good. It helps oxygen and blood flow through the body and strengthens the heart muscle. These benefits can help in preventing heart attacks. Running also increases good cholesterol (HDL) levels while lowering bad cholesterol (LDL). Regular running may also help control high blood pressure — and as a general cardiovascular exercise — it is a large part of many weight loss programs. As you can see, running offers a lot of health benefits.

Running is a great way to stay healthy and feel good. It helps oxygen and blood flow through the body and strengthens the heart muscle.

What should you do to begin running? First of all, if you're particularly unfit, have high blood pressure, or are overweight, it's advisable that you go and talk to your doctor about your new running endeavor. They might be enthusiastic and even provide tips, but it is still better to be safe. You need more than a fitting pair of trainers and willpower to start your new venture.

Then the key rule is — take it slowly! If you try to sprint (run as fast as you can) for the first mile on your first day you will end up in serious pain, with lactic acid build up in your muscles, a feeling of inability to get enough air into your lungs as your heart pounds away — and maybe feel like you might have a heart attack. Slowly and steadily is the right way to proceed.

How far can you run?

This depends on your general fitness and health. Are you doing any kind of exercise that includes elements of running such as soccer, football, basketball, martial arts, tennis, or hill walking to mention a few? If you already take part in these kinds of sports, you'll already have a large advantage with your running and discover that you can outrun other beginners with ease. At the beginning, running for one mile without stopping is a reasonable goal to aim for. Taking walk breaks is recommended. If you are getting out of breath or feeling sick, slow down and take another walk break. There's no need to feel bad about doing this and certainly, keep in mind that you don't need to outrun the other runners. Go for a 1-mile run two times a week with at least 24 hours break between them and try to lessen the amount of walking you do until you finish that mile. Once you accomplish this, aim to gradually increase the length of your run or the speed that you can run it in. Just make sure to warm up and stretch first.

At the beginning, running for one mile without stopping is a reasonable goal to aim for. Taking walk breaks is recommended.

How do you warm up and stretch?

Stretching looks like it has obtained a status of being an unnecessary thing to do, whether you want to know how to start running or not, particularly in city gyms where you're lucky to see anyone stretching. Always keep in mind that stretching significantly lessens the chances of injury and makes your body feel a lot better the next day. The main idea behind this is that you should warm up your muscles before you work hard on them to prepare them for the main event. You have to stretch before and after exercising. Check out our article called warm up and stretching.

How fast should I be running?

Running depends on various factors, so if you want to know how long it would take to run, there's no definite answer to this question. However, beginners can aim for a 1-mile run within twelve minutes or 2 mile run within 26 minutes. These are good times at the beginning. Running fast takes time to build up.

Where do you run?

The general answer is wherever you can! But ideally the more nature you run in the better. It is so much better for you're to run in a forest or on a beach than on a footpath. Running can be quite tough on the joints — particularly the ankles and the knees — so running on dirt, gravel, grass, or sand is the way to go!

My personal favorites include the forest and the beach. Both make for very different kinds of running (much more difficult on sand) but each have their benefits! In the forest you can almost get a springy feeling in your running, while breathing deeply in the green nature. On the beach you have to fight harder to move through the sand, and this activates more muscles producing a much more effective general workout. Running or walking in sand is actually one of the best workouts you can do, and if you are at the beach, you also can also enjoy the brisk sea air and roar of the waves.

My personal favorites include the forest and the beach.

In either case — you are far away from cars! Your body's red blood cells (which provide oxygen and remove carbon dioxide through hemoglobin) have an affinity for carbon monoxide (produced by cars) about 240 times stronger than for oxygen. That means when you run close to cars your body prefers to absorb carbon monoxide instead of oxygen — and slowly poisons itself.

This is not too dangerous in the short term — but will result in your feeling tired and maybe dizzy. All in all… better to run in a park, forest, or beach if you can.



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