If you haven’t joined the pandemic-inspired running revolution for your regular cardio fix, there are many reasons why you should consider joining the pack.
Many people laced up their running shoes to stay active during, while others used it as an outlet to manage stress, decompress and alleviate lockdown cabin fever.
READ MORE: Five Easy Steps To Start Running
Run for your health
Running is one the most effective forms of exercise to strengthen your cardiovascular and respiratory systems. The fact that a deadly respiratory pandemic is infecting millions around world should be enough to justify running’s inclusion in your regular workout regimen.
This weight-bearing activity is also one of the quickest and most effective ways to boost your fitness levels and burn calories to lose weight.
Running can burn roughly 800 calories per hour, depending on your speed and the terrain on which you’re running.
READ MORE: Becoming A Pro: Running
Jogging mind trick
Research shows that running can improve your brain function in a number of ways. One of the major benefits is that it improves brain plasticity – it’s ability to change.
This happens as new connections (neurons) are made between cells in various important areas of the brain. Aerobic exercise in general also promotes the creation of new brain cells. This improves important functions such as memory, and movement and cognitive function (your ability to think and reason).
READ MORE: Is Running A Pain In The Chest?
Smiles for miles
Running is also an extremely social sport. In this era of lockdowns, quarantines and social distancing, many people crave social contact, and running outdoors lets you do that in a safer way.
Running will also release endorphins such as serotonin and dopamine. These ‘feel-good’ hormones are associated with a drop in stress hormone levels, which helps to improve mood and combat depression and stress.
And best of all, anyone can run. All you need is a pair of suitable running shoes and a solid plan (we’ve got you covered in this regard) and you’re good to go!
To get you safely on the road, we’ve created a simple three-step plan to get you to your first 5km in just 6 weeks!
Step 1. Set a goal
While there are few actual running events planned for the foreseeable future, virtual running races have exploded in popularity during lockdown.
Entering and training for a 5km virtual run with a few friends is a great way to set a goal and add some purpose to your training.
Step 2. Get the gear
Not all running shoes are created equal. Visit a specialist running shoe shop or consult with a biokineticist or podiatrist to determine the best shoe brand and model, as well as the relevant specifications for your body type and biomechanics.
Where old injuries or biomechanical issues don’t preclude the option, neutral shoes with a wide toe box, moderate cushioning and a low heel-to-toe drop may help to promote natural movement and better running form by enhancing proprioception.
Comfortable, breathable running socks, fit-for-purpose running shorts or tights, and a shirt or vest designed using moisture-wicking fabrics will improve comfort and reduce issues like chaffing.
And a GPS-enabled watch or smartwatch with heart-rate tracking capabilities can provide valuable insights to inform your training progression (Dis-Chem offers a wide range of Fitbit devices).
Step 3. Follow a plan
All novice runners or those who have been inactive for a while should start conservatively. Your running program should follow safe periodisation guidelines, which entails a slow build up that progressively adds time or distance to your total weekly mileage.
Every run should start with a proper warm up and end with a cool down. This should include a few mobility drills, some dynamic stretching and an easy ramp-up in cardiovascular activity to promote blood flow to the legs and warm up muscles, tendons and ligaments.
And you must respect the rest. Rest days help you recover and adapt to the training. Sticking to the guidelines will ensure you derive the full benefit from each workout. Neglecting to rest and overdoing it will make the whole experience less enjoyable and can result in injury.
Follow this 8-week training plan to finish your first 5km race.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.