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Running for a Fit Life

Love it or hate it, you’ve got to admit that running is the king of cardio and one of the easiest, cheapest and quickest ways to get into shape and start living a fit life.

Mankind has been running since the first prehistoric hunter lifted a spear. It soon became apparent that if you wanted to avoid predators and win favor with a potential bride, you’d better be faster than the next guy. Running is such a basic necessity for the survival of the fittest that almost all land-dwelling creatures can do it.

Running in the Modern Age

It’s only Man, who choosing brainpower over brute force, has found ways to get around this by mechanizing the acquisition of daily necessities.

By doing this we’ve become a sedentary race, content to push buttons and pedals to avoid going under our own steam – and it shows. Like vegetables, running has developed a bad name among this rebellious race of homo-sapiens who’d rather do things their way, i.e. easier.

However, there are thousands of people who still harness the power of running to add quality to their daily lives and enhance their well-being.

The Benefits of Running For a Fit Life

If you are physically capable of running, you should consider taking it up. Here’s why.

  • As a Tonic for General Good Health

Running gives your heart and lungs a thorough workout, helping to improve cardiovascular efficiency and health. Research shows that this increase in blood flow helps to raise levels of good cholesterol, boosts your immune system and decreases the risk of developing blood clots.

More blood flow means that your arteries contract and stretch more often, which increases their elasticity and reduces the chances of having a heart attack.

  • To Prevent Disease

Running has been proven to lower the risk of breast cancer in women and reduces the chances of having a stroke for both sexes. Doctors recommend running as a treatment for early-stage diabetes and osteoporosis and as an antidote for high blood pressure.

  • As a Weight Loss Booster

Provided you keep tabs on your dietary kilojoule intake, running is one of the quickest ways to lose weight. Running uses up energy at a rate of knots and is second only to cross-country skiing when it comes to kilojoules burned per minute.

  • To Build Self-Confidence

With running, you can start small and easily set achievable goals for yourself. In this way, running is an easy way to feel more in control of your fit life destiny and to progress one step at a time. You can work on your progress at your own pace, without having to admit defeat to anyone. You’ll almost certainly be able to do a little more every day and experience the joy of ongoing achievement.

  • Running is a Stress Buster and Decreases Depression

Like all exercise, running stimulates feel-good enzymes in your brain which instantly and naturally improve your mood. It’s difficult to force yourself to get up and active when you’re feeling down, but it gets easier as soon as you realize how much better you feel after a run.

Running also helps to increase oxygen flow throughout your body. The results of this are improved sleep, less frequent tension headaches and an overall improved attitude towards life in general.

  • Social Benefits

Joining a running club can be a fantastic way to stay motivated. When you sign up with a local club, you become part of a large sociable community. Get-togethers are frequent, and you’ll experience a wonderful sense of camaraderie both while training and taking part in fun or competitive events.

Types of Running Sports and Exercise

When we think of running our minds instinctively summon up visions of long hours pounding a long straight road in solitude, but that’s only one kind of running.

Slow jogging is the ideal way to get your fitness up, whether you do it on a treadmill in the gym, or an outdoor setting. However, running as a sport gets a lot more involved than that.

These are the different kinds of running:

Road Running

Road running is big business with huge sponsorships, prizes and prestige going to the top performers. This type of running is defined as competing on a measured course on an established road.

The International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) recognises 9 different distances for road races. These are:

  • 10 km
  • 15km
  • 20km
  • 21.097km (half-marathon)
  • 42.195km (marathon)
  • 100km
  • Marathon relay

Distances of 5km, 8km, 12km and 10 miles (16.09km) are also common though, with the first step being to comfortably run a 5km, before setting the goal to run a PB (personal best).

Usually, most of the course consists of running on tarmac and concrete surfaces with sharp bends, up- and down-hills, inclement weather and crowds (both an and alongside the track) to negotiate.

The most important criteria for success in road running is fitness, with timing coming in a close second. You need to know what speed to travel at depending on the stage of the race you are in. This all comes with experience and time on the road.

Cross Country or Trail Running

Trail running is the rustic version of road running, with contestants having to negotiate whatever nature has in store for them. Running surfaces usually include grass, gravel and earth.

A worldwide running boom has seen a huge increase in runners both on and off the road. The very nature of trail running is that every trail has its own unique challenge and varied terrain and runners love to run in nature.

A variety of obstacles such as inclement weather, heat, forests, roots, rocks, singletrack, water courses, and hills are usually part of the challenge with this kind of running.

Track Running

Track and field running dates back to the time of the Ancient Greeks and was one of the original events at the very first Olympics.

These kinds of races are usually categorized into sprints, middle- and long- distance events.

The most common sprint distances are 100m, 200m and 400m as well as the 4x100m relay race. Races over small obstacles called hurdles also take place over 100, 110 or 400m.

Middle distances may include 800m, 1 500m and 1-mile runs while long distance running incorporates the 300m, 500m and 10 000m races.

All these races take place in a stadium on grass or on an all-weather surface specifically designed for running, called a Tartan track.

Endurance Races

Most running events take place in a single day, although there are extreme versions of the sport (endurance running) which carry on for several days in a row over intensely taxing cross-country terrain.

Multi-stage events, a great way for newbies and competitive runners to explore some of the most scenic areas, are also ever increasing in popularity with some great destination stage races to add to any bucket list.

Running Apparel

You don’t need any fancy gear to take part in running, whatever is most comfortable for you does the job.

However, the importance of high-quality running shoes cannot be overstated. Get professional advice on the type of shoe you should be wearing for your specific stage of training, your running style and the shape of your foot.

The different types of running also require different kinds of shoes specifically designed for the purpose. Running in the wrong shoes is the number one cause of injuries from running.

Running socks are also a good investment as they will help to keep your feet cool and cushioned inside your running shoes.

Wearing clothing that is specifically designed from synthetic wicking material is the perfect fit if you are serious about running but is not essential when just starting out.

Ladies will want to consider a specifically designed sports bra for maximum comfort when running.

Other Accessories

A running watch is great for keeping track of your progress, as is a fit bit or other fitness tracking device. A running belt is very convenient for keeping essentials like your keys, phone, ID book and money.

Some people like to listen to music while running, and a running belt is also a useful place to keep your iPod or phone used for that purpose.

A hat or visor and sun protection are essential whenever you are exercising out in the open, even in winter. UV blocking sunglasses will help to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays.

It is essential to drink water at least every 30 minutes during your run. If you have nowhere to stop off for a drink, you’ll need a water bottle that’s easy to transport with you. For longer events and trail running, a hydration pack  – similar to a small backpack, is a great option.

Running is by far one of the best ways to get and stay fit and is included as part of a fitness regimen for many other sports too. It’s an easy way to get started on living a fit life and one of the most rewarding.

Give running a chance and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results. Ready, set, go!