About Road Running for a Fit Life
Taking a jog around the block has always been a go-to for those wanting to lose weight and get fit. Yet, there are a few things you need to know about road running before you set out if you want to make the most of your fit life endeavors.
The Basics of Road Running
In the simplest terms, road running means running on a surface made for cars. It is this surface which distinguishes road running from the other kinds of running such as trail running or track and field.
The road is also the most important part of this exercise, since it comes with its own set of unique challenges, as well as benefits.
Why Choose Road Running?
The best part about road running is the novelty, no route is ever the same from day to day, and you have an almost unlimited playing field close at hand wherever you are. You can challenge yourself with hills, bends and varied surfaces and the weather doesn’t always play along.
Since running is such a popular pastime, it’s easy to find running clubs or a running buddy to share your challenges and triumphs. You’re free to run for free whenever you want to and anyone can join in, as long as they’re physically able to.
As a cardiovascular exercise, running comes with a host of heart-boosting benefits too and it puts you on a natural high thanks to the release of mood-enhancing hormones during exercise.
Studies suggest that road running places less strain on the Achilles tendon than off-road running does since a road surface is more level and consistent than grass and sand.
However, running on hard road surfaces places more stress on the feet, lower back and knees than running on grass does. It follows that you need to take extra precautions to protect these joints while taking part in road running, and it all begins with your shoes.
Choosing the Right Shoes for Road Running
When your shoes are up to the challenge, road running can actually benefit your joints. How this works is that when you run in the correct biokinetic form and wearing supportive footwear, your cartilage and ligaments are gradually strengthened by the compression and expansion that occurs with running on a hard surface.
Shoes for road running are usually made of lighter material than their trail running counterparts, since you’re unlikely to encounter heavy-going while out on the road.
Lighter shoes mean better responsiveness and the ability to go faster. This is what to look for when fitting a road running shoe:
- It should fit like a sock with little room for friction-inducing movement.
- Despite being light it should still be cushioned enough to protect your feet.
- Ankle stability is important; you don’t want your feet rolling to either side while running.
- The front of your running shoe must be flexible enough so that you can push off with the ball of your foot.
- Breathability is important to prevent bacterial or fungal infection from sweaty feet.
- The lighter the better, but don’t sacrifice stability and cushioning for a featherlight feel.
- Reflective strips are a good idea if you’ll be running when the sun isn’t at its brightest.
With the right pair of well-fitted road running shoes, every step becomes a pleasure and you’ll find it easier to train, compete and avoid injury.
Road Running Apparel
After shoes, you can wear whatever you want when you go running, although you’ll find that having the correct gear makes it more enjoyable.
These are some of the basics that road runners find useful:
- Sun protection
- Well-fitting, breathable socks
- Comfortable vests, shorts, t-shirts or leggings
- A runner’s watch
- Headphones and a source of music such as an iPod or smartphone
For starters, all you need to focus on is comfort. You can add to your collection of high-tech clothing and gadgets as you go along.
Tips for Effective and Safe Road Running
Although running is a simple exercise that’s easy to tailor to your fitness and abilities, it does come with risks. Sprained ankles, pulled muscles, shin splints, blisters and tendonitis can happen to unwary enthusiasts who overdo it or run in incorrectly fitted shoes.
It’s vitally important to listen to your body when training. If something doesn’t feel right, adjust your pace to suit or even slow down to a walk. Pushing yourself too hard is not heroic – it’s asking for trouble.
Always warm up before a run and cool down properly afterwards. Above all, it’s imperative to increase your training distances gradually to avoid strain. While running, concentrate on your movements until the correct posture and pace become second nature.
It’s important to include recovery runs in your fitness program. These short, easy sessions help to reduce muscle fatigue and soreness after a demanding run. The best time for a recovery run is the day after a big exertion, when your pace should be slow and steady enough to have a conversation while you’re running.
It’s not all about running either. If you’re serious about reaping all the benefits of running for a fit life, you need to incorporate some other exercises into your regimen. Weight bearing exercise at the gym is great for building strength while Pilates and yoga will build flexibility and core strength.
The Rules of the Road
Over time, certain things have become the accepted norm for running training. These are the best-known rules of running:
- Practice what you plan to achieve.
- If you are signed up for a 10km run, it makes sense to train over that distance and at your desired pace beforehand. The exception is for marathons (42,195kms), and even a half marathon (21kms). These exertions need a long recovery period and have a significant risk of injury. Many training plans suggest a gradual build-up of mileage with one longer run each week and your total distance for the week being equal to the length of the marathon you have chosen. Other programs suggest that you need to run the distance at least once, to race the distance. There is of course, no such thing as a training plan that fits everyone and all programs can be adapted to suit your own rhythm.
- Increase your training distance goal by 10% every week, unless you’re in the single digits, then you can go higher.
- Don’t run until 2 hours after a heavy meal that’s high in protein and fat, you could end up with cramps. Stick to light, high carbohydrate meals if you’re heading out for a run soon.
- And lastly, always run on the side of the road facing oncoming traffic.
Now that you’ve got the basics under your belt, it’s time to take to the open road and discover the benefits, and joys, of road running for a fit life.