Running has long been a tried-and-true activity for boosting cardiovascular fitness and burning lots of calories. But how you first approach running can make or break your long-term success with this popular sport.
To help you start off on the right foot, we turned to Christopher Clementoni, an avid runner and brand marketing representative at Reebok Canada in Montreal. Here, he shares his best tips for making the most of a new running routine.
Progressing from walking to running
Walking helps you stay active, but if you’re ready to step up your fitness game, running is a logical progression. ‘Some of the main advantages to running over walking are increased muscle activity, endurance-building and increased calorie burn,’ says Clementoni.
Compared to walking, however, running produces more impact on your legs, which is what increases muscle activity in that area. You can limit a bit of that impact, if need be, by running on a treadmill, says Clementoni. However, weather permitting, many people especially enjoy the fresh-air experience that outdoor running provides.
Get fitted for the right running shoes
Another way to help manage running’s impact on your muscles and joints is to ensure that your shoes fit well and that they were designed for running. This helps you ease into running with greater comfort and confidence.
‘It’s all about fit,’ says Clementoni. Go to a store where they understand running, measure your feet and consider specific issues such as foot pronation. Some running-gear stores will even let you test-drive shoes and exchange them if they just don’t feel right after a couple of runs.
And don’t rule out new trends in running gear, such as minimalist footwear. ‘Minimalistic is the science of creating a lightweight shoe with very little, if any, midsole,’ says Clementoni. “This encourages the runner to land on the ball of the foot as opposed to landing on the heel, which allows muscles in your calves, thighs and glutes to take the impact instead of absorbing the impact in your heels, shins and knees.’ Minimalist shoes aren’t for everyone, but they might be the right choice for you.
Finally, be sure to match your shoes to your activity. Although you can get away with doing some walking in a running shoe, the reverse is not true. ‘You can walk in a running shoe, but you can’t run in a walking shoe,’ says Clementoni.
Out on the road
If you want to start running but find it physically uncomfortable at first, remember that you can ease in gradually. Begin with walking and ratchet up your pace from there.
For example, after you’ve warmed up and have been walking for a while, speed up to a slightly faster stride, recommends Clementoni. Try to maintain that pace for the rest of the workout.
During your next workout, resume the faster pace and challenge yourself to speed up slightly again. Continue to progress your pace until it feels natural to break into a light jog. Go with that pace until you feel ready to try a moderately paced run. ‘Pace yourself within one workout or over multiple workouts,’ says Clementoni.
Avoiding common running injuries
When it comes to preventing injury while running, Clementoni’s advice is simple: ‘Wear the appropriate footwear and know your limits. Don’t push too hard if your body is not responding well to the run. Run at your own pace and not the pace of others.’
And watch out for common sites of pain and discomfort: knees and lower back. If your knees or back hurt from even a low level of activity, consider if you have the right footwear and seek help from a healthcare provider before trying to increase running intensity.
Follow the steps above and get ready to fall in love with all the benefits that running provides.
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