The benefits of regular exercise to overall health have been known for some time now. The biggest key is that it needs to be a ‘regular’ exercise for it to be most beneficial. Exercise regimens that require expensive machines or health club memberships may waver in times when money’s tight. Weight lifting with free weights requires a partner to spot your workout for optimal safety.
Running is one good overall body conditioning exercise that is easy to maintain with regularity. It is a simple exercise that you can do alone, and all it requires is a decent pair of running shoes. You can add a bunch of paraphernalia such as GPS and heart rate monitors, etc., but none of that is necessary to do the basic exercise of running. It’s simplicity also makes it easy to maintain a regular running routine while traveling.
The health benefits of running are numerous. Running increases a person’s lung function and has been found to increase levels of good cholesterol. One of the most significant benefits cited for running (and probably why so many do it) is weight loss. Because it is an intense exercise, running has more of what is referred to as “after-burn” than a less vigorous exercise such as walking. That means, even after you’ve finished running, your body continues burning calories at a higher than after a walk.
Another significant benefit of running is increasing bone health. Just like with muscle, bone only becomes stronger from being stressed. As a weight-bearing exercise, running puts stress on your leg and hip bones as well as your leg muscles. Some runners may even use little weights in their hands or strapped to their wrists for a more convenient hands-free solution, to add some load to their arm muscles and bones as well.
Probably the most significant benefit of running in our hectic world is that it is time-efficient. You can run the same distance in 20 minutes that it might take you an hour to walk. Running’s a combination of simplicity, convenience, and overall health benefits make it one of, if not the best exercise option available to many people.
Benefits of Stretching and Massage for runners
Many people think that running is an easy exercise that needs no pre/post-running care. That is a false idea that, over time, leads to severe injury in some and many minor injuries and muscle tears in others. The pre-run stretch and the post-run massage are two essential components of a good run.
The pre-run stretch:
Stretching before a run has many benefits. Stretching increases the flexibility of the muscles and improves blood circulation. Ideally, stretching is done after a warm-up. Never stretch cold muscles as this causes muscles to tear. There are two types of stretches:
Dynamic stretch – Dynamic stretching increases the range of movement of the joints. It involves moving joints rhythmically to expand their range. Dynamic stretches increase the length of muscle fibers and ready the muscles for action.
Static stretch – This is done after the dynamic stretch and is concerned with flexibility. The muscle fibers are slowly stretched to their maximum length and held for 30-40sec and released slowly. This relaxes the muscles and improves blood flow.
The whole stretch shouldn’t take longer than 10-15 minutes. Overstretching causes muscle fatigue and is detrimental to your running ability. Focus more on the dynamic stretch as it gives the maximum benefit while running.
It is not enough to stretch just the legs. The arms, neck, and body should also be stretched to ensure a smooth run and to improve flexibility.
The post-run massage:
Running involves repeated contraction of the same muscles. At the end of a run, the muscles are tense, and blood flow to the tissue is vastly reduced as it is compressed. At this time, a massage helps immensely.
A good sports massage helps restore muscles to their original relaxed state and returns the shortened fibers to their initial length. Thus rejuvenating the overstrained muscles and preventing long term damage.
Massaging dilates the blood vessels in the tissue. This improves circulation. The increased flow of oxygen to the muscle fibers improves metabolism and relieves pain by oxidizing the accumulated lactic acid.
A massage may also help detect serious muscle tears caused while running. That helps you treat the injury before it gets out of hand. It helps prevent the formation of painful knots.
Restoration of flexibility:
An experienced masseuse can loosen muscles that you didn’t even know were tense. That restores elasticity to the muscle and eases pain and discomfort.
The benefits of a good post-run massage accumulate over time. So, make sure to get a massage after every run. A gentle massage is also something to look forward to after a long hard run!
Super Foods that are beneficial to avid runners
Whether you run professionally or you do it for health reasons, you must watch your diet, as certain food items can be detrimental to your running performance. And of course, there are those foods that can significantly improve your running abilities. These are often referred to as superfoods. If you want to improve your performance in your running endeavors, you should take note of these superfoods. Keep in mind that the goal here is to boost your stamina, strengthen your muscles, and tighten your endurance. You will be a much better runner if you focus on these departments.
It’s common knowledge among runners that foods rich in carbohydrates are a necessity. In short, highly active people need the fuel that carbohydrates provide to be able to keep going. If you don’t have enough carbs in your system, you will tire out quickly. Your overall endurance will suffer. The most common sources of carbohydrates are whole-grain bread, fruits, cereals, starchy vegetables, and pasta. Always see to it that most of these, if not all of them, are parts of your regular diet. However, it would be best if you also complemented these with foods from other food groups.
Your body will also be much better suited to an active lifestyle if you consume ample amounts of meat, poultry products, and fish. These are especially beneficial for female runners. These are excellent sources of iron that you badly need if you run regularly. If you are a vegetarian, you can get your iron from plant-based sources like pumpkin seeds, beans, lentils, fortified cereals, and peas.