Enjoy the Benefits of Running
Enjoy the Benefits of Running

Keep That New Year’s Resolution

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Running is a very popular form of exercise, with one in five of us trying it at some stage in our lives. While the January to February period is typically the peak time for setting fitness goals, many people find it difficult to keep going, and end up returning to their regular routine after a month or two. If you’re wondering how you can take up running and commit to it for the long term, you’ll need some practical strategies to help keep the momentum going.

The benefits of running

Running has many health and lifestyle benefits. It’s an inexpensive form of exercise, and it’s flexible in that it can be done in a group or taken up solo. You can do it at any time and just about wherever you like. You don’t need to learn new skills or have specialist equipment to get active with running.

The health benefits of running are numerous. It’s an all-round workout since it works your leg muscles as well your core. Running can support the building of strong bones, strengthen your muscles, and burn fat. More intensive than jogging, running can boost mood, protect against anxiety and depression, and enhance concentration and sleep quality. Research has shown that being fit can help you fight age-related mental decline, reduce the risk of cancer, and lengthen your life expectancy.

Strategies for meeting running goals

It’s easy enough to set a running goal at the start of the year when you might be carrying some extra weight left over from the holiday period, but how do you make yourself hit your fitness goals consistently over the year?

Write it all down

Think about what you want to achieve from your running program and write it down. It can often help to see your goals written down and tracked in a notebook. Be specific, whether you’re looking to get fit, lose some weight, or reach a specific running time; for example, 30 minutes three times a week every week. If you’re running to practice for a marathon or competition, write that down as well. Track your progress as the weeks pass, and review why you did or didn’t hit the mark.

Reconnect with the why

If you find yourself feeling less motivated with each running session, reconnect with why you started in the first place. Think about the benefits of feeling fitter and stronger in your body. If you have weight-loss goals, think about the clothes you’d like to wear and how achieving a healthful weight might feel. Write these thoughts down in your notebook and refer back to them regularly.

Work to realistic goals

There is probably no quicker way to become demotivated than by than setting yourself up to fail. Make sure the goals you set are realistic and achievable. If you’re setting a goal to match an Olympic-level marathon runner within a month, that’s probably unrealistic, unless you’re already close to that level.

Make incremental changes

Similarly, you’ll be more likely to succeed in your new running program by making small, incremental changes gradually. This is especially true if you’ve never run before and you’re training for a competition. You could start with brisk walking for 30 minutes each training day, and allow yourself six weeks to build up to running. Increase your jogging time each training day, and make sure you alternate between jogging and walking if you find yourself getting tired.  

Warm up

Warm up with a thorough stretch before you start running, and cool down when you return from your run. Stretching could help you stay flexible, and might help prevent injury during running.

Stay hydrated

Water helps you lubricate your joints and regulate your body temperature. Dehydration can lead to dizziness, fatigue, and muscle cramps. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise to stay hydrated. Eating a healthful diet can also support you in succeeding at your new running program.

Incorporate rest days

Try to have at least two full rest days each week to allow your body to recover. Overtraining can lead to injury. If you want to stay active, consider engaging in low-impact activities such as swimming on these rest days.

Wear the right shoes

Running shoes are designed to give you the right type of support when running, so make sure you have appropriate running shoes that are fitted properly. Poorly fitted shoes can heighten the risk of injury. Your shoes should feel comfortable and bend easily.

See your doctor first

Consult your doctor before you embark on a new running program, especially if you have any doubts or have a pre-existing chronic condition. Some experts recommend that you check in with your doctor before running if you’re over 40, haven’t exercised for a long time, or are overweight. You doctor could help you with a pre-exercise screening that checks for the possible risks.

Running for your health

Running is a great way to get fit and healthy, but for many, committing to a running routine for the long term is challenging. If you set realistic goals and make incremental changes, however, you can enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes from hitting your running targets and achieving your exercise goals.