Running and walking are great exercises that can be incorporated into any routine and can be done by people at any level of fitness. They don't require much equipment -- just a good pair of running shoes, and maybe a supportive sports bra -- and can be done almost anywhere. Just put one foot in front of the other and go.
Before running, be sure to adequately stretch your legs.
Proper form -- Your body should remain upright; don't hunch over. Keep your head up, and look at the path in front of you, as when driving. Looking down restricts your breathing. Keep your hands swinging back and forth in step with you, but do not clench your fists. Keeping your hands loose allows blood to flow freely through your body.
Breathing -- Try to breathe in your nose and out of your mouth. At more strenuous levels, you may need to breathe in and out of your mouth. Keep your breath steady and try to breathe in rhythm with your steps. Depending on your speed, you may want to breathe in every two to four steps. Make your breathing as slow and deep as possible. This gives you better endurance and helps to avoid side cramps. If your breath is too shallow and fast, you could become light-headed or pass out because not enough oxygen is getting to your brain.
If you are currently not doing any exercise or are coming back from a long time off, walking is a great way to start. You can begin by making small changes in your regular routine. When you go shopping, park at the far end of the parking lot and walk that few extra yards to the store. If you take public transportation, get off a stop before your destination and walk the extra distance. Stop taking the elevator, and walk up and down the stairs. These small changes may not seem to be much, but every little bit can make a difference, especially in the beginning.
The next step is to begin taking walks. They can be as short as five or ten minutes at first. Over time you will be able to increase the speed and duration of your walks. You should try to walk as fast as possible without injuring yourself.
Walks can be taken at any time of the day on any kind of terrain. You may prefer a quick walk first thing in the morning or a nice after-dinner walk. Comfortable walking or running shoes should be worn to support your feet and protect your knees and back. Aim to walk at least 30 minutes a day, three to five days a week.
To transition into running, you will need to wear running shoes. Your local shoe store can help you choose a shoe that best fits your foot and suits your individual needs.
You can begin by running for short intervals during your walk. Run for as long as you can, even just a minute, then walk when you need to. After recovering, run for another short period. Over time, increase the periods of running and decrease your recovery walking time. Eventually, you will be able to run without taking walking breaks. But be patient -- any exercise goal takes time. It may be months before you can run without taking a break.
If possible, run on a soft surface, such as dirt. Concrete can be hard on your knees.
If you're already a runner, and you want to increase your time or distance, there are several training techniques you can use. Changing your routine helps to challenge your body so that you can continue to improve. It also keeps you from getting bored, which will help you stick with your workouts and continue enjoying your runs.
If you normally run on a treadmill, try taking it outdoors at least once a week. If your routine has you circling a track or running the streets, find a trail to run on once a week. Trail running has additional benefits because the uneven surface helps to improve your balance and works muscles that may usually get missed. Running hills is also a great way to add variety. Hills are an effective way to target your thigh and glut muscles in addition to burning more calories and building endurance.
Add a day of interval training to your regular running schedule. Interval training generally involves running at a moderate pace interspersed with short bursts of faster running. Interval training has many benefits. It increases your endurance and speed, and has been shown to raise your resting metabolic rate more than running at a steady pace. This in turn helps to burn more calories.
An example of an interval training workout is to run at a moderate pace for five minutes, then run at a fast pace for three minutes. Return to your moderate pace for another five minutes. Alternate this way for about 30 minutes.
If you are running on a track, another example is to run at a moderate to slow pace on the long ends of he track, and sprint around the short curves. Do this for two laps less than your usual distance. Run an easy lap both before and after the interval session to warm up and cool down.
Cross training also provides a great benefit to your running ability, as well as your overall fitness. Cross training is simply doing a different aerobic activity, such as biking, pilates, playing tennis, or swimming. Cross training is beneficial because it helps to keep your workout interesting and it works different muscles, so your overall fitness level improves. Aim to do a cross-training activity once a week.
If you have a specific goal, such as training for an upcoming event, like a 5k or marathon, you should develop a specific plan to help you achieve that goal. You first need to work up to the distance, and then you can work on improving your time. There are many local running clubs that can help you train for specific events.
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