| Running and jogging
Running might just be the ultimate way to get fit: it's cheap, can be done anywhere at any time and, most importantly, is very effective.
| Running is an integral part of many sports
Running is an integral part of many sports and is one of the easiest ways to get started on the road to improved fitness. It can take many different forms - fun runs, cross-country, fell running, road races and marathons, for example - but the vast majority of runners simply run to stay fit and because they enjoy it.
There's really no difference between running and jogging, although jogging is often used to describe running at a slow pace. Whichever you choose, all you need is a good pair of running shoes and a little enthusiasm.
Any kind of running - from a slow jog to an all-out sprint - improves the heart and lungs. Sprinting is also an anaerobic exercise (without utilising oxygen) and requires a great deal of power from the muscles; long-distance running is an aerobic activity (utilising oxygen) and requires a lot of muscular endurance.
As a high-impact activity, running may maintain or increase bone density, helping to offset osteoporosis. However, it may also put more stress on the joints than lower-impact activities such as walking and cycling.
Is it for you?
As long as you're healthy and take it easy to start with, anyone can run. If you have a history of diabetes, chest pain, angina, asthma, epilepsy, high blood pressure, have had recent surgery or are pregnant, however, consult a doctor first.
As with all exercise, you must warm up first. Start by walking at a brisk pace, swinging your arms vigorously, then gradually break into a slow jog.
Run at a pace at which you can still hold a conversation. If you're getting too breathless to talk, slow down or walk until you've recovered, then set off again. Aim to run/walk in this way for 10 minutes in total. Do this every second or third day, gradually reducing the walking time and increasing the running until you can run for the full ten minutes.
Now start to increase the total duration of your run by a minute or two every third session, until you can manage 30 minutes three times a week. Even if you're feeling good, don't be tempted to increase your running time by more than ten per cent each week.
At the end of each session, warm down by slowing down gradually, finishing with a slow jog or brisk walk until your heart rate and breathing have returned to more normal levels. Stretch while you're still warm.
|There are running clubs in most towns
Where to run
You can run any time of the day, wherever you happen to be.
One of the most difficult aspects of running, especially in the early days, is keeping your enthusiasm going. Try these tips to stay on track:
Clothing and equipment
- Have a clear aim, such as running in a local fun run or being able to run non-stop for an hour.
- Be realistic. Don't commit to run a marathon in three months' time if you've never run before.
- Think of yourself as a runner and make running a habit, just like cleaning your teeth. Think in terms of "when I go for my run" rather than "if I go for a run".
- Keep a diary. Record your progress, the time of day, weather, how you felt, where you went etc.
- Enlist the help of others. Try to run with a friend or group of friends at least once a week.
The most important parts of a running wardrobe is a pair of comfortable running shoes and a good pair of seamless sports socks. These are available from all good sports shops.
Wear comfortable, non-restrictive clothing. In summer, shorts and a T-shirt will suffice; in winter, a tracksuit or pair of thermal tights under a lightweight waterproof/windproof suit will be better. A long-sleeved thermal top and a windproof jacket are also ideal.
In very cold weather, heat loss through the head and hands necessitates wearing a hood or bobble-hat and a pair of gloves. Vaseline is useful to lubricate anything that's rubbing, such as top of the legs and nipples etc. For women, a good sports bra is essential.
- If running at night, it's safer to run in groups and stick to well-lit streets. Leave details of your route and expected time of return with someone.
- Wear bright and reflective clothing at night and in bad weather.
- Never run when suffering from a viral illness or fever. Once you are completely better, start back gently and build up gradually again.
This article was last medically reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks in September 2005.
First published in May 2001.