Run Forrest Run! Your Guide to Running for Health
There is no denying the popularity of running. You just have to glimpse the line-up of any organised run to see how many people are hooked.
The beauty of this sport is that it suits anyone with two able limbs. Other than a supportive pair of shoes all you need is the willingness to give it a go.
It is a sport that suits you in every phase of your life – from playground games of “chasey” right through to keeping up with your grandchildren. The ultimate stress reliever, a sweaty run can see you through times of uncertainty.
There are enough runners out there to dispel the myth that you need a certain physique and speed to call yourself a runner. The sport welcomes all shapes, sizes, speeds and running styles.
You do, however, need to know those facts that can make running pleasurable rather than an activity that caused pain, injury, fatigue and demoralisation.
So lace up runners! Here are the facts for enjoyable and healthy running.
“Anybody can be a runner. We were meant to move. We were meant to run. It’s the easiest sport”. ~ Bill Rodgers.
The Benefits of Running
Running has been shown to improve your health in the following ways:
- On average, your systolic blood pressure can lower by 5.5mm/hg and your diastolic pressure by 3.2mm/hg
- Your immune system is strengthened with appropriate training
- Running will normalise and balance insulin enabling your hunger and appetite to adapt to your nutrient needs
- Your body composition changes – the more you run, the more muscle you gain and the more fat you lose.
- Muscles become stronger and circulation improves.
- That clear-headed feeling after a run is because the brain has received its optimum amount of oxygen. Physical activity (such as running) has even encouraged neurogenesis – the growth of new brain cells.
- Running is listed as one of the best activities for preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s
- That “runner’s high” releases endorphins that combat depression and stress
- Running improves your cholesterol levels – the “good” cholesterol (HDL) increases by up to 30% and trigylcerides will decrease over time
- Running will improve your cartilage by increasing oxygen flow and flushing out toxins
- Ligaments and bones become stronger thereby preventing the onset of osteoporosis
- Many experts and studies concur that regular exercise will reduce the risk of many kinds of cancer. In fact, “vigorous activity” (such as running) reduces a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer by 30%
You also do not have to be running marathon distances to get the health benefits. Your health will improve if you:
- Run 3-5 days of the week
- Aim for 20-60 minutes of continuous or intermittent aerobic activity
- Are using 65 – 90% of your maximum heart rate (can talk breathlessly)
The Tortoise vs the Hare
To gain the most benefits from your running, remember the old fable of “slow and steady”. The majority of running injuries are the result of trying to run too fast, too quickly and for too long.
So while the spirit may be willing, allow time to acclimate to the sport of running.
The following factors can significantly impact upon your running relationship:
- Heart Health – Make sure that your heart can cope with the additional demand being placed upon it. Before commencing formal exercise, have you blood pressure, pulse and cholesterol levels checked
- Invest in a good pair of running shoes that supports your natural foot strike. This will prevent common issues such as shin splints, achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis from occurring. Common running injury sites are the knee, lower and upper leg and foot however usually a previous injury to an area will be the risk factor for a future injury.
- Avoid muscle pain and inflammation by gradually building up your running kilometres. This enables the muscles to adapt and adequately repair
- Joints are not necessarily the casualty of frequent running. Joint pain will occur with incorrect footwear, carrying excess weight and overdoing it.
Running is not a sport for a select few. With the right attitude, footwear and fuel, your relationship with running can be an inspiring one.
To get the most from your running, here are some nutrition tips that will see you front up for many more runs.
No Need for Carbo Loading
Running is often cited as a way to lose excess weight. This will usually accompany dietary changes.
While the body adjusts to this new expenditure of energy, aim to keep your diet balanced and avoid extremes in dieting. Weight-loss occurs when you burn more kilojoules than you take in, regardless of the source.
A common misconception is that now that you are running, you need to load up on carbohydrates. The usual carbohydrate choices are pasta, bread, cereals and energy gels.
The net result of over consuming these foods are digestive upsets – bloating, cramping and sluggishness as well as the potential for hypoglycaemia.
We can worry unnecessarily about losing our glycogen stores (stored energy) and “hitting the wall”, however this is unlikely to occur when exercise is 1 hour or less in duration.
Suitable fuel for the muscles and our energy will come from a diet of lean protein, vegetables, fruits and alkalising grains.
A study from Tufts University in Boston found that adults who ate three servings of alkalising wholegrains daily while limiting the refined sources had less abdominal fat and avoided unwanted weight gain.
Avoid inflammation in the body and griping digestive complaints by consuming complex carbohydrates from the following sources:
- Rice – whole-grain brown, balck and even purple
Many of us underestimate the importance of water. Symptoms such as exhaustion, dizziness, headache, confusion and cramping are often a sign of dehydration.
While exercising, we sweat to cool the body and maintain our internal temperature. Even elite athletes get caught out by inadequate hydration.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to hydration. Fluid requirements are based on body weight, gender, climate, sweat rate and the intensity of the run. Furthermore, the heavier you are and the more intense the exercise means the more fluid you will lose.
A general guideline is to aim for 1.5 – 2.5 litres of fluid per day. Your personal requirements are best assessed by weighing yourself immediately before and after a workout. To adequately replace fluid, aim to drink 1.5 litres of fluid for every 1kg of weight lost.
Sweat also causes the loss of essential electrolytes – sodium, potassium, magnesium and chloride. Sports drinks aim to replace these electrolytes however watch for additional sugar.
A sad reality is that the quality of our food is severely lacking. While we might be conscientiously eating our balanced array of protein, fat and complex carbohydrates, farming, processing and packaging can deplete our foods of essential nutrients.
For this reason, your body can benefit from the following supplements as you continue your running program:
Calcium – important for growth, maintenance and repair of bone tissue, an inadequate dietary amount of calcium can lead to low bone mineral density and stress fractures.
This can be a problem for those who restrict dairy, are vegetarian or vegan and for women with menstrual dysfunctions. Aim for 1000mg of a well absorbed calcium such as calcium hydroxyapatite
Click here for Emeds Best Calcium.
Vitamin D – a prevalent deficiency, Vitamin D is required for adequate calcium absorption and promoting bone health generally.
Our previous sun-smart policies have contributed to this widespread deficiency and have since been revised to aim for 2-15 minutes of sunscreen-free sun exposure. Supplementing throughout the winter months is also recommended. Aim for 1000 – 3000IU
Click here for Emeds Best Vitamin D.
Magnesium – an essential electrolyte, magnesium is also required for muscle relaxation. Symptoms such as cramping, tension and fatigue can be attributed to low levels. Aim for 400 – 800mg
Iron – this is a common deficiency especially in women. Iron is required to transport oxygen throughout our tissues as well as for enzymes involved in energy production.
Low iron results in poor muscle function and poor endurance. Other factors that impact on iron status include vegetarian diets, periods of rapid growth, loss through menstrual blood, and regular blood donation.
Iron deficiencies can take between 3-6 months to restore so consistent supplementation is crucial. Aim for 15 – 50mg
Click here for Emeds Best Magnesium.
B Vitamins – responsible for energy production, tissue repair and producing red blood cells, B vitamins can be easily lost through sweat and urine.
Predominantly found in wholegrains and nuts and seeds, it is easy to become depleted in vitamin B especially if favouring a refined carbohydrate diet.
Consequently, supplementation can promote energy production and nervous system health. Aim for between 50 – 100mg
Whey Protein – when taken as isolate rather than concentrate, whey protein can provide all essential amino acids necessary for muscle health.
Numerous studies cite its effectiveness in building lean muscle mass as well as increasing muscle strength. It is easily absorbed by the body so can be added to smoothies, cereals, yoghurt and even baking. Aim for 20g of whey protein isolate.
“If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run”. ~ John Bingham