Pounding the pavement – perfecting the jog

Running is a popular way to improve your cardiovascular health. Regular running and jogging strengthens muscles, burns fat, and helps build strong bones. The best part is, you can do it without having to pay a membership fee so it’s not only great for fitness, but cost-effective in the long-run.

Health benefits

running1.jpegRunning and jogging are both forms of aerobic exercise – physical activity that expends energy through the combination of oxygen with body fat. Heart Foundation confirms regular physical activity, whether jogging or strength training, can decrease your likelihood of having a heart attack or developing heart disease. Other problematic risks are also minimised in the process – such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity. Cardiovascular exercise can range anywhere from walking to weight lifting.

Jogging releases mood-brightening hormones, such as endorphins, that induce feelings of pleasure after exercise. The intensity of cardiovascular exercise puts strain on the body, which triggers the release of endorphins (a feel-good chemical). The endorphins work to reduce the perception of discomfort, producing what’s known as the ‘runner’s high’. Keen for some of that? Before you begin your extended love affair with running, it’s important to do your homework in order to minimise any potential risks for injury. We provide some tips to help.

Check your form

That’s right, posture is just as important when running as much as it is when sitting. The ABC explains that weak muscles and poor biomechanics can cause injury in the ankles, knees and lower-back. When starting out jogging, avoid collapsing your knees inwards and ensure your hips aren’t externally rotated (this causes issues with your feet striking the pavement at an unsafe angle). Your feet should ideally strike the ground under your body.

Getting the right gear

You wouldn’t run in a pair of flip flops; so why are you settling for an old sub-par shoe? A good running shoe should support your foot, compliment your strike, and help reduce injury. You may be susceptible to injury if your feet are flat (no arches), roll inwards (pronated) or roll out (supinated). Sportswear stores should be able to fit you for the right running shoe to aid your strike when your feet hit the ground.

Build endurance

running2.jpgIf the only running you’ve been exposed to is that of your nose or a tap, then it’s probably best not to sign up for a marathon in your first week of training. 
Patience is integral to building endurance – start by walking briskly for 30 minutes three to four times a week. Give yourself 6-8 weeks to build up to regular jogging.

Once you’ve reached a point where you can walk briskly for 30 minutes several times a week, you can begin applying stress and formulating a walk/jog routine. Begin with intervals i.e. jog lightly for two minutes and walk for three minutes, repeating this six times. The running portion will build your cardio levels, while the walking part will serve as active recovery.

Increase pace

Over time, you can increase the time spent running and minimise the time spent walking, to the point where you’re just running for 30 minutes straight. You can pick up the pace by intensifying your interval training. If you feel confident, try the below interval set:

  • Warm up – 5 mins
  • Run at a challenging burst for 1 minute, then walk for 1 minute
  • Repeat this set 10 times
  • Cool down – 5 minutes

When adding stress to your running routine, listen to your body – going too hard and too fast is the quickest way to put yourself out of the jogging game. Take a break if you’re feeling sore, and see a GP if you experience persistent searing pain anywhere in your body from jogging.

Avoid injury

Remember that stretching before and after a run is essential to avoiding injury. Warm up with a few light stretches before a run and then immerse yourself in plenty of hamstring, quad and leg stretches once you return. Try to run on flat, grassy areas if available on your route – these options are less likely to create injuries compared to consistently running on pavement or a treadmill. And don’t forget to hydrate before, during and after exercise!