Saturday, May 29, 2010

Running: As basic as it gets

MANILA, Philippines -- Running is a natural skill to man. In fact, aside from walking, it is the only other means for any two-legged creature to move on foot.

Our forebears used it as a necessity in hunting for food. We naturally use it to scurry away from danger.

So why has this basic skill become so popular in the country today?

“[Because] it’s the simplest form of physical activity with minimal investment… All you need is a road, trail, or any running surface, and a pair of shoes,” said running coach Rio de la Cruz.

Running is a great workout for the whole body. Credit: Fotosearch

Coach Rio, a veteran in organizing local race events, said more and more people who realize the value of regular exercise find running as one of the most convenient ways to get into shape.

One of his latest events was Century Tuna Superbods Fun Run last February.

“Running is a workout for the whole body and requires minimum time, instruction, equipment, and planning. It’s also something you can enjoy whether you are alone or in a group,” said Coach Rio.

The surge in running’s popularity can also be credited to the healthy competition among race organizers.

Organizers have now become more creative in offering runners other things aside from the sport itself.

Rio dela Cruz is a running coach and organizer of local running races.

“The recent running boom started when the race organizers themselves became more competitive, aiming to be the ‘better’ race, one after the other,” said Coach Rio.

“Aside from the good reputation of the event and its organizers, it’s the ‘fun’ and ‘party’ atmosphere of the event that seems to entice runners,” he said.

With offers other than the actual run, organizers like Coach Rio have attracted people into the sport while providing more avenues for enthusiasts to test their physical limits and mental strength.

What you get from the sweat

Long distance running is no easy feat especially for beginners. But just like any other endeavor, you reap benefits for the time and effort you invest in it.

Numerous studies show that running is among the best aerobic exercises for conditioning your heart and lungs. It therefore decreases the risk of heart problems and other stress-related illnesses.

Running also greatly helps improve stamina aside from increasing your bone density, which helps prevent osteoporosis.

Running increases bone density. Credit: Fotosearch

Those who engage themselves in this sport also enjoy reaching the "runner's high" or that calm state one feels after a long run. This makes running a great stress-buster.

Running also burns about 100 calories per mile for a 150-pound person. Combined with a healthy diet, running is one of the most efficient ways to lose the excess weight.

Jayson Deuna, a 27-year-old software engineer, is among the thousands of enthusiasts attracted to the sport. He lost 20 pounds of unwanted weight through long distance running.

Software engineer Jayson Deuna lost 20 pounds through long distance running.

“I was an overweight office employee for three years. I weighed 165 pounds at 5-foot-7,” he said.

During an annual physical examination in their office last year, he was advised by doctors to modify his lifestyle to reduce weight. Thus he decided to invest his time in running.

“I trimmed down to 145 pounds. I am now well under the healthy weight range for my age and height. More than that, I feel stronger and faster,” he said.

Before hitting the road

Although running (just for the heck of it) seems to be a simple task, doing so for a considerable distance (think of kilometers) is a different matter.

Coach Rio stressed that there are things needed to be done first before hitting the road, especially if you’re a beginner.

1. Have a health check.
You need to have your health checked first before starting any exercise program. “As long as you have a sound body, mind, and heart, you can get into running,” said Coach Rio.

2. Set a realistic goal.
“Whether it’s just to finish or to achieve you personal record, you should give yourself enough time to prepare physically and mentally before an event,” said the coach.

Start with base training and focus on form by doing running drills. Gradually build up your endurance by adding no more than 10% training mileage per week in terms of time or distance.

“For beginners who are interested to sign up for their first race, they should start with shorter distances such as a 3k or a 5k to allow their muscles to gradually adapt to the physical demands of running,” said Coach Rio.

3. Equip yourself.
You need to equip yourself with the proper basic running gear. “This includes running shoes based on your foot type (overpronator, neutral, or supinator) and running style (forefoot, midfoot, or heel-strike), comfortable sports bras for women, sports watches, shorts, tops, and socks,” he said.

Optional equipment include heart rate monitors, sunglasses, running cap or visor, apparel for rain and cold, and hydration systems for carrying water or sports drinks during longer runs.

Risks and how to avoid them

Running injuries are an unfortunate, but all too common, occurrence. It is a high impact sport involving body parts from your waist and below.

Among the areas likely to be injured due to improper training habits are the hip region, the knees, the ankles down to the feet.

“Majority of injuries are caused by improper training habits such as running too far too soon and wearing old, worn-out shoes or new ones that are not the right type for your feet,” said Coach Rio.

Here are some of his tips to prevent injury:

· Reduce training mileage.
· Train smart, preferably with a reliable and knowledgeable coach.
· Stretch lightly, not up to the point of pain.
· Take painkillers with caution.
· Cool it off or ice the painful or sore area.
· Consider seeing a physical therapist.
· Cross-train with swimming, biking, indoor cycling, yoga, pilates, core stability exercises and weight training.
· Resume your training slowly, with no more than a 10% increase in training mileage per week.
· Adjust your expectations and don’t pressure yourself to get back in shape right away.

As long as you keep yourself from overdoing and complicating things in your workout, the physical and mental rewards that go with the sport make running a worthwhile experience.

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