What difference does it make when you run?
There are merits and demerits to each type, be it road running, track, field, up hill or downhill.
Whether they are concrete or asphalt, roads are the most commonly available surface for the urban runner. Hard, flat, and smooth, they are relatively safe in terms of obstacles, but they may cause higher impacts on your joints at higher speeds. Provided you aren't sprinting, the effect on joints and soft tissues is negligible. Make sure your shoes are adequately cushioned if you're going to be running on these surfaces most often.
For safety purposes, remember to run against the flow of traffic to make sure drivers can see you and you can see them.
In addition to being pleasant, grass provides a low-impact surface that does not stress the joints too much. However, it provides less stability in terms of rotation; it can lead to ankle sprains and other injuries.
It is a good choice for beginners, or those who are just getting into barefoot running.
Treadmills are padded and safe, since they are indoors and there is no chance of injury from external sources. You can set the pace and incline to suit your needs, so it offers a variety of training options.
4 Running Uphill:
It is more taxing in terms of cardiovascular exercise as well as demanding more from the hamstrings and calves (muscles behind your leg).
5 Running Downhill:
Although less demanding in terms of cardiovascular exercise, downhill running needs your quadriceps (muscle in front of your thigh) to control your momentum, and can cause post-run soreness if you do not train well.
A great choice if you have joint injuries or arthritis, because the buoyancy of water will reduce the weight and impact on your joints. An underwater treadmill may not be accessible to all, but simply walking in a pool is beneficial.
So you've decided to take up running - that's great! Running helps boost cardiovascular fitness, build strong bones, strengthen and condition muscles, improve mood and control weight and blood sugar.
And although these are all good things, there are a few things you need to consider, especially if you are a first-time runner or are getting back into it after a gap of a year or more.
1 Seeing Your Physician:
This is to make sure you are in good health to begin with, and to check if you have any underlying medical conditions. These could be high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid disorders, etc. They affect your body's ability to exercise, so knowing about them beforehand helps to come with a running program that does not tax you too much.
Although running is perfectly safe even if you have certain medical conditions - it actually helps regulate blood pressure and glucose levels - other conditions may not respond so well, and require monitoring.
It is also beneficial to speak to your orthopedic surgeon if you have had a fracture or a surgery recently, so they can clear you to begin running.
2 Start Small:
In the beginning, alternate bursts of running with bursts of brisk walking. This lets you recover in between while you build endurance. For example, run for two minutes followed by two minutes of walking. Work up to one minute of running and one minute of walking, until you can run the whole distance with no walking intervals.
Try to keep to a moderate pace in the beginning, and only run at a pace that you can easily hold a conversation at. This gradually allows your body to adjust to the new demands with overexertion.
3 Recovery is Key:
Don't start with running every day. Keep it to three days a week, then every other day, and then six days a week. This allows enough rest time for your muscles and ligaments, avoiding painful overuse injuries that ultimately take you away from running for a longer time.
4 Have a Strong Base:
Running involves the whole body, and it is important to train accordingly. Having a stable core, strong muscles and ligaments can prevent injuries. Include strength training in your regimen to make a difference in your running.
5 Have the Right Equipment:
Proper running shoes for your foot structure, running pattern and running surface can mean the difference between easing into running vs. getting injured. Cushioning, support and stability are important things to look for in a shoe; if you have any questions, it is best to ask someone who can help, such as a sports physiotherapist.
6 Prepare Well:
Eat at least two hours beforehand, and hydrate well. Warming up with stretches and aerobic exercise prior to a run, and following your run with a cool down session is essential.
Although these basic tips are easy to follow, maintaining consistency is key to getting the most out of running!
For more on how to deal with injuries that may happen while running, check out our blog here.