I have mentioned in many of the past blogs that I’m a runner. To be exact, I’m a long-distance runner who will be competing in my first half-marathon (13.1 miles) this December.
I love the sport for many reasons, but the main one is that I feel like a champion when I’ve finished a really long trek. My thighs also look amazing.
Benefits of Running
Other than an increase in confidence, what are some of the other benefits of running?
- You’re more likely to lead a long life. A study conducted by a number of universities found that running for just five minutes a day is enough to lower your risk of dying from any cause—particularly heart disease. In fact, even overweight smokers who ran lived (on average) three years longer than people who did not run, regardless of the non-runners weight or smoking habits.
- You’ll be happier. As with all forms of exercise, running is particularly good treatment for depression and anxiety, according to the American Psychological Association.
- You’ll get smarter! Within reason, of course. Studies show that running can improve brain cognition.
- Running(any exercise for that matter) will bring you a better night’s sleep, according to this study. If you run in the morning, you will feel less sleepy throughout the day and be able to concentrate better. If you run at night, your temperature will increase. When you cool down, your body will start to get sleepy. Also, since exercise decreases anxiety and depression, you’ll have fewer worries keeping you up all night.
- According to the Journal of American College of Cardiology, your risk of stroke and heart attack will decrease because running reduces high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases.
Running to Lose Weight
A lot of people start running for the same reason people start any exercise program at all—they want to lose weight. Will you actually drop pounds, though?
That depends. According to one study, if a person eats whatever they want for dinner, it doesn’t matter how much they work out. They’ll gain at least 3.3 pounds per decade, which means they also gain three-quarters of an inch around their waistline.
As discussed in a previous blog about resistance training, if you want to lose weight, it is more important to build muscle than it is to do cardio. Lifting better increases your lean muscle mass, which means you’ll burn more calories at rest.
Also, when you’re done lifting, you’ll continue to burn calories for longer than you do after you’re done running. The best thing to do, of course, is both. Lift weights and then go for a run. That way, you’ll reap the benefits of both exercises.
When you want to lose weight, though, diet is more important than any form of exercise. In fact, in the United States, people are MORE active than they used to be just a few years ago, but the obesity rate continues to climb. There are many reasons for this.
First, people tend to overestimate how many calories they are burning. Runner’s World provides a calculator to help you determine how many calories you are burning.
To give you a general idea, a person who weighs 120 pounds will burn about 90 calories per mile, and a person who weighs 220 will burn 165 calories. To figure out the amount of calories you are burning, take your weight and multiply it by .75.
So, if you weigh 120 pounds and run three miles (good job!), you’ve only burned 270 calories. That may sound like a lot until you realize that’s fewer calories than you consume when you drink a Tall Starbucks Frappuccino (these are the smallest size offered, and they have 300 calories).
The reason you’re tempted to order that Frappuccino in the first place? You’re hungry after working out. Did you ever hear the expression, “Working up an appetite?”
Well, when you exercise, that’s exactly what you’re doing. You’ve lost calories, and your body needs them back. Not eating when you’re hungry can lower your metabolism, which will make it harder to lose weight in the long run.
The key to losing weight is cleaning up your diet. I wrote about a few tips for doing so in a past blog about the Paleo Diet.
All that being said, if you mix running with a healthier diet and weight training, you’ll be slim in no time. Also, remember that there are many benefits to exercise, so losing weight is not the only reason to lace up your shoes and start running.
How to Start Running
Put on your running shoes. Tie them. Step out your front door. Congratulations! You’ve started to run.
Okay. We all know that it’s more complicated than that. You need to know how to run without getting frustrated and quitting half a mile in.
The first thing you need to figure out is how much you should be running. When I’m in the middle of training for a race, I’ll run five days a week, take one rest day, and cross train on the last day.
If you’re just getting started, though, you want to shoot for something more realistic. (On a side note, if you are interested in training for a race, I recommend Hal Higdon’s programs.
He offers training for 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, and marathons, and his plans are free and helpful, whether you’re a beginner or an expert).
A good start is three times a week. This will give you a few rest days and let you plan your runs around other engagements. If you’re running three days a week, you’ll want to have two or more days of cross training.
Basically, cross training is doing some cardio other than running. You can cycle, walk, take an aerobics class, or swim.
Here are some more tips, compliments of Runner’s World fans.
- Buy a good pair of shoes. There will be an upcoming blog about finding the perfect pair of shoes. This is imperative. While you can walk in just about anything (including sandals), you absolutely have to have good running shoes to protect your joints.
- Pay more attention to the distance covered than your pace. This is why you need a good GPS watch (which I’ll cover more in a moment). The more you run, the faster you’ll get. Trust me when I say there’s no point driving yourself crazy about it.
- Consider joining a runners’ group. I personally hate running with most other people, as I’m very serious about maximizing my effort. However, a running buddy can help keep you motivated when you’re just starting out.
- Get into the habit of running. Make a schedule and stick to it.
- Don’t up your mileage too quickly, or you could injure yourself. (I had a rough bout of Plantar Fasciitis because I over-trained. It sucked.) A general rule of thumb is that you don’t want to add more than a mile to your longest run each week.
- Know that it’s okay to walk. If you need to catch your breath, slow down. Just make sure you don’t stop. It will eventually get easier. I promise.
- Keep a journal. I’m obsessed with mine. I map out my run schedule for at least two months in advance. This helps me keep track of the distance I’m supposed to run each day. I also keep track of my times for each run. This way, I can track my progress. It really keeps me motivated on days when I don’t want to run.
- Make sure you are setting achievable goals for yourself. You’re not going to go from the couch to a marathon in three weeks. However, you probably can in three months! Find yourself a good training plan and use that to set realistic benchmarks for yourself.
GPS Running Watches
When people are first starting an exercise regiment, I am hesitant to tell them that they absolutely have to have something. If you decide you hate the activity, you’re stuck with a bunch of equipment you’ll never use.
There are a few purchases you must make if you want to be a runner, though. As I mentioned above (and as I’ll discuss more in a later blog), you have to have proper shoes.
Also, if you sweat even half as much as I do, you’ll want to buy yourself some moisture wicking clothes. These clothes suck the sweat off of your body and dry more quickly than other clothes.
Finally, I think it’s a good idea to invest in a GPS watch. You can use your cell phone’s GPS to track your mileage, and I used my phone for over a year. The reason I made the switch to a watch is a) it’s more comfortable, and b) I once dropped my phone… and it shattered. $300 gone.
You can also use your GPS watch for other activities. I use mine to track my cycling and walking miles as well.
Here are a few that are worth a look on Amazon.
I’m just going to jump in and start with my watch. I love this watch. I bought my Forerunner 10 well over a year ago when I decided to get serious about running. It has been my unfailing running buddy ever since.
I use it to track not only my runs but also my bike rides.
What attracted me to this watch was the price tag. Currently a bestseller, this is one of the least expensive GPS watches on the market. This watch, in conjunction with the Garmin Connect webpage, tracks your distance, calories burned, and pace, and it tracks the elevation and the temperature of your run.
This helps me on days when my pace is slower than normal, as I realize I was moving slowly because I was tackling a lot of hills in 90+ degree weather.
I’ve told you why I love it. Here are some things that could be improved:
- Some could argue it’s a bit small. It fits my wrist perfectly, but if I were a 220-pound man, the face might be too tiny, and it might fit too tightly.
- Sometimes it’s slow to get a signal. The other day, I walked a half-mile before it finally picked up my location. This seems to be a common issue with most GPS watches, though.
- While you can get it wet, it’s not waterproof. I’ve been out running in the pouring rain several times, and my watch was fine. However, you definitely couldn't take it swimming (you’d need to a get a much more expensive triathlon watch for that).
For the price, you cannot go wrong with this watch. I love it and have no plans to upgrade in the near future.
This is another Garmin, so you will have access to Garmin Connect where you can track your pace, mileage, and calories. This watch is missing a few of the features that the Forerunner 10 has, though, which is why it costs less.
With the Forerunner 10, you can set a target pace for yourself, and your watch will display whether or not you are at that pace. There is also a walk/run-programming feature on the Forerunner 10 that the Forerunner 110 doesn’t have.
Only you can decide whether or not these features are important to you. Also, please note that this Amazon link is for a refurbished watch. They are guaranteed for one year, but I’m always nervous about buying refurbished items.
Here are some of the reasons this is not my running watch:
- I just don’t like the way it looks. To me, it just looks cheap, whereas I think the Forerunner 10 is a really good-looking watch (especially in purple).
- This is not as durable as the Forerunner 10. The band seems to break after less than a year of use. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve had my Forerunner 10 for over a year, and it still looks brand new.
- It takes a longer time to find your location, and the distance tracked is sometimes inaccurate.
Since you’re going to save less than $30 on this refurbished watch, I think you’re better off buying the Forerunner 10.
The 220 has a few additional features that explain why it costs $199.99 (twice the cost of the Forerunner 10). First, the 220 contains an accelerometer so that you can track your distance and pace on an indoor track or treadmill, which is a nice feature.
Obviously the treadmill tracks your distance, but it’s easy to forget how far you’ve gone on your gym’s indoor track. At my gym, you have to circle the track 11 times to do one mile.
Can you imagine doing a six-mile run on that? There’s no way I could keep track of 66 laps!
The 220 also links to the training plans offered on Garmin Connect. This will send your running schedule directly to the watch. This would be a good feature if you don’t want to keep a pen-and-paper calendar like I do.
You can buy a version of this watch that will keep track of your heart rate, which some people like. Finally, this watch can pair with your phone. That will allow you to automatically upload your workout to Garmin Connect.
With my Forerunner 10, I have to plug the watch into my computer with the included USB cable to sync with Garmin Connect.
I think all Garmins are good watches, and I don’t have any major criticisms for this one. If you think the additional options are worth an additional $100, more power to you. For me, though, the Forerunner 10 is perfect.
While many people dread running, it’s actually a great way to extend your life and stay fit. If you get over the initial hump, you will start to enjoy your daily run.