Running is a method of terrestrial locomotion allowing humans and other animals to move rapidly on foot. Running is a type of gait characterized by an aerial phase in which all feet are above the ground (though there are exceptions). This is in contrast to walking, where one foot is always in contact with the ground, the legs are kept mostly straight and the center of gravity vaults over the stance leg or legs in an inverted pendulum fashion. A characteristic feature of a running body from the viewpoint of spring-mass mechanics is that changes in kinetic and potential energy within a stride occur simultaneously, with energy storage accomplished by springy tendons and passive muscle elasticity. The term running can refer to any of a variety of speeds ranging from jogging to sprinting.
It is assumed that the ancestors of mankind developed the ability to run for long distances about 2.6 million years ago, probably in order to hunt animals. Competitive running grew out of religious festivals in various areas. Records of competitive racing date back to the Tailteann Games in Ireland in 1829 BCE, while the first recorded Olympic Games took place in 776 BCE. Running has been described as the world’s most accessible sport.
Nothing gets the adrenaline flowing like running does. Running is arguably the most diverse, challenging, and rewarding of all the sports and activities. From the moment we learn to take our first steps, we’ve begun our running careers. There are so many sports that include running as a part of their integral skills. Running is one of the easiest ways to improve your fitness level and manage your weight.
There are few things in life as self-fulfilling as the feeling that takes over your entire body after a good run. This is often referred to as “runner’s high” and it provides us with the immediate gratification many of us seek in our lives. Very few activities in life are as easy to do or have better benefits. On a hot summer day very little preparation or equipment is required – just lace up your shoes, grab your iPod, and out the door you go! In the snow, gear up properly and explore the wonders and peacefulness of the moment.
Running can take place just about anywhere, including parks, beaches, boardwalks, or just around the neighborhood. Run on the sports field, on a treadmill, or just to be alone and hit the trail. The longer and faster you can train your body to run, the greater you will improve aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels.
Because running is such a personal experience, you can easily alter your workout to make it more fun. Whether it’s trying out intervals, setting a new goal, or simply running through a beautiful place, there are so many different ways to make your workout even more fun. Try some of the following options to make your exercise routine more exciting:
- Try getting ready for a Running event, such as a 5k or a marathon
- Try training for a triathlon
- Try new locations & routes
- Try new equipment, such as new running shoes
- Do some sightseeing in new areas
- Try getting to work – just bring clean clothes to change into!
- Try a group run – bring in the competitive element!
- Catch up with old friend
- Spend time with loved ones
- Just spend the time being you and enjoying the moment – and the runner’s high!
- Try listening to music
- Try watching television
- Try watching a movie
- Try a different instructor at your gym, or a personal trainer to push you further
- Try a different gym
- Try flipping through a magazine or book
6 Things You Don’t Know About Running
1. Stretching is not going to prevent you from getting injured.
Have you ever run with a dog or watched a horse race? If you have, you probably noticed something interesting—none of these animals stretch before or after they run. Stretching before a workout seems to be something that only humans do.
Whether stretching can prevent injuries depends on the type of activity you’re doing and the type of injury you’re trying to prevent.
If the activity includes explosive or bouncing movements, like those in volleyball, basketball, and plyometric exercises, research has shown that stretching can reduce injuries by increasing the compliance of your tendons and improving their ability to absorb energy.
However, for low-intensity activities that don’t include bouncing movements, like running, cycling, and swimming, research has shown that stretching doesn’t prevent injuries because you don’t need very compliant tendons for those activities.
In regard to the type of injury, stretching can prevent muscle injuries, such as sprains and strains, but not bone or joint injuries. Bone and joint injuries, which are common among runners, are caused by increasing the training load too much too quickly.
The only documented benefit of stretching is to improve functional range of motion—flexibility—which is best accomplished when you stretch apart from the workout.
2. If you want to become a better runner, you need to run more than you are.
If you want to become a better runner, the first step is running more. The number of miles (or amount of time) you run each week, every week, is the most important part of becoming a better runner. I can’t emphasize this enough.
Running more stimulates many physiological, biochemical, and molecular adaptations.
For starters, it increases blood volume. A greater amount of blood circulating in your body means a greater number of red blood cells, which transport oxygen. Inside the red blood cells is a protein called hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to your working muscles. These changes to your blood improve your blood vessels’ ability to transport oxygen.
It also promotes better fuel storage. Running lots of miles stimulates the storage of more fuel (glycogen) in your muscles and increases your body’s use of fat so that your muscles spare your reserved glycogen.
Running promotes more efficient transport of oxygen. When you run a lot, your body creates more capillaries surrounding your muscle fibers. More capillaries mean a more rapid diffusion of oxygen into your muscles.
Running also improves the ability to produce energy. Through the complex activation of gene expression, running increases how many mitochondria you have in your muscles and the number of aerobic enzymes contained within them. That combination increases your muscles’ capacity to produce energy aerobically.
Running more also allows you to see and experience places and things you wouldn’t normally get to and gives you a chance to discover things about yourself, including discipline, courage and the ability to meet a challenge.
Always increase your running mileage systematically and with reason behind it. Be careful because you can easily get injured if you increase your weekly mileage too quickly.
3. Running injuries have little to do with the shoes on your feet.
Unless you’re wearing a shoe that is completely wrong for your foot type and running mechanics—for instance, wearing a cushioning shoe when you should be using a stability shoe—your shoes are not causing you to get injured.
The main reason why injuries happen is because the physical stress from running is too much for your body to handle at that time. The human body is great at adapting to stress, but only when you apply that stress in small doses. When you apply the stress too quickly for your body to adapt, something breaks down. So train smarter by not training haphazardly and by habituating to each level of mileage or intensity before increasing the training stress and you won’t get injured.
4. Long races are best run at times of the month when estrogen is high.
Estrogen is a runner-friendly hormone. It influences many aspects of a runner’s performance, including a shift in metabolism toward a greater reliance of fat when running at a submaximal pace. Relying more on fat means your muscles’ limited store of high-octane fuel—carbohydrate—is conserved.
When male rats are given estrogen, they rely more on fat when running on a rat treadmill and can run for longer periods of time (for obvious reasons, this research can’t be done on humans).
5. Your lung capacity has nothing to do with your ability to run.
At first glance, distance running seems to have everything to do with big, strong lungs. After all, it’s through our lungs that we get oxygen. If the size of our lungs mattered, you would expect the best distance runners to have large lungs that can hold a lot of oxygen. However, the best distance runners in the world are quite small people, with characteristically small lungs. Total lung capacity—the maximal amount of air the lungs can hold—is primarily influenced by body size, with bigger people having larger lung capacities. There is no relationship between lung capacity and how fast you run a 10K. I’ve measured this myself in the lab.
Studies show that the lungs don’t adapt to training or limit the ability to perform endurance exercise, especially in untrained people. That limitation rests on the shoulders of the cardiovascular and metabolic systems, with blood flow to and oxygen use by the muscles the major culprits.
Apart from lung volume, there are other aspects of the pulmonary system that affect running performance, gas exchange being the most important. However, in healthy people, the lungs are more than adequate for this gas exchange to occur.
If you’ve been told to take deeper breaths when you run to get in more oxygen, don’t listen. At sea level, your blood is nearly 100 percent saturated with oxygen, even when running fast. Taking deeper breaths doesn’t get more oxygen from the lungs into the blood. At sea level, the main stimulus to breathe is the partial pressure of CO2, not O2. In some elite runners, there is a diffusion limitation between the alveolar wall and pulmonary capillaries because of a very high cardiac output, which leads to a desaturation of oxygen on hemoglobin. However, in non-elite runners without pulmonary pathology, the lungs do not limit exercise performance.
6. Your muscle fiber type will dictate which races you’ll be best at.
Humans have three major muscle fiber types, with gradations between them, the proportions of which are genetically determined. If you have lots of slow-twitch aerobic muscle fibers, you’ll be good at long-distance races; if you have a lot of fast-twitch anaerobic muscle fibers, you’ll be good at sprints. If you have a 50/50 mix or 60/40 mix of slow-twitch and fast-twitch, you’ll be good at middle-distance races, like the 800 meters and mile.
Since it’s impossible to know what your dominant fiber type is without getting a muscle biopsy, the only way you can gain some insight is by running many different races and doing different types of workouts over a number of years to see what you’re best at. But once you know, train according to your fiber type. If you have 70 percent fast-twitch fibers and 30 percent slow-twitch fibers, you could get through a marathon if you really want to run it, but it’s going to be tough road to hoe. You always want to train to your strengths; you’ll be most successful when you listen to the genes your parents gave you.