Written by Neha Chandna - Dietician, Nutrition Educator, Exercise Counselor with an M.Sc. in Dietetics and Food Service Management from SVT. She has worked with corporates such as HDFC and Standard Chartered as well as BPOs and MNCs on the Right ways of eating and living!
Without a doubt, we all agree on how important cardio is for our heart and body. The flow of blood through our system has more significance than we can imagine. It delivers oxygen and nutrients to each cell in the body, thus keeping you energetic and fit. The best form of cardio where one uses his maximum potential is running.
Running is that one physical activity that has been practised since centuries and made even more famous today through marathons. It's a form of exercise that can be done anywhere, anytime and without any cost. There are many more reasons for which running is seen as the best choice of workout by people:
Makes you stronger: Running uses the largest muscles of your body, i.e. the legs and to some extent the back and arm muscles as well. Being a resistance workout, it helps strengthen the bones, ligaments, muscles and joints of your lower body, provided you run the right way. It's the best way to keep yourself strong even as you age.
Burns a lot of calories: Running is the best cardio activity to burn off that extra fat. It also helps to keep your appetite-increasing hormone under check.
Boosts memory: For all those who have a family history of Alzheimer's or dementia, do not worry. All you need to do is start running. It helps your brain work better by improving your cell condition so that your memory remains sharp as ever.
Gives you a glow: The sweat on your face helps unclog your pores and the blood gush helps oxygenate all the cells, improving your complexion.
Reduces pressure: Running is by far the best way to keep pressure at bay. As it increases the strength and capacity of the blood vessels, it keeps the pressure under control.
Pumps up energy: As running helps blood reach all corners of your body, it provides oxygen and nutrients to every cell, which makes you more energetic and improves your stamina. Feeling sluggish? Just try going for a run instead.
Helps you sleep well: Runners tend to sleep better as running controls your hormones and also sets your sleeping routines.
Makes your heart stronger: Running helps strengthen the muscles of your heart and reduces your chances of an attack.
Lowers stress levels: Running is the best stress-busting activity. When you feel down, just go for a run. It helps boost serotonin levels, which make you happier, calmer and more relaxed. You're then equipped to deal with situations in a better way.
For beginners, we suggest you start with brisk walking first, then progress to jogging and when comfortable, then start your running regime. Regardless of your fitness level, you can start from zero to running 20 minutes in 10 weeks. Make it a point to run at least 4 times a week to see noticeable changes in your stamina and endurance levels. Before every run, make sure to warm up for 5-20 minutes with a fast walk and at the end cool down with 5-10 minutes of slow walking.
Other things to keep in mind:
Get the right shoes for running or else you will land up with a shin or knee ache.
Get your starting position right: Shoulders rolled down and back, arms relaxed, head up and swing your arms in even front-to-back motion.
Maintain a rhythm. Breathe in from your nose for 2 counts and breathe out from your mouth for 2 counts.
Run at a comfortable pace where you are able to have a conversation with a friend without panting and do not take big strides as it can exhaust you faster. Aim for short and quick strides.
Listen to music that gets you going and motivates you to complete your workout.
Once you finish your run, while cooling down, roll your head side to side and your shoulders a few times to loosen your upper body. Make sure to stretch your hamstrings, quads and calves to prevent injuries.
Listen to your body. Minor burning and aches are a good sign but if there is unbearable pain or injury in any joint, stop there and go to a physiotherapist or orthopedic to rule out any major issue.
Drink plenty of water before, during and after running.
Eat healthy well balanced meals 2 hours prior running.
Avoid eating anything just before running.
Wear loose and comfortable clothes that allow your skin to breathe.