Running: Not Just for Self-Torture

Recently, I went on my first run in about two years. It was a three mile run in the late afternoon, which at the time I thought would be no problem. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest. Don’t be like me. If you’re interested in rekindling your love for running or are just interested in seeing what it’s all about, here are some key things to keep in mind. Running is not always easy, but it’s always rewarding!

Start Slow

When I say start slow, I don’t just mean pace yourself. Make sure to start with small distances. It’s very easy to bite off more than you can chew when it comes to running. I made the mistake of running farther than I was really ready for on my first day back. This forced me to spend two days recovering before I felt like I could run again. It’s not just a matter of soreness either, overtaxing unready muscles can lead to injury. Many of the best runners in the world end up hurting themselves because they over-run and these are the people who have made it their life’s work. Start with one mile and then think about moving on two miles, but don’t jump up to three or four for at least a week if not two. Your body will thank you.

Stretching

A lot of people don’t realize that the time they spend off the sidewalk or treadmill can be just as important as the time they spend on it. Between runs be sure to stretch for 10-15 minutes. Poor flexibility can lead to serious muscle strains that will put you out of commission. Time spent bending down at the waist and touching your toes is especially good for you hamstrings. The more you stretch your hamstring, the farther your stride will extend, making you a faster and more efficient runner. This is just one example of how stretching can improve your running. Make sure to take care of all your muscles, including your arms, before, after, and between runs.

Recovery

Most people I know run in order to lose weight. Unfortunately, they often couple their running schedules with a reduced diet. While cutting a few calories is good if you are trying to shed a few pounds, it can also make it harder for your body to recover after a tough run. If your body is getting the nutrients it needs, then you can expect to be awfully sore for days. Don’t be afraid of carbs as they provide energy for your muscles. Chocolate milk is a favorite post-run drink for many runners, as the balance of fat, carbs, and sugar helps give the body what it loses during a run.

Run Through the Pain

This last tip, might be the trickiest as it calls for good personal judgment. While I warned about over-running above, there is a reason to run even when sore. You see, lactic acid forms in our muscles when we stress them. It results in feelings of tiredness and soreness in our overtaxed muscles. This can last for days if you don’t run after a particularly tough work out. One of the best ways to restore your lactic acid filled legs is to go on a light run that enables your body to clear that lactic acid out, making you feel refreshed. This can be tough to do when you’re feeling tired, but generally if its been at least two days and you’ve been stretching its best to try a light run, even if you still feel like your legs are stiff or tired. Afterward you should feel better than before!

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Ryan Schapals

Ryan Schapals

Ryan Schapals is a senior at DePaul University studying Creative Writing and Psychology. Outside of class, Ryan can be found working in the Pysch Lab or at a local health clinic. When he's not distracted by cat videos, he tries to balance his time between playing guitar, writing prose, and running around the soccer field.