Running for Fitness

Running is a fundamental part of your physical

Running is a fundamental part of your physical

Training program and provides an excellent aerobic workout. Moreover, it is not expensive; most of the cost of running involves buying a pair of “good” running shoes. If you train intelligently and have the right gear, you can continue to enjoy the fitness and general sense of well-being that accompanies running while avoiding running injuries.

In this chapter, basic information is provided for maintaining a sound, middle distance running (20 to 40 miles/week) program; this is adequate for running 10K and half marathon races. Some of you may consider running a marathon in the future; at such a time you may want to get training tips from experienced marathoners, trainers at a running club or running

Running Shoes

A good pair of running shoes will provide shock absorption, cushioning, motion control and durability, and ultimately help prevent injuries. Under no circumstance should you buy shoes if they do not fit correctly? Running magazines usually have a yearly review of various running shoes, the newest models of shoes, and the type of runner the shoes are most suited to. You can also obtain current information from “Running Sites/Pages” on the worldwide web. It is wise to try on several different shoes at a sporting goods store to determine which one might

Cleats for Cold Weather Running

By putting on rubber cleats over a pair of running shoes you will be able to run outdoors under icy conditions. Personnel in the Arctic Warrior Brigade in Alaska use cleats when training in frigid weather. To obtain information about ordering these cleats, call Ft. Wainwright.


like many sports, running is not seasonal and with the right clothes, it is possible to continue to train outdoors on very hot or very cold days (see Chapter 11: Special Considerations for Training to review training under adverse environmental conditions). When weather conditions are extreme, as in ice storms, blizzards or a major heatwave, outdoor training can be substituted with running on a treadmill in the gym.

Thus, running clothes can range from a simple pair of running shorts and a singlet to running tights and vortex jackets, depending on environmental temperatures. Cold weather running requires dressing in layers. Always keep your head and extremities warm in cold weather. Experience will teach you what to wear when running in the cold. If you wear too much, you may get hot after warming up, i.e., within the first mile or so.

Heart Rate Monitors

You may have seen these advertised in running and fitness magazines. Some athletes use these for monitoring their training intensities. Such monitors consist of a wristwatch and a chest strap: the chest strap has an electrode that picks up your heartbeat and transmits it to the watch which in turn displays your heart rate in beats per minute. If you know your target training zone (see Chapter 1) you can check and maintain your heart rate within that zone. Heart rate monitors are not a training necessity and can be expensive.


Putting reflectors on your shoes and running clothes is a great idea if you routinely run late in the evening, at night, or very early in the morning when visibility is particularly poor. This is especially important in urban areas where motorists may not be paying particular attention to runners. Note that you should also run against the traffic.


A warm-up to lengthen short, tight muscles before running is crucial for preventing injuries that may result if muscles are “cold”. A longer muscle is less likely to get injured than a short, tight muscle because it can exert more force with less effort than a short muscle. Another benefit of warming up is that it protects tendons.

Warm-up by slow jogging or walking for five to 10 minutes before you run. After you warm up you need to stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, groin, calves, Achilles, and the iliotibial band. Exercises to accomplish these stretches are provided in the chapters on “Flexibility” and “Calisthenics” and are included in your recommended

Cool-Down and Stretching

After completing your run, walk for a few minutes to cool down. It is not a good idea to sprint at the end of your run and then comes to a complete stop; this practice may result in an injury. Cooling down helps to shift the blood flow from the muscles to the heart and other vital organs. A cool-down lets your heart rate slow down and your body gradually returns to its pre-exercise physiological state. Cooling down properly and stretching


For most runners, other than sprinters or very fast runners, the heel-ball foot strike method works well: (1) the outside of the heel strikes the surface; (2) the foot rolls inwards to the ball of the foot while the knee is slightly bent; and (3) the foot lifts off from propulsion provided by the big toe. This method provides good shock absorption.

Forward Stride

The point of foot contact should occur in line with the knee which should be slightly flexed. As you improve and get faster, the length and frequency of your strides will increase and you will begin lifting your knees higher. Do not overstride such that your foot hits the ground ahead of the knee flex (i.e. leg should not be straight at the point of impact). Overstriding is hard on the knees, back and hips and can cause injuries. Short, choppy strides, which usually result from tight or inflexible muscles, require more energy and are inefficient. Run with a relaxed stride and do not exaggerate the knee-lift or back kick.

Body Angle

Keep your back as straight as naturally possible, your head up, and look ahead. Of course, depending on the terrain you may have to look down to avoid tripping or landing in a hole or rut. Lean forward only when going uphill or sprinting as this motion will put stress on leg muscles and may cause back pain and shin splints. Leaning back is not recommended as this puts tremendous pressure on the back and legs and has a “braking effect”. The key is to run “tall” and remain relaxed; allow your shoulders to hang in a relaxed manner and let your arms drop from time to time.

Last words

While running relax your shoulders, elbows, wrists, and fists and occasionally let your arms hang down at your sides and loosely shake them out. Whereas vigorous pumping of the arms helps sprinters, it is unnecessary during distance running.

About Jack Watts

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