Making running a part of your regular exercise routine can reduce your risk of heart disease, strengthen your bones and muscles and even improve your mental health. If you are a beginner, ease into the sport with a routine that combines both running and walking. If running is already part of your workout routine, mix it up by adding trail runs and challenging intervals.
Beginner's Running Routine
Setting a goal is important when starting a running routine, and most beginners set their sights on a 5K. Give yourself at least 10 weeks to train before race day to build up a running base and reduce the risk of injury. Start with a running and walking routine, switching between the two activities as you build strength and endurance. You may start off running only 30 seconds between two-minute walks, but you will eventually build up to longer distances and faster speeds.
Running laps around the track can quickly become boring when you pass the bleachers for the fourth time. Mix up your running exercise routine by hitting the trails so you can enjoy the scenery while breaking a sweat. Trail running is also a great active recovery exercise. When you run on a trail that is a bit rocky, curvy or root-laden instead of flat and steady like a track, your are forced to take your time to avoid tripping. This lightens the training load on your system, which is an important part of recovering from a more difficult workout. Running through trails also improves your balance, changes your running gait and improves your coordination. To get these benefits, choose a trail with some technical sections and hills.
Interval training consists of repeated bursts of high-intensity sprints followed by a short rest period. This type of exercise dramatically improves cardiovascular fitness while boosting the body's ability to burn fat. For an interval running workout, sprint 100 meters, then recover by walking or jogging for 200 meters. Repeat the sequence 8 to 16 times. For a bigger challenge, try sprinting 400 meters, then recovering with a walk or jog for 200 meters before repeating the sequence four to eight times.
Running Safety Tips
Avoid injuries while running by wearing sunscreen, staying hydrated and wearing reflective materials when hitting the road at night. Warm up before each run with a five-minute walk followed by stretches. Stretch your muscles again after your run. Dress appropriately in moisture-wicking clothing and choose a running shoe that provides cushioning and stability.
Poppy Carpenter graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. In addition to teaching journalism to junior high students, she also covers health and fitness for "PUSH Monthly" and Angie's List.