If you're new to running and have just finished your first workout, it's reasonable to expect virtually every part of your body to ache in the following days. That's because running offers a full-body workout, exercising large and small muscle groups throughout your body. Although you might move with some stiffness following your first run, take comfort in knowing that the exercise is comprehensive.
Despite offering a full-body workout, the action of running is mostly a result of the use of the primary muscles in your lower body. These muscles include your calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors and gluteus maxiumus. Each muscle plays an important role in the action of running and many of these primary muscles are comprised of several smaller muscles. The large quadriceps femoris, for example, includes four muscles that help you bend at the hip and straighten your knee.
Supporting and Auxiliary Muscles
The supporting and auxiliary muscles play a lesser role in running than the primary muscles, but are still important. Supporting muscles include the biceps, which you engage when you bend or pump your arms, the upper and lower abdominals, which help your posture as you move, and the muscles in your back. The intercostal muscles, which surround your chest, are auxiliary muscles that help the chest move during inhalation and exhalation. As you breathe harder, these muscles work more.
Although the act of running works muscles throughout the body, it's possible to target certain muscles to build them by changing how you run. If you want to tone your glutes and quads, spend time running up and down steep inclines. To build muscles in your legs, alternate sprinting and jogging, which offers the muscles the equivalent of leg workouts at the gym. While it might be slightly unorthodox, running backward strengthens your back, hamstrings and quads.
Running offers numerous health benefits, but it's possible to overdo it and get injured. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends running no more than 45 miles per week and to increase the distance you run in small increments. If possible, run on ground that is soft and flat and alternate vigorous running days with off-days or easier workout days. Because your shoes provide support and absorb much of the impact of running, change to new shoes after you've run 500 miles in them.
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.