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Make running enjoyable, not a task

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POSTED May 29, 2012 6:44 p.m.

Run? Why, you may ask.

Why not?

The health benefits of running cannot be understated in an obesity-plagued nation as one of the best forms of aerobic exercise. Besides making a person feel better, the benefits of running include; improved circulation, lowering of high blood pressure, increased lung function, a stronger immune system, reduced risk of blood clots and strokes, elevating levels of good cholesterol, eliminating depression, reducing stress, boosting confidence and self-esteem, improving sleep and even reducing the risk of breast cancer in women.

And let’s not forget about maintaining body weight.

But, since running is work, the key to making running a lifestyle and not a fad is allowing yourself to have fun, say members of the Shadow Chase Running Club based in Modesto.

“Running is not a job,” said member Barbara Miller, whose been running since the 1980s, including four Boston Marathons. “It should be fun, except when you’re racing and being competitive, and it’s not as much fun.”

The club helps keep running fun for approximately 900 throughout the area who run, ranging from the beginner to the experienced marathoner. Many join for the benefit of training offered, but an obvious reason is friendship.

“It’s hard to get out there and pound the pavement by yourself,” said Miller. “We offer friendship and fun.”

Ceres elementary school teacher, Kelly Wagner, of Ripon, started running four years ago, when she lived in San Luis Obispo. The coastal scenery drew her to the sport. She now runs about two-to-three times a week for 30 to 40 minutes and is working up to her first 5K race; with eyes on a half marathon (13.1 miles).

“I joined the club because I was looking for a group of runners to stay motivated,” said Wagner. “Because in this area it’s not as beautiful as San Luis and in San Luis I was self-motivated.”

Wagner was being mentored by Miller’s Wednesday evening group that meets in East La Loma Park in Modesto. The runners were training for the Modesto Memorial Classic one-mile and 5-K on May 26.

The club also offers Tuesday night workouts on the Modesto Junior College track.

Brandon Hunt mentors other runners with Miller. He ran cross country as a Ceres High School student, and returned to running after he got out of the Army.

“When I got out of the Army, I kind of put on some weight,” said Hunt, who through running and better diet has lost 70 pounds. He completed the 2010 Modesto Marathon (26.2 miles), the Big Sur half marathon, and the Rock ‘n Roll half in San Jose.

Miller cautions beginners to not take on too much, too fast.

“Keep with it, but at the same token you have to start slow,” said Miller. “I don’t mean slow speed, but you can’t suddenly be running many miles, so you have to build up slowly.”

Running in the early morning or the cooler evening are best times.

Walking is a good way to warm up. It helps the runner lower the exertion level, which conserves resources for the end of a workout and reduces heat build-up.

Also wear loose-fitting clothing to allow body heat to escape. There are several different synthetic materials that will wick some of the perspiration away from your skin, which reduces chafing and helps the body cool faster.

A huge mistake made among even experienced runners is bad arm form. Keep your shoulders in, keep your arms relaxed, and avoid excessive arm movements. Additionally, your arms should be at approximately 90-degree angles. Don’t run with a clench fist.

“You have to pay attention to form, such as your foot plant,” Miller says. “Your mind just can’t plan it. You have to check it from time to time. Make sure that you’re not leaning.”

More tips: Keeping your head up will help you keep the rest of your body in alignment, which will help prevent injuries. It will also allow you to run slightly faster (about 30 seconds for a 10K).

Runners should be landing on their heels. If you get to a certain faster pace (about seven minutes per mile) there is a technique to learn where you land on the ball of your foot and quickly shift to your heel. Running on your toes will quickly lead to shin splints and other injuries.

If you can learn how to breath properly, your running experience will improve. A good idea is to breathe in or out every time your dominant foot contacts the ground. If you’re breathing too hard while running it could be that your speed is too fast. Listen to your body and run at a pace that is comfortable for you.

As you near the end of your run, convert to a walk five to 10 minutes out to slowly decrease body temperature, and remove waste products from working muscles. Stretching can be an appropriate way to cool down as it helps the muscles to relax, and increase their range of movement.

It’s never a good idea to run with a stomach full of food.

Stay hydrated without having a lot of liquid sloshing in your stomach.

Other important tips are:

• If you run down the street as opposed to a trail, canal or track, always run facing traffic on the left side of the road.

• If you run at night, make sure you are wearing something light colored or have reflective clothing.

• If you encounter a dog, stop and don’t look them in the eye.

• Run with a friend to make things more secure.

• If you have pain, it’s best not to continue running.

• Don’t overuse a running shoe. A good strategy is to rotate several pairs of running shoes at the same time, even if the same model.

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