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Run For The Right Reasons

November 20th, 2015

2015-10-30 11.18.53 HDR (1)Runners, stop in your tracks. It’s time for a gut check.

Why do you run?

If you answered “to get thin ” — or some variation on that theme — you’re going the distance for the wrong reason.

Like all fitness regimens, losing weight is a desirable byproduct of running. But it shouldn’t drive you to lace up.

When it does, running becomes, well, run-of-the-mill. Rather than experiencing the endorphin-high of hitting your stride, you’ll hit a plateau and risk ditching your routine altogether.

To avoid burnout, run for the right reasons. What are they? Everyone has their own. If you’re stuck, here are a five legit reasons to lace up:

  1. For the community. Running with neighbors or an organized club is a great way to keep in touch, strengthen bonds and create new friendships.
  2. For the competition. Maybe you’re trying to run faster or longer. Perhaps you’d like to attempt your first 5K, 10K or marathon. Creating a challenging goal helps you discover your physical potential and inspire yourself.
  3. For your mood. Choose a scenic route and disconnect from the stress. Thirty minutes later, you’ll march through your front door a new person.
  4. For your heart. Running is one of the most heart-healthy exercises around. Just an hour a week can reduce your risk of heart disease by almost half compared to non-runners.
  5. For the energy boost. Even a short run keeps sluggishness at bay, increasing energy, reducing fatigue and helping you sleep like a rock.

Once you’ve committed to running for the right reasons, you’re one step closer to making the most of your run.

Next up? Improving your form.

First, invest in a quality pair of running sneakers. Shoe cushioning and shock absorption degrade with time and use, putting you at risk for injury. Most runners swap out their kicks every 400-500 miles.

If you hold on to a cell phone, water bottle or other accessories when you run, you’re compromising your gait. Stay dialed in during your runs by investing in a shirt with a phone pocket. And unless you’re a competitive distance runner, you shouldn’t need to hydrate, especially if you’ve been drinking water during the day.

Now that you’re hands-free, take a moment to scan your arms. Do they sway side to side when you run? If so, you’re wasting valuable energy stores and preventing your body from propelling forward. Concentrate on swaying your arms forward and back instead, with your elbows at 90-degrees angles. Need a visual? Imagine yourself popping potato chips — OK, kale chips — into your mouth.

Finally, determine your cadence. On your next run, count the number of times each foot strikes the ground in a minute; optimal running cadence is about 160-170 steps. Maintaining that will reduce loading on your knee and hip joints, and may ward off common running injuries. Use a pedometer or Spotify’s running cadence mixes to keep you on track.

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