Running Guide
May 6, 2024, 6:23 a.m.

Running: What It Is, Health Benefits, How to Get Started, and How to Get Better

Running has steadily gained popularity over the years as an accessible and practical form of exercise. The COVID-19 pandemic fueled this trend, with gyms and fitness studios closed. According to a World Athletics report, 13% of surveyed runners started within a year of the pandemic's onset, and over 20% of existing runners increased their activity levels.

Whether you're aiming to improve cardiovascular health, find a convenient fitness solution, or complete a marathon, this guide will help you understand the basics of running, its benefits, how to start, and how to improve your performance.

What Is Running?

Running is a form of locomotion that involves moving rapidly on foot. Unlike walking, which always has one foot touching the ground, running has a moment where both feet are airborne, which makes it a high-impact activity. Proper running form includes good posture, a slight forward lean, and efficient strides.

Types of Running: Aerobic vs. Anaerobic

Running encompasses aerobic and anaerobic subtypes:

  • Aerobic Running: Aerobic running is steady-paced, where oxygen fuels sustained energy production. Long runs, recovery runs, and easy-pace runs are examples of aerobic running, and these should constitute the majority of a runner's weekly mileage.
  • Anaerobic Running: Anaerobic running involves high-intensity efforts like sprints or speed intervals that rely on stored muscle energy rather than oxygen. These efforts last from seconds to a few minutes and improve speed and power.

Amy Morris, a certified running coach, recommends that adults build a solid aerobic base for 16-24 weeks before incorporating anaerobic workouts. This helps prevent injuries and builds a strong foundation for speed work.

Other Forms of Running

  • Trail Running: Running on unpaved trails offers a challenging and scenic workout that engages different muscle groups due to varying terrains.
  • Treadmill Running: Useful during adverse weather, treadmills allow for customized pacing and incline adjustments.
  • Ultra-Marathon: Races extending beyond 26.2 miles, ultra-marathons require mental stamina and significant endurance training.

Health Benefits of Running

Running offers numerous physical and mental health benefits:

  • Improved Cardiovascular Health: Running strengthens the heart and circulatory system, reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Mental Health Benefits: Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, helping alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression. Many runners experience the "runner's high," a euphoric feeling after a challenging run.
  • Weight Management: Running burns calories and can aid in weight loss or maintenance.
  • Stronger Musculoskeletal System: Running is a weight-bearing activity that builds bone density and strengthens muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
  • Better Sleep: Physically active people tend to fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper, more restful sleep.
  • Longevity: Research indicates that runners have a lower mortality risk compared to non-runners, regardless of training intensity or pace.

How to Get Started

  • Get the Right Gear: Invest in quality running shoes that suit your gait. Wear moisture-wicking clothing to stay cool and prevent chafing.
  • Start Slowly: Begin with a walk-run method, alternating walking and jogging. Gradually increase running time and reduce walking breaks.
  • Warm-Up and Stretch: Perform dynamic stretches before running to loosen muscles and prevent injury. Gentle static stretches post-run aid recovery.
  • Plan a Schedule: Schedule runs with appropriate recovery days and set short-term and long-term goals to maintain motivation.
  • Track Progress: Use a journal or fitness app to log distance, pace, and how you feel to monitor improvements over time.

How to Get Better

  • Increase Mileage Gradually: Increase weekly mileage by no more than 10% to prevent overuse injuries.
  • Incorporate Cross-Training: Activities like swimming, cycling, and strength training improve endurance and complement running without stressing the same muscles.
  • Improve Your Form: Consult a coach or join a group to learn proper form, which includes posture, foot strike, and stride.
  • Speed Work and Hill Training: Integrating interval training, tempo runs, and hill sprints can enhance your speed and endurance.
  • Rest and Recovery: Schedule rest days and eat balanced, nutrient-rich meals to support muscle recovery and energy levels.
  • Join a Community: Connect with local running groups or online forums to share advice, motivation, and camaraderie.

Common Running Injuries and Prevention

  • Shin Splints: Caused by inflammation of muscles and tendons around the shin bone, often due to sudden mileage increases. Gradual mileage buildup and wearing supportive shoes can help.
  • Plantar Fasciitis: Heel pain due to inflammation of the foot's plantar fascia. Stretching and arch support can alleviate symptoms.
  • Runner's Knee: Pain around the kneecap caused by repetitive strain. Strengthening hip and thigh muscles reduces pressure on the knees.
  • IT Band Syndrome: Pain along the outer thigh due to a tight iliotibial band. Stretching and foam rolling can provide relief.


Running is a rewarding form of exercise that offers significant health benefits and an incredible sense of accomplishment. Whether you're just beginning or an advanced athlete seeking improvement, success lies in building a solid foundation, progressing gradually, and taking good care of your body. Follow this guide to structure your training, set achievable goals, and discover the joy of running!

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