For many people, running brings freedom. Freedom from the real world that overflows with work and family responsibilities, child care, social activities, grocery shopping and a whole lot more. With the wind in your face and perhaps a friend by your side, running offers an escape. Maybe that’s why more people run today than ever before. At every level of the sport, from beginner to elite competitor, large numbers of active people are growing more committed to running.
Beginning runners often dive quickly into the sport and find themselves hooked on both the physical and mental benefits of regular running. Before long, beginners actually start to look like runners. They purchase new running shoes, shorts, tights, tank tops, wind-suits, socks, reflective vests and watches. They run more miles, enter races, and learn to run safely.
Beyond the intermediate level, running can be quite complex. Elite runners, for example, often follow complicated training schedules, use heart-rate monitors, and wear high-tech shoes. Regardless of where you fit in, this article will help you become a better runner.
Choosing the Right Footwear
Selecting the right pair of running shoes will do more for your running than any gadget, gimmick, or words of advice. With the right pair, you’ll be able to run more miles, more comfortably, and with less chance of injury.
To choose the right shoes, go to a reputable running shoe store. Although the shoes might cost slightly more than they would at a large sporting goods store, you’ll be served by a knowledgeable salesperson who’s probably a runner too. And in many cases, you’ll be able to take a test-run around the block. That’s a better way to determine if the shoes feel comfortable and fit well rather than simply jumping around in the store.
Also, a smart salesperson will ask you about your running background. Are you a new recreational or fitness runner, an aspiring racer, or a cross-trainer? Depending on how you answer, you’ll be fitted for an appropriate pair of shoes.
Although today’s running shoes usually offer ample cushioning from the road, some runners like to use elastic replacement insoles in their running shoes to absorb even more road shock. If your feet or lower legs hurt, you’re probably going to stop running. But if your feet feel fine and your legs feel no pain, you can look forward to many happy miles.
A simple timepiece with a second hand may keep you running on schedule during the business day, but when it comes time to run, you’ll benefit from using a digital chronograph which is also called a “runner’s watch.” Although the trademark runner’s watches, those basic black models, are still available and frequently appear in boardrooms, today’s sports watches come in a variety of colors.
Most running and sporting goods stores carry sports watches, as do many department stores, since non-athletic people purchase sports watches for the image they convey. Some of the more popular models have functions that include standard and elapsed time, multi-lap or split times, a countdown timer, light, calendar, and alarm. Other watches offer special features such as temperature gauges, telephone number memories, calculators, and depth meters. Some of the best brands include Timex, Casio, and Seiko.
Why bother with a fancy and expensive pulse monitor when you can learn the same information from a simple manual pulse check? The reason is because top-quality pulse monitors provide accurate information when you want it, not after you stop running and take your pulse manually. Although good pulse monitors are expensive, many serious runners regularly use them to ensure that they are working out at the level that will produce the best fitness benefits.
Because many runners have only a rough idea of how hard their heart works when they run, it’s a good idea to learn your ideal training heart-rates and then monitor your pulse while running. Although manual pulse checks can provide reasonably accurate information, you have to stop running and pause for the time it takes to count your heartbeats which can be anywhere from six to 15 seconds. In that time, your heart-rate can slow down, making your count less accurate. With a monitor, however, all it takes is a quick glance and you know exactly how hard your heart is beating. No pause. No confusion.
Another plus for serious runners who use top-of-the-line monitors is the memory function. For example, you can store your heart-rate data during an interval workout and later review the numbers to see how your heart responded to and recovered from each of your intervals. That feedback can help you determine which workouts work best for you. The best heart-rate monitors use a chest-strap/wrist-watch combination. Recent tests show that such models provide significantly more accurate readings than models that use earlobe or fingertip sensors.