Running or jogging just may be the best-kept health secret today! It releases stress, reduces anxiety, helps clear your mind, increases blood flow, improves your energy, helps with weight loss, enhances your mood, and – along with a healthy plant based diet -- can reduce or eliminate a host of symptoms, such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, diabetes, and more! And springtime is the ideal time to put on your sneakers and go for a run!
The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports recommends 30 minutes of walking a day, at least five days a week (the equivalent of 10,000 steps daily-- that is almost 5 miles!) for the best health benefits. So, if you don't like running, walking is a great alternative.
Here are more top tips to get the most health value from your daily run or jog:
• Make it your morning routine. Studies show that it feels easier to keep our commitment to exercise when we schedule it in the morning – before we are exhausted by the day or get bogged down with other commitments.
• Eat a balanced dinner of mostly leafy greens, lean, healthy protein and “good” fats (omega 3 fatty acids) to ensure your body has fuel for the morning. Make sure you’re eating two to three hours before bedtime, and keep alcohol consumption to moderation or skip it altogether. Too much alcohol can interrupt your sleep cycle or make you feel sluggish in the morning.
• Prep the night before. It helps to have your sneakers, bottled water, and drink ready to go by your front door! I tend to eat very little before venturing out for a run because too much food can upset my stomach. I usually stick to a banana. Find what works for you!
• Include short, power sprints, as well as longer, more moderate-paced jogs each week. Health experts have long recommended challenging yourself to keep a brisk pace. Faster paced sprints help battle the belly buldge!
• Use your jog or run as a time to think and even meditate. If you’re running outside, take time to take in the beauty of the outdoors, the flowers blooming, the blue skies, the birds chirping. Running/jogging is not just good for your body, it’s good for your mind! If you have a favorite playlist – great! That can also be meditative and relaxing. Just remember to pay attention to your surroundings and look ahead for any uneven payment, cracks in the sidewalk, or holes in the ground to avoid injury. I prefer to run in parks to avoid traffic. If you do run on busy streets, I recommend not listening to music.
• Warm up and cool down. Slowing the pace down and stretching ensures that your muscles and heart have a chance to recover.
• Replenish with water. Believe it or not, most of us are dehydrated before we even head out the door in the morning. Holistic health experts such as Dr. Andrew Weil recommend that you drink half your weight in ounces of water every day. On those days when you increase your exercise, you’ll want to add more. One easy tip: Start by drinking eight ounces of water when you wake up. An hour or two before your run, drink another eight ounces. During your run, replenish with water every 15-20 minutes. This will not only keep you hydrated, but will also help you maintain your energy during and after your workout.
One of my favorite tips for those who struggle to get out the door is to jog/run with a friend! It will help you stay committed to your routine.