By Rich Valdez
Jogging is hardly a new thing in today’s society. However, doing it the right way is.
People have been jogging for exercise and to release stress for a long time, so it's hardly surprising that it's been improved upon over the years. As time has gone by, it’s been put under the microscope by people who take it very seriously indeed. There is a right way and a wrong way of doing everything, and jogging is no exception.
First off, there's equipment - the tools of the trade. Luckily, few tools are needed; it’s all about the clothes and shoes you wear. Your choices may be influenced by cost, but I recommend you buy the best you can afford.
Besides feeling more comfortable, the right shoes protect your feet and lessen the impact on your bones and joints. Certain brands are renowned for their running shoes, like Nike and New Balance, but take the time to learn about cushioned soles, soft, lightweight bodies, breathable material, wide toe boxes, and traction. Even though we have beautiful soft sand here on Boracay, I still recommend that you jog in the right footwear.
Socks, shorts and shirt are also important. Specialist socks will keep your feet warm, dry and blister-free, so avoid socks with toe seams and look for ones with extra padding around the heel and ball of the foot. Nylon shorts are ideal because they are light, soft and allow airflow, and go for ones which are shaped to give complete freedom of movement. Of course, you can always go for lycra for that extra support and to avoid chafing. For shirts, avoid cotton and ideally go for polypropylene since it is lightweight (even when wet) and takes the sweat away from your skin to the outer layer of the garment. Try not to jog in your normal beach shorts and t-shirt - they were not designed for it.
Once you’re properly attired, it’s time to hit the streets. But there is no point in going out there all willy-nilly without a plan. Set yourself a goal, and then mentally prepare yourself for what you are about to embark on. The best idea is to set yourself a time or distance limit, and intensity is also important. How long you run depends on how often you plan on going and how fit you are, but ideally the distance or time will increase over time. Don't increase either too sharply, though. Set a goal, then look to beat that goal.
The next thing is to get ready for the actual running itself. Stretching and warming up is paramount. If you don’t do it, your muscles will be cold and you run the risk of pulling a muscle. Loosening up first will help you to jog further and prevent your muscles from cramping. Stretching at the end of the run and cooling down is important in order to hurt less the next day.
Stretching makes the muscles more flexible and facilitates a bigger range of motion in the joints. There are hundreds of stretching exercises and you do not need to go overboard in trying to vary them. One exercise for each major muscle group (hamstrings, thighs, calves, shoulders, arms, neck and back) is enough, and remember to hold each stretch for around 10-15 seconds. You can warm up by running on the spot, and every few "strides" you can raise your knees a bit more, and then vary it by jumping on the spot and lifting your feet.
When you start to run, it is important to do so slowly and ease your way into it. Starting too quickly will tire you out, and also increase the risk of pulling a muscle. The best thing to do is to look at the first stage of the run as an extension of your warm-up, and you can even start by walking and then picking up the pace as you go.
When you are running, it is important to do it the right way. Your posture should be chest out and shoulders back, otherwise you run the risk of spinal injuries. And you’ll look better too. Take short strides rather than long ones to lessen the impact on your ankles, knees and hips.
Don’t land on your heels as the impact can contribute to back and knee pain. Instead aim to land on the balls of your feet as this allows your muscles to absorb the weight of your body and reduce the impact on your joints and bones. And land softly to dissipate the shock.
Correct breathing is the most important technique in jogging. Breathe in a constant rhythm to pump enough oxygen consistently to your muscles and thereby avoid muscle fatigue (or at least delay it for longer). Try to breathe more slowly than you naturally feel you should, as this will give your body more time to expel carbon dioxide.
Count your strides in a rhythm and match them with your breathing. For example, breathe in slowly for three strides and then exhale slowly over the next three. And try to breathe through your nose and out of your mouth, especially when you are getting tired towards the end.
Interval running is recommended if you are trying to build up stamina. Try jogging for 10 minutes and then walking for 30 seconds, for example, while running downhill. This will help build muscle control and improve your balance and jogging technique. Running uphill increases your endurance and burns more calories. And always remember to drink plenty of water to avoid cramp and muscle fatigue.
It's important to remember not to overdo it, especially if you are a beginner. Running too hard or too often after not exercising for a while is a sure way to get injured by placing too much impact and stress on your body. Also consider investing in a heart monitor to ensure you are not pushing your body too hard. Aim to keep your heart rate at around 50-70 percent of its maximum rate, and the way to calculate your maximum heart rate is by subtracting your age from 220.
Of course, living in the technological information age means that having your phone with you may feel like a must, and there are advantages to this. There are many apps which can track your stats and plot your route, or connect you with fellow joggers and so forth. However, if you’re going to do it right, it’s best to travel as light as possible, so it might be time to ditch that phone.
It might not be a necessity, but music always helps to drive you forward and give you that little energy lift when you are tiring. So, either take your phone or an iPod, and definitely invest in good headphones which can take the movement of jogging without cutting out. And think about what music you want to have as your running soundtrack; you may like love ballads, but maybe some rock or hip hop will be a better mood-enhancer when it comes to exercise.
Finally, learn to stop thinking for a while. The best thing about exercise is that you can leave your worries behind. When you’re jogging, you have time to think, but it’s better not to think at all. Just free your mind and concentrate on your breathing, your route, the scenery, avoiding hazards, and reaching your goal. Not thinking is just a matter of practice.
And those are the fundamentals of jogging. Now go and do it!