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Running for Fitness - How Should You Run? How Much Should You Run?



running cadence

When you are trying to start with running, you are most likely going to have a lot of questions.

Does it really help my fitness?

How much should I run as a minimum?

Should I go fast and short or slower and longer?

Is there a difference between getting fit and getting healthy?

What is the best way to get fitter?

I'll try to address some of these questions here and will provide some (hopefully!) useful links for you as well.

Does Running Really Help My Fitness?

The main muscle you train when running is... your heart. Running is one of the best ways to train your cardiovascular system. Without getting all scientific about it and boring you to death, in short, when you run, you make your heart stronger.

And a stronger heart helps in many different ways. It helps make you calmer. It helps you sleep better. It even helps reduce your stress levels. Oh, and let's not forget you reduce your chances of all kinds of terrible diseases!

There are many important benefits of running and improved fitness levels is just one of many!

running for fitness

How Much Should I Run as a Minimum to Boost My Fitness?

Let's start off by saying that something is better than nothing.

Always.

Don't get caught in a trap where you won't do any exercise because you don't have much time to improve.

Having said that, the general advice to achieve fitness goals is to run three times per week. Or more.

From my own experience I can tell you as well that when I have a period in which I can consistently run at least three times per week, I am more likely to achieve improvements and get faster over time.

Running three times per week also allows you to introduce some variation to your running schedule, something I'll address next.


When Running for Fitness Should I Go Fast and Short or Slower and Longer?

This is where it becomes really interesting and the difference schools of thought come into play.

Let me first ask you a question: do you want to become fit or do you want to become healthy?

Yes, there is a difference.

Let's describe fitness as a state in which you can be competitive and fast.

Let's describe health as a state in which you don't have physical problems, you have a healthy weight, you sleep well, etc.

running for fitnessWhat are you after?

Either way I would always advise you to start off with slow and easy running.

Make sure you build up a base, you build up some stamina.

Then, depending on what you want to achieve, fitness or health, your training approaches will vary.


Fitness?
Then I would advise you to add in quite a bit of faster running, in the form of both tempo runs and interval workouts.

Intervals will help make you faster. Guaranteed. They are, what they call, anaerobic workouts. Although they are great for speed, they are not risk-free.

Anaerobic means "without oxygen". What your body is doing when you are doing anearobic exercise is burn glycogen and take blood sugar from your body.

Doing an excessive amount of anaerobic workouts is not safe, in my opinion. It may get you fit, but not healthy. It is linked to issues with metabolism, excessive injury risk, headaches, fatigue etc.

Now, I am not trying to scare you away from doing intervals. But don't do intervals as your only way of training. Build up a good aerobic base, then add in interval workouts, one a week, maybe two in some weeks very close to a race.

This way, you give your fitness a boost in a short period of time, but rely on healhier exercise patterns for the rest of the time. So base running, easy pace running, remains the cornerstone of your running!


Health?
When you are after health, after lower weight, less stress and better sleep? Then just keep on going slow and easy. Running slow and easy, you'll run in an aerobic state. In this state your body will mostly burn fat as fuel.

This helps improve your metabolism, it helps build up a strong endurance and helps build a stronger heart, stronger blood vessels, improve your lung capacity, etc.

All good stuff!


Combining both fitness and health?
It is possible to combine running for fitness and running for health. The key is balance. Let me give you an example of how I build up my running schedules.

Suppose I have a race in six months time. Then the first three months will be dedicated to running at an easy pace. I might do a weekly tempo run, but generally, I'd refrain from doing any faster running. Those first three months are all about building a base and and setting up my season.

In month four to six, closer to race day, I'll introduce more tempo runs and intervals. Those months are really dedicated to getting fitter and faster.

The key is alternating the faster and the slower running. Having periods in which slower running is the most important, and having periods in which the faster running becomes more important.


Running for Fitness or Health - Where to Start?

running for fitness

Whether you are running for fitness or for health or for a combination of the two, make sure to start slow. Try to get into a bit of a routine by running about three times a week.

Running can be painful starting out. There is a way however to make it a bit easier for you: use a combination of running and walking.

The Beginner Running Programs on this site are all run/walk programs, running programs which alternate running and walking. For beginning runners, I think this makes a lot of sense.

And judging by the feedback I get, the popularity of the pages in my statistics and the number of people who sign up for the beginner running programs, I am not the only one who thinks so!

When you are completely new to running, I'd advise you give one of these programs a try.

You may not want to use one of these run/walk programs. You may already have some experience with sports. In that case, my running training section might be more interesting to you. If you do head over that way, make sure to check out my increasing mileage safely page.


So, all in all, running is a great way to get both fitter and healthier.

I hope I have made clear what the differences are between the two and how you can achieve a combination of the two.

It is not trivial.

Many of us think there is no huge difference between fitness and health, but there is and understanding it is one of the keys to a successful, long-term running career!

Other Recommended Pages

beginners running program running training how to start running


Running for Fitness






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