If you’ve recently made up your mind with regards to taking up jogging as your work out of choice for burning calories (find out how many calories you can burn through jogging here.), it’s important that you prepare yourself with the right knowledge about this workout to ensure maximum output, convenience and less mistakes. Here are some pointers which you might find helpful in getting you geared up for this work out.
Warm ups and Stretching are the Key to Avoiding Injuries
It may not be a good idea to do any stretching exercises before you start jogging because your muscles will be cold and it can cause an injury when you pull at them, but what’s required is that you do a warm up activity at least for 5 minutes before you actually start jogging. Once you are done with jogging its pertinent that you spend at least 5 minutes stretching your body to ensure that you don’t cramp up..
The best warm up activity prior to jogging is brisk walking. Spend 5 minutes walking through the terrain at a brisk pace breathing deeply to get your lungs ready for the work out and getting your muscles warmed up for the activity.
The Right Form to Follow
There are a few contentions on what's the right way to land your foot while jogging. In my personal experience, and through the observation of many long time joggers, I believe that it's best to take shorter strides allowing your feet to land on the 'middle' portion of the sole moving to transferring weight onto the heel and finally the toe region. Some people, while jogging, take longer strides and land directly on the heel region, which can create more 'impact' because of lesser area of contact leading to a higher chance of injury and this movement also causes a braking effect in your stride causing more wear and tear not only to your shoe but to the muscles in your feet region.
Keep your body upright, without tensing up, while running and look straight ahead instead of bending down. Don’t stoop your shoulders, or your upper & lower back, as it causes more strain on your neck. Keep your arms relaxed, without clenching your fists, and allow for a smooth movement that goes in tune with your strides.
Breathing Style for Jogging
The right way to breathe is mostly what feels comfortable to you at your pace. Some say that it's best to inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, but it’s very difficult to keep this going at a higher pace or higher mileage – your body soon needs a high intake of air and your nose is not capable to delivering such a high dosage, so at higher paces it’s best to breathe in with your nose and mouth in combination to allow for a maximum intake of oxygen.
Alternating Between Jogging and Brisk Walking
As a beginner, since your body is yet to adapt to the rigor of running, it's best that you alternate 2 minutes jogging with 5 minutes of walking. You can steadily increase the number of minutes you jog and reduce the number of minutes you walk, so that in a couple of weeks you are doing 5 minutes of jogging and 1 minute of walking. By the fourth week your body should feel adapted to jogging so you can do a steady 20 minute jog without any break for walking (of course it’s important that you always start your jog with 5 minutes of walking for warm up, no matter how veteran you become at your running skills).
Increasing Your Mileage, and Intensity
The first two or three weeks are for your body to adapt to the practice of jogging. During this time, just focus on getting your form right and getting your body acquainted. You can do a mile, or a mile and half, initially, for the first two weeks, while you get used to this work out. From the third or fourth week onwards you can start incrementing a mile every week or half a mile increment every 3 days (I believe the latter is a better option). If you do this, in a couple of months you should be able to run for 40 minutes without a break, taking in 5 miles with ease.
Another aspect is to increase your intensity in the form of short sprints. A sprint, of high intensity, for one minute, would burn 50-60% more calories than a jog at a brisk pace for the same time. So by the fourth week, make sure you incorporate at least three or four segments of high intensity sprints, for one minute, in between your jogging span. You can increase the pace of your sprint as your body adapt to it, in a couple of weeks.
What Should You Wear for Jogging?
A good pair of 'light weight' running shoes is a must, so that you don’t injure your feet during this high impact workout. A low quality running shoe can give you a shoe bite and also create an internal injury owing to improper cushioning. If you are willing to invest more, you can get custom-made running shoes designed for your specifics, based on the structure of your feet and your impact style (some people are heavy on the back portion while some on the side portion of their feet). The bottom line is to wear shoes that give you a comfortable run. If you sense any pain in your feet owing to your shoes, get them changed as soon as possible.
Women should invest in a good quality sports bra, as a mandatory requirement, to avoid injury to their back, while also ensuring a comfortable run. It also helps to wear some sports vest or trousers made explicitly to improve your running experience with synthetic fabric that wicks the sweat off your skin. In case you don’t feel like expending money on these accessories, just wear clothes that feel comfortable to you – like t-shirt and shorts or jogging tracks. Wear a white upper garment, or reflective vest, if you are out running while it’s still dark, to be visible to moving vehicles.
What is the Best Time to Jog?
Not all of us have the liberty to pick and choose our work out times, and usually mornings seems like the safer bet because there are no guarantees what surprise appointments pop up for the evening. However, early morning is not the best time to exert your body because the muscles are cold and all the bodily functions are at their lowest efficiency, add to it the fact that your body has not eaten in the past 10 hours or so and hence has lower energy levels. If you are jogging early in the morning, it’s highly important that you spend at-least 15 minutes warming up your muscles (preferably by doing some slow walking and a few squats) and doing some basic stretches. An advantage of jogging in the morning is that your body’s metabolism gets hiked up for the day, ensuring that you burn calories more efficiently from your meals.
If you have the independence to choose your workout timings, the best time to jog would be towards between 5-7 pm. During this time your body temperature is at its highest, your muscles are warm, your body has higher energy levels (from your breakfast and lunch) and your lungs are functioning at a higher efficiency. You naturally feel more alert and aware, so it’s easy to motivate yourself at this time than early in the morning when your brain is sluggish. Since your muscles are far more supple at this time of the day, you can exert yourself towards higher intensities without running the risk of injury (as you would early in the morning).
Should I Eat or Drink Before I Jog?
If you are jogging in the morning, just have a few ounces of water 30-45 minutes before the jog. Most people don’t feel hungry when they wake up, but if you do feel hungry you can have a light snack of fruits or fruit juice, an hour before jogging. It’s quite uncomfortable to jog with food digesting in your stomach, but since fruits usually just take 15 – 20 minutes to move out of the stomach they are the best food option prior to a jog.
It’s best to avoid drinking a lot of water just before the jog because it can lead to cramping. Always drink up 30 minutes prior to jogging. Also make sure you relieve your bladder, and bowels, just before you head out for the jog, there is nothing more uncomfortable than running on a filled bladder or an uncomfortable bowel.
Once you start running for more than 20 minutes, it’s best to have some water on the go. Carry a 500 ml plastic water bottle with you, and drink up a few ounces of water after the 20 minute interval. If you are running for 45 minutes or more you might have to consider drinking some sports drinks like Gatorade to compensate for the loss of minerals through sweat. Replenish your body with plenty of water after the jog (if it’s more than 45 minutes be sure to have a sports drink). Instead of gulping down a lot of water in one go (which might make you feel nauseated), make sure you drink at a slower pace over a period of 5 minutes.
Take a Break One Day a Week
It’s suggested that you take a day off from your jogging routine once a week, basically jogging for 6 days a week. Initially you may even want to take two or three days off to allow your body to adapt to the rigor. It’s very important to allow the body to recuperate from the strain, and build strength in its bones and muscles, and a day or two off every week helps do that effectively. Just like in weight training, there is a tendency to over burn your body if you don’t take any days off.
Some Safety Tips for Jogging
Make sure you carry your cell phone with you while jogging with ICE (in case of emergency) numbers stored in it. Take an ID card with you (like your driving license). Also carry some money in case you need to take a cab back due to some injury or exhaustion, or if you need to buy a sports drink or medication. You can get a “jogger’s belt” so that you can secure these objects in it without you having to carry it in your pockets.
A few more tips on safety while jogging are as below:
- Avoid running on tracks that are uninhabited, especially when it’s dark.
- It's best not to respond to hecklers, and ignore them, but if they try to get close to you make sure you give them a strict warning, in a strident tone, to back off. There is a law against bullying, and eve teasing, and hence hecklers can be reported to the cops.
- Always wear bright (or white) upper garments or even reflective tracks when you are running with low visibility.
- Carry a bottle of water with you (at least a 500 ml one).
- Make sure your family/friends are aware of the time you go out for jogging, and the route that you frequent.
- Avoid wearing head phones while jogging on roads or crowded streets because you might miss hearing a warning from behind, or even miss out on a honk from a car. It’s best to be on full alert while running on roads, instead of being lost in music (of-course it’s totally okay to listen to music while running on a treadmill or running on an open beach).
- Trust your instincts while running, avoid a route if something inside you feels uncomfortable about it and don’t over-strain yourself before your body is ready for it.
- Stay in a positive mood and enjoy the run instead of looking at it as a “chore” to be completed. The more positive you are in your mind the more comfortable your running experience will be as a whole.
The initial 2 or 3 weeks is usually the toughest for jogging beginners because this is the duration in which the body is getting adapted and the mind is getting acquainted with the routine. You might feel like giving up, or feel uncomfortable during this period, but just keep at it while also taking care not to over strain yourself. Within the first month your body will feel like a running machine and from there on its fitness will keep building more fitness, it becomes a positive cycle.
Hopefully you got some useful insights from this post; I would appreciate comments from you on your experience with jogging and how it has helped in your fitness journey.
So until then, happy jogging!
Image Source: Mike Baird