Running in the Park: Why should I start running?

Running in the Park

Why run?

Running has definitely risen in popularity over the years, especially running in the park since the inception of parkrun.  It has become more than a sport or a means to stay in shape, and now has its own social culture.  You only need to jump in your car, and you will not have to travel very far until you see a runner plodding along the footpath.  So, if you have never taken the leap into the world of running, why would you start now?

So many reasons, but running can be a great way to improve your physical and mental health. Some of the potential benefits of running include:

  1. Improving cardiovascular fitness: Running can help to strengthen your heart and lungs. This can improve your overall cardiovascular health.
  2. Burning calories: Running is a high-intensity activity that can help you burn calories and lose weight.
  3. Reducing stress: Running can be a great way to reduce stress and improve your mental health. The endorphins released during a run can help to improve your mood and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
  4. Strengthening muscles: Running can help to strengthen the muscles in your legs, core, and upper body. This will improve your overall strength and stability.
  5. Improving sleep: Regular running can help to improve your sleep patterns, which can help you feel more rested and energized.

Running Fitness

The Running Community

OK, so all very good reasons to start running, but I believe there is an even better reason.  The running community.  Since I started running, I have met some of the nicest people.  Running is often envisaged as a solitary sport, which it can be and many people enjoy it as that!  However it also has a vibrant community that gathers at local races, parkruns and athletic clubs.

You may be thinking that you need to be some sort of seasoned runner to start or at least show good potential.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  Local parkruns even host a park walk for people who wish to walk the 5km distance.  There are many council funded “couch to 5km” programmes particularly aimed at people who have literally just got off the couch as the name suggests.  If you are more competitive however, the opportunities are endless.  They often say parkrun is the start of the slippery slope to the marathon!  Which I believe everyone should try at least one if they are in good health.

Parkrun

Running in the park can help people suffering from depression and anxiety

Running is also a great sport to help people suffering with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.  Many people find that running makes them feel energized and positive.  Additionally, the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing a run can boost self-confidence and self-esteem.  Some people also find that running helps them to feel more mindful and present in the moment. When you run, you may be more focused on your breath, your body, and your surroundings. Which can help to reduce stress and improve overall well-being.

Of course, everyone’s experience of running is different, and it’s possible that you may not always feel great during or after a run. If you’re just starting out, you may experience muscle soreness or fatigue, and it may take time to build up your endurance. However, with consistent training, you will find that your body becomes stronger and more able to handle the demands of running.

How running shapes the body

Depending on the intensity and duration of your running, you may burn a significant number of calories, which can help with weight loss.  As you run consistently, you may notice changes in your body such as increased muscle tone, improved cardiovascular fitness, and increased endurance.  Runners typically have lean, toned bodies with low body fat percentages and strong muscles, particularly in the legs. However, there is no one “typical” body type for a runner, as some may be taller and leaner while others may be shorter and more muscular. It is also important to note that genetics, training, and diet all play a role in a runner’s physique. Ultimately, the most important factor for a runner is to be able to perform at their best and stay healthy, rather than having a specific body type.  Check out my article on a “toned female body“, (the same rules apply to men as well).

Racing

Why run in the park?

Running in the park can be a great way to get some exercise and fresh air, and it can be a particularly enjoyable experience if you take the time to find a park that you enjoy running in. Many people find that running in a park is more enjoyable than running on a treadmill or on the street because it can be more scenic and peaceful.  Many people go to parks to exercise and spend time outdoors, and this can be a great opportunity to meet new people and make friends. If you’re feeling lonely or isolated, going for a run in the park can be a great way to connect with others and improve your mental well-being.

Explore your neighbourhood

Another advantage of running in the park is that it can be a good way to explore your neighborhood or city. Many parks have trails or paths that can take you on a tour of the local area, and this can be a great way to discover new sights and landmarks that you may not have known about before. If you’re looking to take your park running to the next level, you may want to consider joining a parkrun. Parkrun is a free, weekly, timed 5K run that takes place in parks all around the world. It’s a great way to get involved in the running community, meet new people, and track your progress over time. It was founded in 2004 in the UK, and there are now parkruns in over 20 countries and on every continent (except Antarctica). Parkrun

Parkrun events are open to everyone, and they are typically held on Saturday mornings at 9:00 am. Participants can register online and then print out a barcode that they bring with them to the event. When they finish the run, their time is recorded and added to the parkrun database. This allows participants to track their progress over time. They can see how they compare to other runners in the parkrun community.  To find out more click here.

Junior Parkrun

In addition to the timed 5K run, parkrun also offers a 2K run for children, called Junior parkrun. This is a great way for kids to get involved in running and build their fitness and confidence.  One of the great things about parkrun is that it is completely volunteer-led. Local volunteers set up and take down the course, record times, and manage the event. This helps to create a sense of community and helps to make parkrun a fun and welcoming event for everyone.

Many parkrun events offer a walking option in addition to the 5K run. Participants who prefer to walk can still take part in the event and have their time recorded, just like runners.  If you’re interested in participating in a parkrun event as a walker, you can find a parkrun near you by visiting the parkrun website and searching for events in your area. Just be sure to select the “Walking” option when you register, so that your time will be recorded correctly.

Why does running hurt?

When you are running, your body goes through a number of physiological changes in order to meet the demands of the activity. Some of the things that happen to your body when you are running include:

  1. Your heart rate and breathing rate increase: When you start running, your heart rate and breathing rate increase in order to deliver more oxygen to your muscles.
  2. Your muscles start to burn: As you run, your muscles start to burn as they use up their stored glycogen (a form of carbohydrate) and start to rely on fat as a fuel source.
  3. Your body temperature increases: As you run, your body temperature increases, and you may start to sweat in order to regulate your body temperature.
  4. Your body releases endorphins: As you run, your body releases endorphins, which are chemicals that can help to reduce pain and improve your mood.
  5. Your body becomes more efficient: As you continue to run, your body becomes more efficient at using oxygen and fuel, which can help to make running easier over time.

What can make running more difficult?

Running can be difficult for a variety of reasons, and what makes it difficult can vary from person to person. Some common reasons why running might be difficult include:

  1. Lack of fitness: If you are new to running or if you are returning to running after a long break, your body may not be used to the demands of running, and it can be difficult to run for long distances or at a high intensity.
  2. Why running hurtsPoor running form: If your running form is incorrect, it can make running more difficult because it can cause strain on certain muscles and joints, leading to fatigue and discomfort.
  3. Lack of proper equipment: If you are wearing shoes that don’t fit properly or that don’t provide enough support, it can make running more difficult because it can cause pain or discomfort.
  4. Environmental factors: Running can be more difficult in certain weather conditions, such as heat or humidity, or at high altitudes, because these conditions can make it harder for your body to regulate its temperature and get enough oxygen.

Injuries and illness

Overuse injuries: If you are training too hard or too often, you may be at risk of developing an overuse injury, such as shin splints or plantar fasciitis.

Muscular imbalances or weaknesses: If you have imbalances or weaknesses in certain muscle groups, it can cause strain on other muscles and joints while running, leading to pain or discomfort.

Pre-existing medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as arthritis or nerve problems, can cause pain while running.

Parkrun and Beyond

You can join the parkrun community online by following parkrun on social media or joining parkrun forums or discussion groups. Beyond parkrun, you can get involved in the running community and stay active. Many runners participate in organized races, such as 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons, or marathons. There are also many running clubs and groups that offer group runs and training programs for people of all levels.

Becoming a good runner takes time and consistent training. The exact amount of time it takes to become a good runner can vary depending on a number of factors, including:

  1. Your current fitness level: If you are already in good shape and have a strong cardiovascular system, you may be able to progress more quickly as a runner.
  2. Your genetics: Some people naturally have a greater propensity for endurance sports like running. They may be able to progress more quickly as runners.
  3. Your training intensity and consistency: The more consistently you train and the harder you train, the more quickly you will likely see progress as a runner.
  4. Your running goals: If you have specific goals in mind, such as running a certain distance or time, it will take longer to achieve these goals if they are more ambitious.

Be patient

It can take several months to a year of consistent training to become a good runner. Depending on your starting point and your goals. It is important to be patient and to focus on progress rather than perfection. As you continue to train and get stronger, you will likely see improvements in your running performance over time.  However, the sky really is the limit. The beauty of running is that it is a sport that gives back what you put in.  When you put the work in there can be many rewards.  There are also Masters competitions where people can compete against their own age group.

Parkrun and Marathon Training

It is certainly possible that if you get involved in parkrun or just running in the park to work your way up to running a marathon. Parkrun is a great way to get started with running. It helps build up your endurance and fitness over time. Many parkrun participants use the weekly 5K runs as a stepping stone to longer distances. Eventually they work their way up to running a marathon.

If you are interested in running a marathon, start slowly and give your body time to adjust to the demands of running. Gradually increasing your training intensity and volume over time will help to reduce your risk of injury. This ensures that you are able to build up your endurance and strength in a sustainable way.

It is also important to remember that training for a marathon requires a significant time commitment. You will need to be consistent and dedicated in your training in order to be successful. It is a good idea to follow a structured training plan. Enlist the help of a coach or experienced runner if you are new to marathon training.

Start slowly and listen to your body

London Marathon

Overall, running in the park is a great way to get started with running and to eventually work your way up to running a marathon. Just be sure to start slowly, listen to your body. Don’t be afraid to seek out the help and support of others as you progress on your running journey.  The photo on the left is of myself running my very first marathon.  I had started running from scratch less than 9 months previous to this, and yes, I started running at parkrun after a couch to 5km course!  So when I say anything is possible, I am talking from experience.

You just have to have the desire and the willingness to put in the hard work, regardless of the weather!  Running in the park is good athough a treadmill is a lifesaver! If you are a total beginner and would like to start on a treadmill first, click on this link for a beginner’s treadmill workout.

Consistency is key, there were days I was so exhausted to train that I just made myself run 2 miles, just to keep the body moving.  No matter how useless you think your training session was, it all counts!  Although it is extremely important to take rest as well and you should schedule it into your training plan.  If you are not sure what constitutes a rest day have a read at this article.

Should you start running in the park?

Would I recommend taking up running in the park? Absolutely, if you have the health and are able to do it.  The beauty of running is that you can take your time getting fitter. You can train by yourself or in a group, inside or out, in almost any location.  It is also a cheap sport, you do not need expesnive equipment to start, apart from a good pair of running shoes.  Well, they can cost £250 nowadays for a top of the end pair but that is for another article!

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