Before planes, trains, and automobiles, people had to rely on themselves to go places. Sure, other modes of transportation have existed throughout human history, but the most readily available method of getting around was (and still is) on foot – walking and running. You are probably reading this and thinking, “What about running could be so essential/difficult to understand? If anything, it’s as simple and as easy as instinct!” However, the reality is that, although running can be incredibly easy to learn and do, most people miss out on the benefits that come from knowing the finer details about it! Is there a consistently ‘better’ way to run? How is running represented throughout sports, and can it stand alone as a sport?
Mechanics of Running
Running is unique for every individual, but recognizing common patterns and strategies helps in the process of improving. Perhaps the most critical component of running is the element of physical conditioning. Since running involves the whole body, no muscle can afford to be any weaker or work any less actively than the others. This is also the reason that running is among the most effective healthy exercise activities for anyone. Training a body to become more conditioned is a gradual process, and it is important not to push too hard, especially when starting out. Once patterns have been established and the body starts to become more accustomed to the physical demands of hyper-movement, new limits can be pushed. Running 2-3 times a week and pushing towards 30 straight minutes at a reasonable pace is an excellent starting goal for aspiring joggers!
Another element of running is function – if you plan on running to better your health and fitness, what kind of running is important to you? If the goal is general improvement of personal wellbeing, you’ll want to look at long-distance running. This particular style highlights good pacing, stamina, and steady performance across great distances. Long distance running can be a challenge for the less experienced athlete and requires a significant commitment for improvement. However, the benefits of LDR are fantastic; the heart becomes a more effective blood pump, the muscles of the body adapt to running on rationed oxygen, and the mental fortitude needed for such an intense type of running can even improve one’s psychological health!
Another common form of running is sprinting. In contrast to LDR, sprinting entails a brief, surging energy output to cross a short area as quickly and energetically as possible. While sprinting can be a form of physical conditioning, it is easy for inexperienced runners to overestimate their abilities and push themselves too hard. In addition, the health benefits of sprinting may not apply so generally in everyday living, as it is practiced in a way that the body functions better only in heavy-exercise situations.
There is a middle ground between the two types of functional running above. This is often referred to as middle-distance running, and strikes a distance medium between sprinting and long-distance running.
Running as a Sport
Running is represented in a variety of mainstream sports, but it is featured directly in some of its own sports, as well. Running for sport is commonly organized into an event. While forms of running described above are classified via distance in the realms of training and competition, sporting events can also be specified by type. The most common of these types are cross-country running, track running, and road running.
While not entirely accurate by name, cross country typically involves running across open terrain. The environment of the run is often non-artificial and it is often participatory by its nature.
The main difference between cross country and road running is in the name; road running is a set distance placed on a road or artificial path of sorts. The range of distance can vary, and events types include participatory, recreational, and competitive race.
Track running is common in school and some gymnasium environments. It involves running along a lane-divided racetrack, usually accumulating multiple laps. Track running can be comprised of competitive racing events, but the track is also a great place to practice in the absence of other athletes!