Running is the simplest of sports, requiring only a pair of good shoes and a route. Yet it delivers excellent fitness benefits and psychic joy. There are many types of running in the areas of competition, fitness and pleasure.
Sprinting is done over short distances and delivers anaerobic results. Distance running can be both anaerobic and aerobic. Long distance running, such as track, road, cross country and marathon, requires pacing and is aerobic in its effects. Finally, there is recreational running, which may be at the pace of a jog and can be on diverse terrain, from track to asphalt.
Sprinting is pure all out running. Human beings have the capacity to sprint for about 300 meters before oxygen debt slows them. Soccer, football, basketball, rugby, baseball and other sports feature bursts of sprinting throughout the competition. Children love to sprint and incorporate it into their play. Sprinting is formalized with track and field, which has sprinting events of different lengths. Middle distance races are conducted over 800, 1500 and 3000 meters and one mile on the track. Long distance races are held over 5,000 and 10,000 meters on the track. Long distances are also covered in cross country and road races. Cross country races vary from two miles to about 12000 meters, while road races may range from 5000 meters (5 kilometers) up to the marathon and beyond.
For competitive running, it is best to prepare for the demanding stress of the race by working out on a regular basis. Sprinters practice running relaxed and rhythmically at top speed. They may lift weights to increase muscle strength and work on a fast start. Middle distance runner practice by running many "intervals." This means running at their racing pace over shorter distances many times during each workout. For example, a four minute miler may run ten repeat 400 meter runs in 60 seconds each, with a lap of slow jogging between each lap. Long distance runners will run longer intervals; for example, five repeat miles at the pace of a 10,000 meter race. The distance runners will also do "tempo runs," where they run for several miles at a simulated race tempo. Some distance runners do very little practicing on the track, preferring to run on roads or trails. It is possible to improve quickly with interval training; however it is easy to get injured by overwork. Many runners take rest days between interval sessions, running a few easy miles.
In terms of exercise, regular easy running promotes healthy circulation and a strong heart. It also boosts the immune system and improves lung capacity. Many frequent runners claim that experience a "runner's high," a feeling of well being and relaxation, during and after long runs. To achieve optimum fitness, it is recommended to run a minimum of three or four times a week for at least 20--30 minutes. It will take beginners some time to build up fitness to maintain this schedule. Other forms of aerobic exercise may be combined with running, such as biking, swimming or walking.
Anyone considering a program of fitness running should consult with their physician prior to beginning. It is important to wear comfortable running shoes to avoid injury. Many longtime runners report problems with their knees. Warming up with gentle stretches and cooling down by walking can help runners avoid injury.