In 2016, my New Year’s Resolution is to get back into running after a break of nearly three years. After all, I’m in the 60% of Australian adults that have low physical activity levels, according to Bupa.
So I asked myself, what is the best way to re-train myself for running after such a long time away? I took a look at why running like the ancient Romans is a good method, the health benefits of running, and what your health fund will cover if you want some help getting into running.
Run like the Romans for a healthy heart
According to the Encyclopedia of Military Science by G. Kurt Piehler, historian Vegetius said soldiers in the Roman army were trained to be able to cover huge distances up to 20 “Roman miles” (29-32 km) on foot in just half a summer day (about 5 to 6 hours). Not only that, but they had to be able to cover 24 miles (35-38 km) at a faster pace in a shorter time.
How did they achieve such impressive feats of athletics? Historical records provide the answer – short running spurts interspersed with walking, sometimes called “walk-jogging”.
The proven benefits of getting fit through exercise
As Australian Unity Health Insurance reminds us, running is excellent for your cardiovascular fitness and your metabolism. This means you get a heart that keeps beating instead of having a heart attack, and you stand a better chance of not putting on too much weight.
What getting fit by run-walking can give you:
- Increased cardiovascular (heart) and pulmonary (lung) fitness
- Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke – which might help to make your life insurance cheaper!
- Stronger bones – reduced risk of osteoporosis
- Management for Type 2 Diabetes
- Potentially reduced pain from arthritis including osteoarthritis
- Apparently, the ability to live 3 years longer for every 15 minutes of walking per day, according to Bupa
- Reduced chance of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s
- Increased muscle strength and endurance
- Better balance
- Reduced body fat – and potentially get cheaper life insurance by not being overweight
What health insurance will cover for runners
A number of health insurance providers have fitness programs or smartphone apps that can help you reach your fitness goals. This is a great place to start.
If you only have Hospital cover, be aware that the most common surgeries for frequent runners are for your ankles, knees, hips, and other bones and tendons.
If you have Extras cover as well, your health insurance provider can potentially provide payment towards:
- Physiotherapy: A repeatedly sprained ankle or a twisted knee are the most common reasons runners end up at the physio.
- Podiatry (Chiropody): If you suffer from shin splints when you run, you may need to get a podiatrist to look at how you walk. An orthopaedic insert in your joggers might be recommended as a fix to get you back on the footpath.
- Natural therapies: Feel like a good leg and back massage after your morning run? It can do your muscles a world of good, and if you have extras cover that includes it, you won’t pay as much for it.
- Optical: If you wear glasses like me, you should also find out how nice it is to get money back when you purchase contact lenses to wear while running.
Distance runners who do marathons have a documented history of injury. A 2007 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that as many as 79% of long-distance runners had experienced injuries that required medical treatment.
Another study ink 2008 in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports confirmed that crunch time, the days leading up to a marathon, is the month you need to be most careful. 28% of runners obtained an injury while training in the month before a marathon or while running the marathon itself.
So it’s important to pace yourself, and to figure out the right way for you to run to protect your body.
How to get running
Take it slow!
This is known as gradual adaptation. Diabetes Australia says you should call a friend and go for a jog in training for a Fun Run – but first, read their training guidelines on their exercise advice page, starting with Part 1. You can prevent a lot of injuries by training the right way and not pushing your body too hard too fast.
If you’re overweight, in your retirement age, or have any leg injuries, then follow the advice of Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Dr Ian Gillam, a Fellow of Sports Medicine Australia. Visit your GP or an accredited personal trainer first, and get some health advice on how to train safely.
Have a goal!
Want to get running for a good cause, or just need a goal to work towards? You can find a calendar of running events across Australia for 2016 on RunningCalendar.com.au.
Get appy – try these smartphone apps to help you stay motivated:
- For the most active of minds, Zombies, Run! will hilariously place you at the scene of a zombie apocalypse, with an audio track to guide you on your path to survival.
- For more conventional runners, there are dozens of options available, but we’ve isolated a few to consider: Runkeeper, Runtastic, Endomondo, Strava Run, Nike+ Running, Adidas MiCoach, Runmeter Pro, Map My Run, and Couch to 5K, which is aimed at people who have no exercise regime.
- Bupa’s Running App on iPhone or iPad.
Olympic athletes in ancient Greece were considered a success not if they ran the fastest time – since the time was measured crudely with a sundial or water clock – but by the number of times they won over their fellow athletes. Consistent striving is the key. Consider it a success, not if you run every day for a week and set a new PB, but if you get out of bed and run your route twice a week for a year.
If you can’t run, then walk or swim!
Running is not an appropriate exercise for those who are heavily overweight, have significant skeletal misalignment, unstable hips, spinal stress fractures, or knee cartilage damage. But we already know that walking or swimming both provide the cardio benefits of running without the physical stress on your body, so don’t feel like you don’t have a way to get fit. Involve a few friends to keep you motivated!