Visit any park or stop by any jogging track and you are sure to spot a large number of people running, jogging or walking.
From six-year olds to those in their sixties, running, it would seem, is the new health buzzword thanks to the numerous half and full marathons not to mention charity runs that are organised regularly in the city.
And if running has always been your fave sport, you have no excuse to stay at home and pound the treadmill. With the weather having changed for the better, it's time to step outdoors and hit the track.
"Running is something which is so easy for anybody to participate in and is an affordable exercise option,'' says Vaughan Thomas, senior sports/musculoskeletal physiotherapist, The City Hospital, Dubai Healthcare City.
"People of all fitness levels can run: from the recreational runner participating for health/fitness to the endurance marathon runner. It is a goal-orientated form of exercise and people can measure their progress using time, distance or other cardiovascular tools.''
The fact that it has so many benefits - running increases muscular strength; improves bone and cartilage tissue strength; improves cardiovascular function and aids in weight loss - make it an attractive exercise option for people.
But before you lace up your running shoes and take off for a round around the park, it is important to keep a few points in mind.
Vaughan insists that all runners should get a clean chit from their health professional before hitting the track. "For many health conditions, running is of great benefit but it is important to be screened for safe participation, be aware of the level of exercise you are being introduced to and what the intended effect will be."
"If you are looking for health benefits, run at a moderate intensity for approximately 30 to 45 minutes three to four times per week,'' says Vaughan.
"Individuals looking at running to improve their performance on the field should be involved in a structured training programme, where factors like time, intensity/speed and distance are important. In order to progress, these components of running need to be challenged. [Amateurs and professionals] should set specific goals to monitor their progress while running. The specific goal you set will determine how long, fast and far you will need to run. Generally speaking, people should progress slowly increasing time, intensity/speed and distance at different rates."
It is recommended that people new to the sport get some form of guidance from an exercise professional. "Sports physiotherapists help screen individuals for pre-existing musculoskeletal conditions that may impair a person's training [and can] provide injury management for both acute and chronic running injuries. Running in groups is a good choice for people new to the sport. It enables you to compare experiences and get the most out of a training programme. You can set exercise goals together or seek tips from others on how to optimise your training. Groups are also effective for motivation purposes."
Says he, "Rest is of prime importance when participating in a running training programme. One must include rest days as part of any such schedule. However, exercise performed at a low intensity on non-running days should be included, for instance, light swimming or a cross-training session."
Warm up and warm down
Says Vaughan: "Warm-up procedures are important to maximise your performance during running. Ballet-type stretches seem to be the most effective in optimising muscle performance pre-exercise in contrast to end-of-range stretch-and-hold techniques in widespread use. For the general runner participating for health purposes, some form of progressive warm-up involving a gradual increase in running intensity mixed with stretches is advisable to prevent injuries associated with running.''
Warm-down procedures are also important mainly to prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Those who have just taken up running commonly experience muscular aches usually a day or so after exercise. A gradual decrease in exercise intensity and some sustained low-intensity exercises are key features of a good warm down procedure which would help prevent DOMS. An example of this would be reducing your running speed slowly over the last kilometre of your run or cycling for a short while or taking a lap or two in the pool following the run.
While runners could end up with muscle strains and acute joint injuries, it is the slowly progressing overuse injuries that are most commonly seen among regular runners. For that reason it is advised to consult a sports physiotherapist for advice relating to training progression and running injury management among other issues before embarking on a running regimen.
There are a few gadgets available in the market which can help a runner monitor various body functions. For instance, Nike+ SportBand can record distance, pace, time and calories burnt while running. After a session, connect the band’s Link to your computer to send your run data to nikeplus.com where you can also track your progress, set goals, challenge others and do much more. Sportband has multiple sensors that can be calibrated for different activities like running, walking, training, racing... It also acts as a watch when it’s not recording a workout.
The adidas MiCoach is a personal coaching system that provides real-time, audible training through headphones. It has a pacer (to tell you to speed up or slow down based on its interaction between the heart rate monitor and stride sensor); a heart rate monitor; a stride sensor (to provide detailed data about your stride rate and distance covered); and an interactive online platform (www.micoach.com) to create or choose your training programme.
"It is important that people start slowly and increase progressively rather than start at high intensities and make little or no progression.''
The role of shoes
According to Vaughan, "A suitable pair of running shoes is critical in the prevention and treatment of many injuries associated with running. We generally say an average pair of running shoes will last an individual nine months to a year if they are running regularly. Orthotic insoles also tend to last this long in the shoe if regularly used. This however depends on the usage and surface that the individual runs on."
For the type of runners who wish to measure their progress, Vaughan recommends investing in an inexpensive heart rate monitor to gauge workout levels. "This way you get to gauge how hard your body is working. You get to know how hard you are breathing and how much you are sweating." With an increase in your fitness levels, your body also works harder. So if at the onset, you found it difficult, over a period of a month your body will start to get used to the exercises and you could be breaking into a sweat only after about 15 minutes of rigorous workout.''
While it may not be possible to run by the beach everyday, you could consider ‘trail running’ – running over different terrains – sand, dirt, mountain... This helps in working out the legs and building cardio stamina.
By the way … Outdoors or on a treadmill?
"While the two types of running are similar there is a small difference. Outdoor running is slightly more dynamic. But it doesn't really matter as long as you are exercising to the right intensity," says Vaughan.
What the enthusiasts say ...
Lynne Mary Bickell, 50, British, banker, Dubai
"I have always been a runner. In fact, it has kept me sane through two pregnancies, illness and all stresses. Even if I am mentally tired, I make an effort to run as it clears my head and lifts my energy levels.
I prefer to run in the open air, whatever the weather, rather than to use a gym. I try to run at least three to four times a week. I just love it for health, fitness and pleasure. When I was competing as a teenager, I had a personal coach and trained five days a week. I have competed in the Dubai Marathon 10km race twice, getting in well under the hour.
"When I travel home to visit my family, I always pack my trainers so I can keep up my routine."
Brinda Hora, 30, Indian, PR manager, The Address-Dubai Marina"It was over lunch with four friends some time in 2009 that we decided to change our lifestyle. We prepared ourselves and less than a week later, we were standing at Safa Park for our first run.
"Our schedule included running three times a week and aerobics classes once a week. Initially, I couldn't even run 50m at a stretch but my friend motivated me to keep going and soon I found I could complete one round (3.4km) non-stop at a decent pace. I then upped the bar to 17km a day. I remember my father asking me ‘What next?' when I completed the half-marathon (21km). ‘Now it will be the Full Marathon', I told him. Last year I accomplished that.".
Adam Michael Lawson Nazer, 30, British, martial artist and owner, Dunamis Personal Training Company
"I love running. It is a great form of exercise as it helps me to focus my mind and release day-to-day stresses. Running helps me to work on my cardiovascular training and muscle endurance as well.
"I try to run four times a week and make sure I cover different surfaces.
"On my non-run days, I work on core training as running requires a strong core foundation. Dubai has great weather for running for at least seven months of a year. The summers can be tough but it is always good to keep challenging yourself to make sure you get everything from your training sessions."
Interview: In 140
Della Warren is a yoga teacher and co-ordinator at Exhale Fitness Studio, Dubai.
Friday: How would you rate running as a form of exercise compared to others?Della Warren: It can be a good form of cardiovascular exercise if you are a fit person. But it does not help with flexibility and can put a strain on the heart and joints if you are unfit. Friday: Would you agree if someone told you running improved your posture and the mobility of your limbs better than any other workout?Della Warren:Not necessarily. In fact, running without guidance from professional trainers can lead to many injuries.
Friday: You do yoga. Would you consider including running in your workout routine? If not why?Della Warren: Running is a matter of personal choice. Yoga is a change of lifestyle, a body workout to achieve optimum fitness and wellbeing, physically, mentally and spiritually.
Friday: Running seems a solo exercise and relatively inexpensive and easy to accommodate wherever you live. Comment.Della Warren: It is true you can take to running solo or in groups and if you have a good pair of supportive trainers, it is an inexpensive way of exercising. But then so is brisk walking.
Friday: Running is supposed to be a good cardio and physical workout. Not to mention the focus it can give your thought. Does any other form of exercise give this combination of benefits?Della Warren: Yes, yoga has got it all! Dynamic yoga with a good breathing practice can strengthen your heart and lungs and correct standing postures. It can also improve endurance.
Friday: If you had to give up your kind of workout for sometime and take up running, would you do it?Della Warren: I would not. But yes, I have done some jogging in the past. Yoga is a lifestyle not an exercise regime. It takes continued practice built over time to transform your life.
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