(NaturalNews) The morning is overcast with the familiar smell of rain in the air, a comfortable 65 degrees. You emerge just as the sun rises. You feel as though you could tear up the streets, leap small sized bushes in a single bound, run stairs, and devour the length of a 5K run, all in record time; and you do. However, a few hours later, a punishing pain sets into your joints, making you reassess the value of your new found love of running. All runners, especially new ones, have to stop and consider the demanding sport they've newly embraced. The jostling around of the insides, possibility of joint inflammation, shin splints, tendonitis, stress fractures and muscle cramps - how could it possibly be worth it? Perhaps the appropriate question is really this: How do I help my body reap the maximum benefits of running, while eliminating the punishing effects of naturally induced stress?
The beauty of exercise is that the act itself creates a strong connection between the mind and the body. It creates a bond through communication and mutual support. In the early days your body may occasionally whisper to you, "Hey, this is too much, take it down a notch." If the mind fails to listen, the body will turn up the volume to something akin to an internal scream. This is a sign that injury - perhaps even a serious, debilitating injury - may be on the way. The following are four suggested changes that could help improve your running game, and thus avoid that internal scream of pain:
1. Strengthen the shock absorbing muscles surrounding the knees. Two great exercises that work the quadriceps and hamstrings are step lunges and squats. Both of these exercises are easily performed in your home.
2. Increase distance and speed in small increments. Increase your total distance run in increments of 10% or less each week. Find a comfortable pace by remaining alert to your breathing patterns, slowing your pace down if you begin to feel breathless.
3. Proper nutrition, increased antioxidants, and adequate hydration are critical to success. Stress induced free radicals, which can lead to inflammation, can be reduced or eliminated by increasing your intake of antioxidants. Vitamins C, E and A are the best known antioxidants. A more powerful source is astaxanthin - especially when taken in higher than normal doses, somewhere in the range of 8 to 16 mg. spaced evenly throughout the day. It is also helpful to increase your intake of minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium.
4. Give the body time to recover. Working in "shorter run" days with "longer run" days will help you improve performance. It is not always about running as far or as fast as possible. Keep your legs fresh by engaging in short, easy runs a few days each week.
There are many excellent reasons to participate in the sport of running. However, the one factor that may hold you to the sport, more than any other, is the endorphin-release that occurs during a well executed run - commonly referred to as "runner's high". There is really nothing like it. The improved mood, clarity of focus, and immense feeling of accomplishment can change the course of any day for the better. If you can find a way to reap the rewards, and to naturally avoid the pain, your passion for running will be well compensated. You'll find running to be a health-affirming friend and ally that you will be able to enjoy and keep for many years - if not for the rest of your life.
Paula Rothstein is a freelance writer and certified holistic health coach active in the area of natural health and health freedom advocacy. As a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, she has gained insight into the political nature of food, the failings of a drug-dependent healthcare system, and the uniqueness of individual health. For more information, please visit: http://www.medicinefreeliving.com.