Healthy Lifestyle

How to run a mile and more

Shot of a mature couple out jogging on a sunny day.


With sunny days and warm weather in the forecast, many people are eager to take their exercise routines outside. Before heading out for a run, keep these key factors in mind to ensure you get the most out of it.


By Christina Rankey, PT, DPT, Physical & Occupational Therapy, Nuvance Health Medical Practice


Running is a fantastic form of exercise that offers numerous physical and mental health benefits. Running can improve your cardiovascular health, release endorphins that boost happiness, build muscle strength and so much more. By following these essential tips’ you’ll be prepared to run a mile.



Choose the right running shoes

Your sneakers from years ago might not be the best choice for running. Proper footwear is crucial as it provides stability and helps prevent injuries. Think of your sneakers like your car’s tires
— after a certain number of miles, they need to be replaced. There are no perfect sneakers for everyone, but a stable pair that fits well is a good place to start. 


Stay hydrated and maintain a balanced diet for running


Hydration and proper nutrition are essential to get the most out of your runs. Aim to drink at least four to six ounces of water for every 20 minutes of running. Staying hydrated is especially important in warmer months. A light snack before running can be beneficial but avoid heavy meals. Post-run, it’s important to consume healthy carbs, protein and healthy fats to restore glucose levels, especially after long runs.


Post-run snacks play an important role in your overall performance. Try an apple with peanut butter, cottage cheese with fresh berries or carrots and hummus. There is a large variety of snacks you can enjoy post-run to help you refuel and recover faster!



Stretch before and after your run


Incorporate dynamic stretches before your run and static stretches afterward.

Pre-run stretches should include warm-ups such as: 

  • Brisk walking: Put some pep in your step — walk quickly to get your heart rate up.

  • High knees: While standing on one leg, lift your opposite knee up to your belly button and hold with both hands for support. Repeat on your opposite side. For additional support, lean against a wall.

    Woman doing a high knee stretch.

  • Leg swings: While standing on one leg, swing your opposite leg forward/backward. Lateral leg swings are performed by swinging your leg side to side, crossing in front and behind your support leg. For additional support, hold onto a chair.

    Woman doing a back leg swing stretch. 

    Woman doing a front leg swing stretch.

Post- run stretches should include cool-down methods such as:

  • Walking: Walk at a slow pace to bring your heart rate down.

  • Hamstring stretch: While standing on both legs, bend forward at your hips while holding onto your elbows.

    Woman doing a hamstring stretch.

  • Butterfly stretch: While sitting on the ground, bring the bottom of your feet together. It’s almost as if you are sitting “pretzel style.” Grab your toes with both hands and try to push your knees against the ground. For a deeper stretch, use your elbows to push down on your knees.

    Woman doing a butterfly stretch.

  • Calf stretch: While standing on both legs, extend one leg back straight and your other leg slightly bent forward. With your backward leg planted, slowly bend forward on your opposite leg. 

    Woman doing a calf stretch.


Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and repeat twice.



Take deep and controlled breaths when you run


Pay attention to your breathing pattern while running. Short, shallow breaths are inefficient and can cause abdominal discomfort, otherwise known as side stitches. Instead, practice deep belly breathing to improve your oxygen intake and running performance.


Maintain proper running form


Maintaining proper running form helps conserve energy and makes your runs more efficient. Keep your head lifted and your pelvis neutral. Avoid leaning forward or backward, especially when fatigued. Let your arms swing naturally at your sides with bent elbows and avoid clenching your fists. Take shorter strides to reduce joint impact.


Pace yourself while running


How do you know if you are running at the right pace? You should be able to maintain a light conversation while running. If you can sing, you might be running too slowly. If you’re struggling to catch your breath, slow down.


Running with a friend or listening to a high-energy workout playlist can help keep you motivated. Consider joining the Nuvance Health six-week Get Fit Challenge for inspiration. You might even win a cool prize!



Don’t let allergies hold you back from your run


Allergies can make it tough to get outside in general. But by following preventive measures and wearing proper protection, you can run without triggering your allergies. Learn more: You can still exercise with allergies. Learn how to ease your symptoms.


How to improve your running routine


Start with a few minutes of walking to warm up before running. Begin with walk/jog intervals, jogging for 15 to 30 seconds followed by walking for a minute. Repeat these intervals for about five minutes to start and bump up your time weekly. 


A common rule of thumb is to increase your pace or mileage by no more than 10% each week. Rapid increases can lead to injuries. 


As you build endurance, lengthen your running time and shorten your rest periods. Focus on endurance first; speed will come naturally. Stay consistent and motivated, and soon you’ll be running a mile or more.


The bottom line: Running can be a rewarding way to improve your fitness and enjoy the outdoors. By choosing the right footwear, staying hydrated, practicing proper stretching and breathing techniques, maintaining good form, pacing yourself and progressing gradually, you’ll set yourself up for success. Stay consistent and motivated and you’ll be running a mile with confidence in no time.