Sportswear maker Asics Corp. has organized a running school for beginners in collaboration with scale maker Tanita Corp. and cosmetics maker Shiseido Co. to capitalize on the growing popularity of the activity.
On a weekend morning in late June, 20 people, many in their 20s, gathered at an Asics store in Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district, each armed with calorie-burning meters.
Dressed in matching T-shirts, the runners walked to a nearby park by the Imperial Palace and started running. “Relax your upper body,” a trainer told them. “Move your legs forward straight from the pelvis.”
After checking their scales, the participants were surprised to see how much energy they’d burned off from the run. “Wow, so many calories!” one shouted.
In the afternoon, they ate lunch at Tanita-run restaurant in the adjacent Marunouchi district that offers the same dishes provided at its employee cafeteria. The recipes appear in its best-selling recipe book.
“If you reduce the amount of food too drastically, you will lose not only fat but also muscle, which will make your body even more prone to weight gain,” said Satoko Ozawa, a Tanita dietician who also advises J-League soccer players.
Meanwhile, a cosmetics official gave the runners advice on protecting themselves from the sun with gels and soaps.
“If you use them before running, it will help uplift your spirit,” the unnamed salesman said. “Please use them so that you can continue to enjoy running.”
Ikuko Horikawa, a 34-year-old Shiseido official who took part in the running program, said: “I learned important points about running and diet.”
The running schools have been organized in Tokyo and other cities, including Sapporo and Kobe, and cater to runners of various levels. The Kobe-based company has also held a diet class in cooperation with a food maker and a running event in conjunction with a hotel in Tokyo.
In Japan, the adult running population is growing each year. The number of people who ran more than once a year in 2012 exceeded 10 million for the first time, and more than half, or 5.7 million, ran once a week, according to estimates by the Sasakawa Sports Foundation.
But there have also been a number of people injured by excessive running, and some fail to lose weight because their basic knowledge is insufficient, industry observers said.