Running and its Impact!

Running is a weight bearing exercise that is effective for maintaining our bone mass. The stress placed on our bones every time we land generates a force that is 5-6 times our body weight. Running of course is a moderate to intense aerobic exercise, which can increase and maintain our cardiorespiratory fitness. As running enthusiasts call " the runner's high", our brain releases feel good (opiate like chemicals) neurotransmitters which is why so many of us become almost addicted to it. So, what are the disadvantages?

Unfortunately, running places great stress on our joints and soft tissues such as muscles and tendons. This stress is greater if our posture and running form is incorrect. Running is also more stressful to our joints if we do not weight- train and strengthen the muscles which support our joints and absorb the impact. Running like most things, requires some thought and planning. Also, the very feel good neurotransmitters that give us the high mood, also block pain signals temporarily, which is why we might continue running through an injury when we shouldn't! 

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So, here are a few tips whether you are a runner, or would like to try running:

  • Cross-Train: Let's add some cross training to our routine such as cycling, swimming, and fast walking. Many of our injuries are a result of repetitive stress. Let's give our body a rest from impact, and train our muscles to work in different ways. Training for a race? Try race-walking. A study done on Olympic athletes showed race-walking (6 mph) to be an effective training method that enhanced running ability. And let's not forget about strengthening exercises for our upper and lower body! 

  • Start slowly: This tip includes beginners and current runners when changing any variable, such as surface, shoes, geography (uphill vs. flat). Why? One client who had been used to running on a flat surface, ran 5 miles mostly uphill and created a chronic tendonitis in her shins!

  • Vary our routine: Let's challenge ourselves by doing interval training (changing speed for instance). Our bodies adapt to the same training methods so if we want to increase fitness, let's add some variety to our routine. This can also be good for someone like myself who cannot run for more than a few minutes since I had knee surgery years ago. Now during my fast walk, once per week I add in a few fast 20 second sprints, and I've increased my fitness level, and renewed my interest with a new challenge. I also have added a little more impact on my bones! 

  • Let's wear the right shoes: This is important for all our activities. An example: fast walking is more difficult in running shoes, walking shoes do not have enough support for the impact of running and running shoes do not offer enough lateral support for weight training. Some of us need more support due to body biomechanics, so let's buy shoes for function, not style. 

  • Let's heed the signals. Let's heed the signals of our body. Are we tired, in pain or coming down with a cold? Let's remember that rest is part of a training program!

    So, let's make our running and exercise program as safe as possible and keep it enjoyable. Let's seek the advice of a doctor before starting anything new or if in pain.

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Related articles:
Why do runners get stress fractures?
Preparing your legs for 26.2 miles of hard road
Retuning to running after stress fracture or other major injury
Reducing Shock to Prevent Running Injuries

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This article has informational purpose and  isn't a substitute for professional advice.

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