First off, let me say, I love to be outside and I love to run.
I have competed in many 5K, 10K and half marathons in Kingston, Toronto and Ottawa as well as that one time I decided it would be a good idea to do the Kingston “Limestone Mile” with my friend Steve, whom I should mention is an former Dartmouth athlete and incredible sprinter. It was a humbling experience to say the least.
I tell you all of this to preface my commentary on this fantastic article by Mark Rippetoe because I truly do love running.
I love being outside, I love the sense of accomplishment and I love travelling to cities to explore new places and get in a great workout.
Here’s the BUT.
I don’t run for my fitness, I don’t recommend running for our clients AND I’m going to explain why I transitioned my love of running by returning to a sport I love, tennis.
I sometimes run to my tennis club (mostly when I’m late for a match) but I no longer hit the pavement for races and long runs.
Long duration running has been a fitness trend for many years now. It is commonly touted as a cheap, easy approach to getting fit. How many times have you heard a friend say, “I want to get back into shape, so I’m going to take up running.”
I get it. It seems like a good idea. Running is cheap, gets you outside, and really shouldn’t we all just know how to run? Isn’t it just a part of our DNA?
I wrote this article commentary because I cannot tell you how many members we have worked with over the years who have come to us with the following problem:
They used to run.
They competed in races and events
They got injured
They had to stop running.
They stopped doing any fitness.
Recently I did a tour with a new member who actually told me her family physician told her she had two options: Continue to run and get a knee replacement in a year or find a different and more sustainable approach to fitness.
THIS is why we are passionate as fitness professional about teaching, educating and coaching our community on the BEST way to train your body. Because I’m here to tell you the truth. There IS a BEST way to train your body for long-term sustainable health and if you are going to dedicate an invest the time in your well-being, don’t you deserve the best?
Sure, like I said, I too loved running, loved the thrill for signing up for races, being outside and grabbing that medal at the finish line but after I started racking up the injuries, I realized how I needed to be smart about taking care of my body and channelled my running into what it is today (running short distances at my studio and playing tennis).
Over the years we have written and talked about running as a method to get fit. We actually wrote this article for the Huffington Post about running as a method to start with getting in shape – Running is not the Best Exercise to Get Fit
This is the full article from Strength Coach Mark Rippetoe –Why You Shouldn’t Run. It is a longer but excellent read. I wanted to take the time to comment and summarize what Mark is saying. Sometimes, I know, strength and fitness professionals tend to forget that what we write makes sense to us but perhaps not everyone out there who doesn’t have years of physiology, anatomy, biomechanics and experience under their belt.
Buckle up. Here we go.
Mark makes some excellent points the first being:
Strength is the ability to produce force with your muscles against an external resistance.
What’s the value in being strong?
We need to be strong for life. Carrying kids, groceries, fighting off illness, being able to be as self-sufficient at age 80 as you were at age 25 …you get where I’m going with this.
You can’t exclusively train endurance (running, cycling, epliticizing…etc) and get stronger. “The more you run, the better you are at running and the worse you are at being strong”.
Endurance training is directly antagonistic to the creation and retention of muscle mass.
Let’s talk about your physique.
From a physique standpoint for anyone out there wanting to tone, look leaner and get nicer arms, without increasing your muscle it’s just not going to happen.
Running, cycling and ‘ellipticalizing’ directly competes for the muscle resources that maintain their size and strength, therefore changing your body composition to more muscle and less body fat isn’t going to happen with endurance cardio.
The reason we’re so concerned with “cardio” is that we’ve become indoctrinated into the belief that activity that elevates the heart rate for an extended period of time is the only way to keep the heart healthy. We need to shift our mindset to realize that doing “cardio” does not mean you must run, bike, elliptical or walk for multiple hours. There are so many other ways to train your cardiovascular system using load bearing activity that will actually enhance your strength, improve your posture and alignment, help your bones get stronger, improve your mobility and increase your muscle mass!
Medicine ball slams, throws and chops
Trust me, this is a very short list of just a few examples!
Repetitive motion injuries like tendonitis are quite common in people who engage in high-volume endurance activity.
Probably one of my favourite lines from Mark’s article: “In fact, the term “Sports Medicine” really means the branch of orthopedics that deals with inflamed joints in runners and cyclists.”
Brutally honest but true.
As you hit 18K in a run your repetitive stride mechanics will deteriorate, often to the extent that a joint or several joints are being used improperly. I’ve been there, done that. The typical result is overuse injuries which most commonly include:
– Patella femoral pain
– Iliotibial band friction syndrome
– Achilles tendinopathy
– Stress fractures
– Shin splits
– Hip bursistis
– Muscle strains
– Plantar fasciitis
Just to name a few.
What is my advice?
If you love to run and enjoy time outside find a way to include it in your fitness programming by way of playing a sport you love (tennis, ultimate Frisbee, soccer) or include a healthy dose of running into your fitness. Instead of only running for your fitness try a run or two a week intermixed with a good strength training program and intervals.
We include a lot of running in our fitness programming by way of sprint drills, focusing on direction changes, sprints with jumps and a variety of foot work that is fun, incorporates sprints and runs but also trains the body without the strain of long duration running work.
Same goes for cycling. Have you ever tried the airdyne bike? Even though it looks like something straight out of 1985, it is no joke. Try 30 -60 seconds as fast as you can for interval training and I promise you will feel your heart racing, sweat pouring down your back and 6-8 rounds are truly ‘breath taking’.
My job as a coach is to offer my clients and community the best advice when it comes to taking care of their health and fitness. I want you to be independent at age 80, pick up your grandkids when you take them to the park and not worry about your low back, knee or hip hurting, and I want you to rock out your outfit at the next wedding you attend and feel proud, confident and strong when you hit the dance floor.
And that is why I think this is the best article I’ve ever read about running because perhaps it will make you think about what is best for your body when choosing your training program.