Friday, October 1, 2010

Should your Run?

Over the past 3 decades running has increased in popularity. Since 2005 Marathon running has increased by 83,000 'finishers' (IDEA Fitness Journal, Feb 2010). The topic of running as a way to get exercise has really been on my mind over the past few months. Many people feel that running is the only way to go. I have many clients that run, try to add running as part of their fitness regimen or are interested in training for a running event, such as a Marathon. Why is it that people feel they have to run consistently or over a certain distance? It is not that this is bad or not effective, I am just always curious why it is an all or none approach when it comes to running or jogging.

I would presume that most individuals work towards a certain time or distance goal or feel they have to run consistently because of traditional scheduled running events such as 5Ks, 10Ks, Half Marathons and Marathons. Often because of the persons competitive drive, ego or simply because of peer pressure needing to have a 'good' event time becomes a major goal. Therefore, you better run consistently (increase your mileage) and at a good pace. So basically consistently running without stopping or changing to another activity, in my opinion, developed because of the running events that are out there, and not necessarily because it was the 'best' way to get physical activity. Yet when I really get down to the nitty gritty of why most of my clients run or want to run it is because they feel it is one of the best ways to be physically active, stay fit and burn calories. I would completely agree that it is awesome to get outdoors, especially in San Diego, and that with running you don't need a gym or any equipment. Yet even though the need to run without slowing down your pace, walking , stopping or changing to another form of physical activity is necessary when training for a running event - it is absolutely not necessary or even ideal for most of your goals.

Not only is it not necessary to always run consistently over a certain time or distance it can be better for your body and mind to change your pace significantly or change to a different movement pattern at some point during the workout. For instance, one workout that I do weekly is a running based circuit through Balboa Park. The longest I may consistently run is for 10 minutes, but more often it is around 5 minutes. I might start by walking from my gym for about 5 minutes, then pick up the pace to a light jog for another 5 minutes. At this point I might stop at a park bench and do a set of Step Ups for a couple of minutes followed by Push Ups on the bench and then Jumping Jacks. Then back to walking for about 2-3 minutes followed by a faster jog this time until I find something new to do. Often this might be a flight of stairs that I will sprint up and down for a few minutes and then return to walking and jogging again.

The point of the explanation of my Balboa Park workout is to show you that yes you should be moving and elevating your heart rate, but you do not have to force yourself to run the entire time. If you are starting to fatigue then go ahead and walk. You have my permission, it's ok! Even better, and if you are in good running shape, at some point do something more intense than your typical walk or jog, such as increasing to a light sprint for 30-60 seconds or running stairs. This will force you to walk for a few minutes after the increase in activity. The best part about changing things up is that it changes the movement pattern of the body. This is excellent for maintaining functional/Multi-directional fitness and good joint range of motion. It also allows you to better avoid exercise related injuries from joint position overuse due to doing the same movement pattern (running over and over). Finally your body will not become accustomed to the same workout. When you do this you will always require an increased level of post exercise oxygen consumption. More simply put, there is a chance you will burn more total calories.

Many of you feel you can't run at all. "It is bad for my knees", you might say. And often yes you are correct, especially if you are still working through some movement and postural dysfunction. But remember it is not running that is necessarily the problem, it is your own movement dysfunctions, muscle imbalances and postural issues that make the impact of running 'not good' for you. For many, you might be surprised that picking up your feet a little bit and moving your walk into a 'trot' is totally fine. Especially for short bursts such as 1 to 2 minutes. Again, switch it up, do something different and don't let your mind and body get accustomed to the same thing over and over. Especially if you want to get better health, musculo-skeletal and calorie burning results.

Get outside, move your body and have fun. Always know which muscles on your body are consistently tight and stretch them first. Also activate any muscles that do not fire readily before you start the outdoor workout. If you are unsure of which muscles are tight on you and which muscles are not firing (activating) correctly then make sure to ask me.

So there, I said it. "You don't have to run!" You can use it or incorporate it with many other outdoor motions. And you are not a wimp if you don't want to run straight for 3 miles.

Finally, if you do enjoy your weekly runs you don't need to stop doing them - especially if you enjoy them. But remember, switch things up once in a while, you will avoid overuse injuries and often get better results.

Here is a more specific example of a good outdoor workout that is based around walking and jogging:

  • Walk for 5 minutes
  • Jog at an easy pace for 5 minutes
  • Walk for 2 minutes
  • Run or Walk stairs for 2 to 5 minutes if available
  • Do Jumping Jacks for 60 seconds
  • Walk for 2 to 4 minutes
  • Jog at an easy pace for 5 minutes
  • Accelerate your jog to a faster pace for 2 minutes
  • Walk for 2 minutes
  • Jog at an easy pace for 5 minutes
  • Accelerate your jog to a faster pace for 2 minutes
  • Walk and Cool Down for 5 minutes
Total Workout time: 40 minutes

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