Spring is coming and a lot of people “wake up” to the idea that they want to lose weight and get fitter. One of the most widely used tools to accomplish this goal is running. Let me start by saying that I am not against running and I even like it, but I think it is a form of physical activity that is not right for everyone. Even though running is natural, for most people it is more harmful, than helpful – in the long run. The reason is that our way of life considerably limits the variety of movements we perform and this leads to limitations in mobility which we are not aware of.
1.We perform exercises the way we move in our everyday lives
Many believe that they can move one way when they work out and another way when they are not in the gym, but in the park or at the stadium. This is a misconception! Even if we know the right technique for a set of exercises, it stays at the knowledge level, when the body is physically incapable of performing them. We perform exercises the way we move every day.
For example, people who spend their day sitting, usually carry over the sitting pattern to the exercises.
When it comes to running, it definitely requires a certain technique. We run the way we walk. Take some time to observe the people walking around you – maybe they put one foot to the outside (the toes point to the outside); they carry their weight on the outside of one foot and on the inside of the other; they put too much weight on their heels, etc. All these are movement patterns we carry over to more dynamic physical activity as well. But then things get even worse, because when the movement itself implies dynamics or weight, a wrong way of stepping puts even more stress on soft tissues that are not designed to carry weight.
Many people have issues with their knees, hips, Achilles tendons, ankles. In most cases this is due to imbalances of the above kind, limiting mobility, and when we increase the workload, it puts even more stress on the joints and the soft tissues.
2.Running is for beginners?
Many people who want to lose weight and choose running as their main tool fall in the beginner category when it comes to movement skills. It doesn’t matter how many years you have been doing it. Every day, during my walks in the park, I see women and men who have been running every morning for years and I don’t mean to say that they should give it up, but they could add some activities that can help them achieve the right technique, so they don’t hurt their joints. When one of them runs past you, you can see how he or she turns their foot and lower leg to the outside, and this twists the knee; how they don’t move their arms from their shoulders, but only at the elbow joints, etc. All this harms the joints and leads to chronic pain and injuries. The more you run this way, the more harm you do to your own body.
When you are considerably overweight or do not engage in any higher-intensity physical activity often enough, running is the last thing you should do.
Before we tackle more complicated movements – in terms of coordination and qualities we need to possess – we need to have mastered the basics. You need to know how to move your body correctly and mindfully. This is the missing piece – mindful movement. Feeling how, when you change the angle of movement, you also change the workload; how, when you step on the outside of your foot, this has repercussions further up the chain and where in the knee and hip joints you feel it. This takes time, but it all starts by building up a certain amount of strength – the strength to move our body within different ranges of motion.
You have no idea how often I see people who really do their best – they go out for a run every day, invest time and effort into this, but achieve no results. I look at them and think that if they took the time to do as few as two workouts a week – initially with their own bodyweight and then with some weights, in order to build up their strength, they would achieve much better results – they would activate more muscles and also burn more calories.
Most people’s running technique doesn’t allow them to activate enough muscles in their body at all and they fail to achieve results, not because running is not the right tool, but because this technique makes it impossible to do so.
3.Running and strength
Strength is the main quality on which endurance, speed and agility are based. These qualities are intertwined with each other, but they can’t be developed any further, unless the basics are missing. It is no accident that the preparation of any athlete includes a strength-training part. In some sports intensity is greater, while in others it is lower, but strength is always necessary. This is why anyone who wants to be fit should include workouts, intended to help build up this strength. When you have mastered the basics, you can add dynamics to the exercises, for example by doing jump squats, jump lunges, Bulgarian jump squats, etc. The dynamics of the exercises makes it more difficult to maintain the proper technique, so we should also take some time to focus on this aspect, so that we can balance and do the exercises correctly.
When even this has become easy, we can add some running exercises and jump variations. Running exercises come before running. Anyone who practices track-and-field athletics starts by doing these. Because they teach us how to move and use our feet – they make them stronger and capable of tolerating heavier and longer runs. Running exercises help us coordinate our upper and lower body and allow us to move more mindfully – because the intensity is lower. And don’t worry, you can burn calories by doing running exercises too. You don’t have to do laps and run for many miles in the park or at the stadium in order to do so.
Running is a unique form of physical activity, but it is not right for everybody. This does not mean that you should never run, but you should give your body time and make efforts in other aspects in order to become strong and coordinated, so that you can run. There are many ways to be fit, but go for those which are effective in the long run and don’t destroy your body. The secret to athletic longevity is health. If we don’t take a mindful approach to the way we move, we risk being forced to take breaks quite often because of pain and injuries.