Random thoughts on running

I like running.

In fact I'm planning to train for a marathon this year - though I haven't broken the news to my knees yet. 

In fact, (for emphasis here), I just came back from a delightful three mile jaunt around Kennebunk. 

Running is a reason to by many pairs of shoes. Many. 

Running is a reason to by many pairs of shoes. Many. 

I started running seriously as a sophomore in college, having taken the year off from lacrosse to find myself (which is a separate blog post entirely). I ran laps around the suspended track at the gym, listening to Pat Benetar* on my Sony Walkman while watching the intramural basketball games below.

Yes I had the foam headphones to go with the Walkman.

Remember when the batteries were dying while the cassette tape was playing? Remember needing batteries for music?

I digress.  

Anyway, I chose to run because it was:

A. Simple
B. Affordable
C. I didn't know what else to do. 

Running has a low barrier to entry and burns calories like a furnace, which is why many people choose it when they decide to exercise. 

But is running really the best method if you are trying to lose 50 pounds or more? (To clarify here, I mean running 15-20 miles per week. Not signing up for the yearly alumni race that you run, hungover, with your friends. Oh wait...)

Regardless of your reasons, here are a few random points to consider before you tie up your laces and hit the trails:

(And I want to emphasize, again, that I'm not against running - I just think there are things to consider before you take it up full time.)  

1. What shape are your knees in?

The impact of running is the equivalent of at least two times your body weight on impact. That means that if you're 200lbs, for each step you take running you're putting 400 pounds of stress on your knees, hips, feet and joints. Over time, the impact is going to catch up with you. 

The number one frustration I see for clients is injury. Developing a new workout routine takes time, effort, and patience. When you finally hit your stride, the last thing you need is an injury to derail the process.  

If you've already got some knee issues going on, running 15 or more miles per week might not do you any favors.

2. It might take longer to build up to that 5K than you think

The best quote I read in doing a little research for this post was that cardiovascular adaptation comes along much quicker than our cartilage and joints. Which means that even though we're no longer huffing and puffing to get through two miles, our knees and hips might not feel as awesome as we think they do. Overuse injuries can happen very quickly with running, so in the beginning, if you've never run before, you may have to pace yourself even more than that Couch to 5K app suggests.

There are other ways to get a burn on and get your heart rate up while sparing your joints. Which is why...

3. Cross training and rest are important

When I was 26 I started training for a marathon. Periodically, I was plagued by knee pain that turned out to be IT band syndrome - something that many runners are all too familiar with. I tried a chote strap, and various stretches - but what I refused to try was cross training or rest. I was a runner - that's what I liked, that's what I did, and if anyone tried to talk me out of it, I ignored them.

In my case, that 26 year old wisdom eventually brought me to surgery to help relieve the pain, and I have yet to run that elusive marathon. 

We have a number of avid runners that work out at Spurling, and they are all smarter than I ever was. They include strength training to help with form, bone density, and many of them come back saying that strength training has only improved their running game. 

4. Don't forget about technique

Running technique always brings to mind the clip of Phoebe from Friends - but there's so much more to running than just trying not to flail your arms from side to side while moving. Do you run on your toes or your heels? (Generally, on your toes, but the first time you really focus on this you'll find that your calves are incredibly tight the next day). How long is your stride? How deep is your love?**

A cursory google search brought up several articles of suggested drills for improving speed and form - but the most important piece is to pay attention to that form. And warm up.

Warm. Up.

5. Pay attention to your shoes

Not all sneakers are running shoes - these days the athletic shoe market is flooded with choices, and if you plan on doing a lot of running, you'll want to make sure you're in the right shoe for your feet, ankles, knees and back. I wrote this post awhile back about the different types of shoes out there, but if you're serious about running, visit the local running store and try on all of the shoes until you find the right fit. Spend the money on the right shoes. 

And happy Monday. It looks like spring finally made it to Maine. 

*If you don't know who Pat Benatar is then..just...I don't even know what to do with you. Google her. Yes it's a her. 
**I couldn't pass up the BeeGee's reference.