Don't Run to Get Fit, Get Fit to Run!

Can you guess the sport that will injure over 60% of its participants?

Nope, not football.  Nor is it extreme dodgeball.  In fact, it’s running.


Shocked?  Well, I’m not.  Look at the litany of injuries that occur whenever people prepare for marathons, half marathons, etc.  I’ve known several people that have injured themselves during running, only to say that they can “tough it out.”  You only have one body, and I’m always surprised how people try to brush off injuries when a proper program shouldn’t injure you in the first place.

To make it clear, this post isn’t for those that are already dedicated runners.  If this means you, just make sure you lift weights at least twice a week, and don’t abuse your body with repeated long runs.

For those that don’t enjoy running (like me) or are out of shape, running is one of riskiest ways to try and achieve your fitness goals.  But before going further, I want to explore why people take up running, and why they’re most likely to get hurt.

Many look at running as the path of least resistance to “getting fit.”  If you look at the elite runners out there, they all tend to be slender, and in a culture that’s obsessed with body image, it’s very tempting to say “I want to look like that.”

Then, as people take up running, they want to run faster.  You start to think “I currently run 3 miles in 25 minutes, if I start running 6 miles, I can run those 3 miles in 21 minutes!”  Well, that’s not quite how it works, and I have the heel spurs in both feet to prove it.

More science?  Call in the nerds..

More science?  Call in the nerds..

According to the SAID principle (specific adaptions to imposed demands), your body just learns to run longer, not faster.  Sure, if you haven’t been active in some time, you will see gains if you pack on the mileage.  But, at the end of the day, you’re not teaching your body to run're cranking up the volume and risks of injury.

Now, you have that same person who was overweight and deconditioned running several miles almost everyday, with no focus on actually getting stronger.  If that same individual had came to me and said “I want to lose weight,” I’m pretty sure I would have been fired immediately if I told them to jump on each foot 1,000 times in a row.  Yet, that’s exactly what people are doing when they run.

Is all running terrible?  Of course not, and for many people that like to run, they should definitely lace up the sneaks and get after it.  However, only run after you have prepared your body for the pounding that will ensue.  This means achieving appropriate ankle mobility (people lose the ability to dorsiflex, or point their foot to their knee, as they get older), knee stability, hip mobility, and a few others.  Also, if you have sufficient one leg strength, and core strength, you’re well on your way to increasing your odds of being injury free.

Not everyone is made to run, and that’s totally OK.  If you want to run faster, the answer is intervals and nothing more.  Intervals suck and you may think lifting weights is boring, but often times what you want to do is far different from what you should do.