Let’s just say that you are feeling the push to get moving more. Maybe some extra pounds have crept on and you have decided that it’s time to do something about it.
You have checked out CrossFit, Orange Theory, or a boot camp class and noticed that often they start up with some running as a warm-up or as the first segment of the class. You figure that running (or jogging) will help you burn calories, feel better, and not take too much time. Besides, weren’t we all “born to run” anyway?
Then doubt creeps in. You are wondering if those extra pounds or months of time off from exercise will make running or jogging bad for you, or even lead to injury. You may have heard that running causes your knees to go bad, leading to arthritis. You have heard about other injuries like patellar tendonitis, shin splits, rolled ankles, plantar fasciitis, and foot issues. In the back of your mind are those runners who have even dropped dead while running. Maybe this isn’t for you after all.
What is the answer?
Running (or jogging) IS a great form of exercise. It’s usually accessible (gym or outside, weather permitting), and doesn’t require much of a learning curve. Many studies have now shown that running DOES NOT lead to arthritis in the knees (actually, being overweight often leads to arthritis in the knees). Also, just in case you are wondering, the number of people who have died running is very few, and usually the result of a genetic abnormality. Many people (like 26 million of them) do this on a regular basis and swear buy it.
However, it is not unreasonable to wonder about the safety of running or jogging. Let me interject a story here before moving on to the ways that can make it an excellent activity for you.
Back in the day, when I started running (which I did for three decades), I purchased a book called Healthy Runner’s Handbook. To my shock and horror, there was one chapter on the risks, one on prevention, and 7 chapters on all the injuries you can get! Did not sound very healthy at all! Turns out, however, that you can boil it down to a few things that can lead to injury. By being aware of these and adjusting your plan to take them into account, you are good to go. There are a few things that are beyond your control that may lead you to try some other form of aerobic exercise like the bike or elliptical, and I will list them as well.
Here’s a list of what to look for before you start.
1. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you should get medical clearance from your physician IF you have signs or symptoms of cardiovascular disease, diabetes or other metabolic disease, or renal disease. If you are aware that you have one of these diseases but do not have any symptoms, you can skip the medical clearance, or you can still check just to be on the safe side.
2. There are a few things going on with your body that will definitely make it more likely for you to get injured, and that you really can’t do much about. If in doubt, get a physician, physical therapist, or exercise physiologist to check these out for you.
- Leg length discrepancy
- High arches
- Flat feet
- Knock knees
- Bow legs
- Thigh bones that are turned in (this is genetic)
3. If you have had a previous injury, be sure it has healed completely before getting starting or getting back to running or jogging. Running does not cure an injury.
4. It’s important to start slowly. I can’t stress this enough. If you have been away from exercise for over two or three months, it’s a good idea to start by walking. Once a brisk walk for 30 minutes or so feels great, you can throw in a minute of jogging followed by 2-5 minutes of walking. You can go back and forth that way to tolerance. Over time, make the jogging time longer and the walking time shorter. Note that some people are happy to stay at this point forever. But, if you want to continue, you can certainly aim for jogging/running the whole time. You can aim for 30-40 minutes, time yourself if you want to get faster, or add in a few hills. If you are inclined to push yourself, add in only 10% increase of exertion each week.
5. Final comment: Most jogging/running injuries are from OVERUSE (i.e., too much too soon), ANOMALIES in body structures (see above), incorrect TECHNIQUE, running too often on UNFORGIVING SURFACES like concrete, or wearing incorrect FOOTWEAR. Feel free to consult professionals before you start, and get a good shoe fitting at a proper running store.
Then get out there and see if it hooks you! If not, there are lots of other ways to get moving.
All the best,
P.S. For the record, the difference between jogging and running does not have a standard definition. However, jogging is slower, generally more than a ten-minute mile. Running would be faster than that, involves using muscles and tendons to a greater extent for push-off, and does create more impact for the body.
© 2019-2020 Kristen Carter. All rights reserved.