NOTES FROM COACH / TIPS & THOUGHTS

MINDFUL MAC

Love Running? Here Are 5 Things You Need to Consider

We did it! We made it through another winter - Another lockdown winter at that.


Longer days and warmer temperatures are natural mood elevators for the vast majority of people, especially if you live somewhere that doesn’t necessarily get a lot of sun.


Even in troubling times, research has shown time and time again that getting outside for fresh air and sunshine is the easiest way to inject a little extra health into your life.


It’s clear that the summer of 2021 feels as though it will be in stark contrast to 2020.


Vaccination numbers are rising, restrictions are easing, and it seems that many people are getting ready to enjoy themselves with some sense of normalcy - whatever that means.


A common theme during the last sixteen months has been an increase in cardiovascular exercises like cycling and running.


The primary reason for this is fairly obvious - in many places, people had no access to their local gym.


Some were lucky enough (and quick enough) to grab equipment online, but for many, strength training appeared to be a lofty goal, especially for those who lift heavy.


Walking and running has long been pegged as the most accessible form of exercise - simply because you can walk out your front door and you’re off to the races, so to speak.


It’s also more enjoyable for many people, because it’s less intimidating than going to a gym that would have you surrounded by experienced lifters.


I speak from experience - I used to be a recreational runner, and like every other health professional, there was a point in time, not so long ago, that I felt unsure and intimidated.


Between 2010-2012, I logged over 2000 training miles and ran several races between 10 and 21K.


I loved how running made me feel. Whether it was in front of thousands of on-lookers or completely alone with my thoughts - I always got the same “runners high”.


I managed a gym and I had a separate membership, but the vast majority of my exercise (at least 80%) was running. The other 15-20% was misguided strength training that was actually taking me farther away from my goals - even though I didn’t recognize it at the time.


Then, one day without much warning, my body started falling apart - I suddenly had issues with my feet and ankles, my hips and my lower back.


Although I was the leanest I had ever been, in hindsight, I was also at my slowest and weakest - and with that, I was in pain.


I was running to train, but I wasn’t training to run.


My personal breaking point was in 2014, when I was taking part in a university physiology lab and I seriously injured my lower back doing an exercise that I had done a million times before.


I couldn’t move. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t even sit down in class.


I needed a change.


I knew I never wanted to feel that pain again, and I also knew that at age 27, I had a lot of active years in front of me and that I wanted to make the most of them.


The immediate answer came pretty naturally - I needed to get stronger. I knew I needed to start training movement patterns instead of muscle groups. I had to stop avoiding the exercises that challenged me, and make an effort to address and develop every possible movement I could think of - especially the ones causing me pain.


The irony is that I wanted to become more athletic so that I could continue running, but what I found was that running was causing me to become less athletic.


Although I don’t run anymore, I’m not anti-cardio. Hindsight is 20-20, and I want to share from my own experience in order to help others avoid reaching their own personal breaking point.


This article will touch on why running isn’t a good option for most of the general population.


The first part of the answer is that most probably aren't physically prepared to run safely, and without injury. The second part is that despite not meeting running requirements, many will still make running the entirety of their training routine - when it should be part of it.


If you love to run - or if you want to make it a part of your regimen - please read on to learn more about the 5 things you must consider when running.


Don’t run to train - you must train in order to run!


 

1. Started From the Bottom, Now We’re… Here?


Have you ever experienced pain in your feet? Ankles? Hips or lower back? Hell - even upper back and neck pain can be connected to foot dysfunction!


A properly functioning ankle requires adequate dorsiflexion (toes/foot pointing up), plantarflexion (toes/foot pointing down), inversion (inside ankle high), and eversion (inside ankle low).


A functional foot requires the ability for the toes to move independently. The ability to lift the big toe independently and spread all of the toes apart (known as toe “splay”) is probably one of the most overlooked aspects of proper locomotion.


When any joint is limited, forcing it repeatedly under load will cause bad things to happen. If you don’t have the capacity to move these joints freely, chances are pain and dysfunction will occur immediately as the body compensates. Compensation happens everywhere, so it doesn’t necessarily mean you will feel it in your feet.

The toughest pill for many people to swallow is that the expensive pair of running shoes they just bought are actually causing their feet (and everything above them) to move improperly.


The immense amount of cushioning and arch support is causing more harm than good, simply because it doesn’t allow the foot to act as it naturally should.


It’s equivalent to wearing a back brace for the rest of your life. It may work in some situations, but it’s likely setting you up for failure in a situation where you aren't wearing protective equipment.


Spending more time barefoot is a great way to practice and identify any issues with your feet. I've had tons of clients tell me that doing movements like lunges hurts their feet when going barefoot, yet they "feel fine" doing them while wearing cushioned sneakers.


Like it or not, if this sounds familiar to you, your body is compensating for a weak link - and a crucial link at that. If barefoot movement causes you pain, your feet may be trying to tell you something!



2. Core Strength


Before we get into this one - please don't just think of your core as the "abs."


It's more complicated than that.


A functional core assists in stabilizing, resisting, absorbing, and transferring force from our lower body to our upper body as we move via the torso. Essentially, everything that isn’t your limbs can be considered part of your core.


Think about it - when you're running, your legs and arms are swinging, but ideally, your torso shouldn't be moving very much. This is why sit ups, shitty planks and sloppy “ab” exercises fail to address the muscular strength, endurance and stability required for covering long distances.


Want to find out if your core is strong and stable to support running? Test yourself with anti-movement - bracing and controlling the core in order to prevent movement.


If you find these movements especially challenging, it may signify that your core stability requires more work before it can handle the rigours of running.


Regardless of skill level, finding a way to work them into your routine will be worth the investment in your health and performance!



Video 1: Torsion Plank (Anti-Rotation)



Video 2: Bench Bird Dog (Anti-Extension and Anti-Rotation)



3. Single-Leg Strength


Single leg strength is one of the most misunderstood, undervalued, and under-utilized movement patterns within an individual’s training program.

Why do you need single leg strength during jogging?

There is a constant cycle of loading - whether it's taking off by pushing through the back leg, or landing on the front foot. Proper strength mechanics of hip extension and knee deceleration is crucial for running on different kinds of surfaces.

Your body must deal with 2-3x its body weight with every stride. This is how much stress your bones, tendons, muscles, cartilage, and ligaments support with every step - so imagine that happening on a limb that isn't properly supported.


When training single-leg exercises, it's important to consider movement direction. If you run in an area with lots of hills or if you enjoy trail running, it's important to anticipate the types of movements required to be stable in as many directions as possible.


Training progressive movement in the forward, reverse and lateral directions helps to ensure that your entire leg is strong and stable in every situation.


Video 1: Single-Leg RDL into Hip Flexion (Foot/Ankle, Knee and Hip Stability)


Video 2: Lateral Squat (Knee and Hip Stability)



4. Overall Strength


So, we have addressed strength and stability of the lower limb, the core and the larger muscle groups of the legs.


Now let’s address overall strength and stability.


Essentially, we are looking how each of those individual aspects work together as a functional unit. This is crucial because the body tends to work from the bottom up - and we are only as strong as our weakest link!


A strong and stable core, upper-back and single leg strength go a long way in injury prevention and performance - primarily because they address strength imbalances and reduce the need for movement compensation.


As mentioned in the previous section, the body deals with 2-3x your bodyweight on each and every stride while running. It goes with saying that overall strength is important, but by making sure that all of the links are equally prepared, we can minimize major joints doing more work than they need to.


A great way to test your overall strength and control is the farmer's carry.


Essentially, this exercise can be completed with any sort of heavy object, so long as you can hold onto it. It allows you to add additional resistance to your bodyweight, and challenges you to control your body using the upper back, core and legs. Walking with the weight further challenges you to maintain control in the single-leg position.


Give it a try - but if you find it exceedingly difficult, it may be something you need to work on in order to become "globally strong."



Video 1: Farmer's Carry Hold



5. What Exactly is Your Goal?

One of the most common mistakes I see when people decide to start exercising to “get in shape” is beginning the process by running.

First off - running isn’t inherently bad.

In fact, it can be an efficient way to improve cardiovascular performance, immune health and cognitive function. Other benefits include reducing the chances of chronic illness such as CAD and some forms of cancer.

Endurance training is a highly effective training stimulus that should be incorporated into a well-rounded fitness program, whatever that individuals goals are.

With all that said, I still don’t like saying that “doing something is always better than doing nothing" because in my experience, that answer is NO for the majority of the general fitness population.


Most individuals who start exercising solely focus on expending energy (calories) which often comes at the expense of their health.

Their goal is typically reducing scale weight, sweating and getting tired.

The law of specificity states that our bodies only adapt to the demands that are placed upon it.

Think about that the next time you go for a run - if you haven't done it consistently, it's very unlikely that it's prepared to do it now.

Your body has likely made some un-welcomed adaptations because of the way you operate on a daily basis - especially in the last year or so. Your muscular and nervous systems are not what they use to be unless you have been consciously and consistently counteracting the un-welcomed adaptations of a sedentary lifestyle with proper exercise interventions.

Treating your body like its functioning at full capacity when it’s not is a disservice to yourself and a guaranteed recipe for disaster.

Take initiative, do your research and work with a qualified professional that can appropriately help you reach your goal. Training shouldn’t cause pain and dysfunction if you take care of your body, and educate yourself on how to move well before you move often.

 

Yes, you can still run without the considerations mentioned above.


Yes, you will still burn calories and more than likely lose some weight, and you will also likely see the benefits of cardiovascular health.


But, you can’t move where you can’t move. It’s that simple. Your body is a master at compensating and will make almost anything happen for a little while, but it will almost certainly catch up to you sooner or later.


If you shift that mindset to “training” and optimizing your overall health and movement longevity, the outcomes will be far greater when compared to the focus solely on the number displayed on the scale.

Move better, feel better and live better, then go for a run - but only if you want to.

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