I have been running since I was a teenager and the longest I have gone without jogging is two months while recovering from ankle reconstruction surgery in 2008 from a basketball injury. Up until that point I had only run 5ks and 10ks. But after my two-month layoff from running I set my goal to run the Great Race of Agoura Hills six months post surgery. And with the success of my first ½ Marathon, I decided to run the LA Marathon two months later.
I am a Physical Therapist and have treated numerous patients with running related injuries and I question at times whether running is truly healthy for us as a form of exercise. Are we truly designed to run lengthy distances at a jogging pace? The difference between running and walking is flight. Running for lengthy bouts is putting repetitive stress on our musculoskeletal system as we continually push off into flight challenging our tendons and land onto the ground compressing our joints.
The psychological, sociological, economical and cardiovascular health gains have been well established, but do these benefits outweigh the risks? What are the risks? Personally since running the LA Marathon in 2009, I have sustained many nagging injuries, including Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, iliotibial friction syndrome, arthritis in my hip, lower back and sacroiliac joint. My right knee has meniscus issues, however, I continue to put on my running shoes.
The number one reason I run is for stress reduction, and I especially enjoy trail running in beautiful Southern California; Boney Mountain in Newbury Park is amazing. I don’t run for weight management, because it is very difficult to out exercise a bad diet. I put on extra weight from calorie consumption and I reduce my weight by calorie reduction. When jogging my nagging injuries are exacerbated by extra weight gain, even five pounds, and running at that time is a poor option for me in terms of cardiovascular training and stress management.
I personally jog much less, at most three times per week and limit my runs to 30 minutes maximum. I use stationary cardiovascular equipment at home, the gym or at my office for again 30 minutes on each piece of equipment. I prefer to run, but when my musculoskeletal system is hurting, stationary equipment is my best option because I can set the resistance at any level and stop at any time. I perform resistance exercise three times per week emphasizing movements in multiple directions, especially laterally while minimizing momentum. I train my lower extremities more than my upper extremities and challenge my core strength by biasing stabilization over movement. Lastly, the exercises that take priority and are frequently over looked are recovery, moderation, range of motion and stretching. Trust me your joints, tendons, and your future Medicare health coverage will thank you now and when you reach the ripe old age of retirement.
HEALTH is a HABIT.
Jeff Cooper, Physical Therapist
Recooperation Physical Therapy