Lots of recent studies, including one earlier this month from Dr. Martin Matsumura of the Cardiovascular Research Institute, have been exposing the potential dangers of something that millions of people do several times a week...lace up a pair of running shoes and go for a jog. Shoe and apparel companies, personal trainers, fitness guru's and a host of many others have for years espoused the proponents of running. Turns out, its not that simple...
- Running is a learned skill - It's not as simple as "have shoes, will travel". There are many moving parts in a simple running stride and if you aren't familiar with the correct way to perform them, chances are you're performing one, or more, of them incorrectly. Seek out a running coach and learn from them. If that couple hundred and the time isn't a luxury you have, watch these videos to at least get you started: Eric Orton, Stack and Stack (again)
- Get up and go - Do you properly warmup and perform some sort of movement preparation before running? If not, you're simply begging for inefficiency, soreness and, at some point, injury. Try a few minutes of foam rolling before heading out the door and a few movements like this, this or this before running.
- Walking vs Jogging - If you could out pace your "jog" with a fast walk, then do it. Walking will most likely be more biomechanically correct than your slow jog and has been shown on several occasions to be a better bet for those who are more predisposed to joint problems or those overweight.
- Running vs Jogging - What's the difference? To keep it simple, most people consider a pace of under 9mph (14.4kph) to be jogging and anything over to be running. To be clear, points 1 and 2 above are valid for both.
- Sprinting vs Jogging / Running / Walking - Want the most bang for your buck? Then sprint. Points 1 and 2, especially, hold even more importance when sprinting. Your biochemical response is radically different here and will tend to give greater overall benefits, from increased cardiovascular capacity to longer lasting elevated metabolic rates.
- Footstrike - Foot strike position is a topic currently under much debate but most people seem to agree on one point: The foot should strike under the body's center of gravity. Where your contact point is upon striking is what is often debated. Heel, mid-foot or fore-foot? Personally I prefer a mid-foot strike as I feel it is more compatible for many people with little to no ankle flexion (which is most people). As long as you're not over striding and making ground contact in front of the body, you're off to a good start.
- Counter Balance Musculature - As running is a linear movement (in one direction), if this is your only mode of exercise, muscle imbalances can add up quickly. Some of the most common running ailments can be alleviated with some strength training that provides a counter balance. Suffer from Runner's Knee? Make this mini-band routine part of your regular program and add some TFL streching/foam-rolling. Hamstring and Glute problems? Usually due to weakness (or at least weaker than the quadricep counter parts) in those muscles groups. Add some straight leg deadlifts and assisted nordic curls to help.
If you want to run and enjoy running, by all means, do so. But do so with all of the available information regarding recovery times, potential muscle imbalances, proper technique, etc. Because running injury free is more important than just running...