First of all welcome to my first blog post! My name is Joe and I am a licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy. I am a avid runner, new triathlete, and somebody who loves passing on my knowledge and teaching. I am excited to start writing new content for all my peeps trying to better themselves. Let's get straight into the first topic of today which is "being fit to run".
Let me explain what I mean by that quote. I think running is a great exercise and a relatively inexpensive one to participate in. Unlike cycling where people spend thousands of dollars on just the frame, all you need for running is a fresh pair of running shoes and some shorts or pants! Stay clothed people. Running is also an intense form of activity. It requires coordination, single leg strength, and muscular endurance just to name a few things. A good quote I've heard from another physical therapist is " everyone wants to run to be fit, but you have to be fit to run." Hopefully that all makes sense for my readers out there. Let's get into a non-exclusive three point checklist of things to consider to see if you are good to hit the pavement running today!
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NUMBA ONE - What is your baseline level of fitness?
Have you always been a runner? Are you just getting into recreational activity? Do you have a history as a swimmer, cyclist, or weight lifter? These are all important things to consider because it sets the tone for what kind of activity your body can handle. For example, if you have NEVER run before and want to get started, it is generally a good idea to do a run/walk program where you might run 0.2 miles then walk for 2 minutes. This gives your body time to adjust to all the force that gets placed on your bones, muscles, and tendons with running. Think about it like preheating an oven before you bake or cook. It allows your body to stay " okay this is the stimulus you are placing on me, I'm going to slowly adapt."
If you have participated in other sports you might be able to do a little more. You could try doing 0.5 mile runs on a track or even a 2 mile run with some walking breaks. These are generalities and things to consider not definitive ways to go about it! That is why it is so important to work with a physical therapist, personal trainer, or running coach so you can get a specific plan on where you should start.
Big takeaway = Do not just lace up some shoes and go for a 5 mile run. Even if you have some previous sports history, your body will not be happy after.
NUMBA TWO - Do you strength train and do plyometrics?
A lot of endurance athletes, runners, and people in general just associate lifting weights with putting on muscle and slowing you down. I'm not saying you have to be a bodybuilder and spend hours in the gym pumping iron. But strength training has so many great benefits that prepares your body for the type of stress you put on your body during running. Think about running for a second. You are basically hopping from one leg to the other as gracefully as possible. THIS TAKES MUSCULAR STRENGTH AND COORDINATION. For example, your hamstrings have to help actively flex and shorten to bend the knee so you don't trip on your own foot; they also have to activate to slowly control your knee as it straightens. And this is just one muscle. That is why it is important to do activities like squats, lunges, romanian dead lifts, hopping exercises, etc. etc. You get the idea. These exercises train your muscles to coordinate together to prepare you for the run. Squats build overall lower extremity strength while lunges can be used to develop single leg balance and control. All these elements are essential to have a good understanding of prior to running.
Also besides just strength training, plyometrics is a great form of intense exercise that also benefits your bones! Plyometrics are exercises that involve hopping, jumping, or anything where you focusing on coming off the ground and landing gracefully. Some great research out there that shows short bouts of plyometric exercises like jumping in place can increase serum bone phosphorus levels (reference below). However, adding in some specific exercises like single leg hopping, lateral jumps, and box jumps can help your bone health and even be potentially preventative for those pesky shin splints and bone stress fractures that runners develop.
Big takeaway = We all can benefit from getting under some moderately heavy weights and plyometric training to prepare our body for the physical stress of running.
NUMBA TREE - What's your pain levels?
This is is something that shouldn't be overlooked. I know people like to say " NO PAIN NO GAIN" but we have to be careful with this approach. We have to respect your pain levels and find ways to meet you where you are at. Let's say for example you are having knee pain with walking up the steps for the past month. Do you think the best thing to do is go on a three mile run? Do you think that will increase or decrease your pain? I'm NOT telling you to not do any exercise at all. That is extreme. But we need to modify and do something like a walking program instead of jumping straight into running.
Big takeaway= If you are having pain with simpler tasks like doing chores around your house and going up the stairs, you should reconsider going out for a run for the time being and find ways to still be active.
Reference article about acute effects of plyometric jumps: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00421-011-2108-8
Alright guys that is my time for today. I want to keep the blog posts short and sweet. I don't want to overload you with too much information. I know some of these concepts might seem a little different than what you have read online from other sources. The truth is everyone has a different opinion on what it means to be "fit to run". From my knowledge, I know that no one size fits all but hopefully this gave you something to consider and insight into what you could add to your routine.
Please suggest more blog posts that you would like for me to write about. I am always open to recommendations and questions/comments/rebuttals are encouraged!
Keep Moving Forward!
Dr. Joseph Daigneau, PT, DPT
Owner of Persevere Physical Therapy, LLC