Run to Get Fit or Get Fit to Run?

running for exercise

For lots of people, the idea that they will start running for exercise is a simple choice. Put some shoes on, do some stretches and off you go. Unfortunately reality hits home pretty quickly because if you haven’t maintained a good level of fitness, weight and muscle tone over the preceding years, those first 5 kilometres will suck.

It will get better with practice and you think to yourself, just keep going. Eventually, it certainly does get better, cardiovascular fitness improves, calories are burnt and your ability to complete a 5km run improves. But, there are some serious risk:reward ratio questions to be answered here. The first is:

Are you actually running?

Many time we see people who are “runners” with injuries only to put them on the treadmill to find their running pace is actually 7km/hr, a speed which they can walk at. Don’t get me wrong, I tip my hat to anyone having a go at running, but introducing an airborne phase into your activity with its large impact and increase in load on the joints is a high risk with a low reward, when you’re not increasing your velocity.

Are you running properly? 

To answer this we must ask, what constitutes running properly? Lets just define that as a method where you are moving from point A to point B as efficiently as possible with as little risk as possible.

Often we see people with good cardiovascular fitness and several years of running experience hit a plateau where the can no longer increase their distance. This often happens when there is an underlying biomechanical issue at play which increases the load through specific joints or structures.

Do you need to run? 

By this we mean, is more repetitive impact-type exercise actually what you need? Let us illustrate. If you are going to netball twice per week, boxing once per week and body attack once per week, you likely won’t get the most benefit from more impact loading through your feet and knees. Ultimately, you want the best health result for the time you invest in exercise, so perhaps a low impact exercise option is a safer option – like swimming or bike riding.

Okay, so this is definitely putting a gloomy outlook on running, so before you hang up your runners and go bike shopping, let us point out that there definitely is an answer to all of this,

As a better runner than myself once said “if you want to run better first become a better runner”. 

What does this mean? Simply that there are lots of exercises and drills that you can do which will help with your ability to attenuate shock, improve the range of motion in your joints and muscles specific to running, and increase your muscle strength which altogether will ultimately stack up to make you a better runner! 

My suggestion is that if you’re returning to running, or giving it a go for the first time, first start with some general low impact strength and cardio work whilst beginning to work on the running specific exercises. General strength can be gained from squats, deadlifts, overhead press, bench press and bent over rows. If you don’t think there is cardio in that then try a set of ten and see what your heart rate does! (Hint: it’ll shoot up). 

Running-specific exercises include using a skipping rope, running stairs two at a time, single leg shallow squats and hip hikes – to name a few. These can be done as a session and perhaps instead of the run itself. The goal is that when you do go for a run, you are in a much safer position to do it and ultimately ENJOY it. 

If you need any help or advice, whether you’re yet to take your first run or are training for an ultra marathon, our team will provide you with expert podiatric care. We are the lower limb experts in Toowoomba and Darling Downs and are equipped with world-class equipment used by elite athletes No video selected.

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