Monday, October 23, 2006

Walk before you run

One of the most popular activities associated with improving ones fitness is running / jogging. And why not, after all running is easily accessible, inexpensive, requires no set up time, and can be done outside in nature. In addition, the cardiovascular and weight management benefits are well known and respected by many. Personally, I think running is a great activity and will improve ones overall fitness tremendously with little rivals in terms of effectiveness and efficiency. However, I also feel that running places a great deal of stress on the connective tissue (tendons, ligaments, and cartilage) of the lower leg. In addition improper running form can also lead to lower back, hip and knee pain. With that said, it is important to mention that most running issues can be solved by first learning how to run correctly and second, building up the strength of the connective tissue and muscles of the lower leg. Like any other aspect of improving ones fitness, this is best done by a slow and gradual build up in exercise intensity to allow for the associated body parts to adapt to the stress. Simply put, if your intensions are to begin a running program and you have not run in a while or ever before, start out slowly by walking first. After continued efforts of walking at a moderate pace is no longer challenging, pick up the intensity to a brisk walk for several workouts. After that is accomplished begin to jog for one minute and walk for three. Slowly build up the amount of time you spend jogging and reduce the amount of time you spend walking. Soon you will have 10-30 minutes of consecutive jogging in place. At this point it is up to you whether to work on increasing the duration of your runs, or the speed in which you are running. Remember it is not where you start that matters, but where you finish. Always begin with caution and work on improving each time you train. - Doug Scott, Strength Coach