I know it’s the New Year and you have body fat to burn. Just because you need to burn body fat does not necessarily mean you should start a running program. Here are seven reasons you should not take up running.
Now that 2010 is here, it has become your resolution to begin losing weight. You decide to do what you have done in the past and take up running/jogging. Are you sure you need to be running though? I meet people every year that start jogging in January, and if I had been given the opportunity, I would have advised them not to even start. So here are the top seven reasons I feel that someone should not begin a running program in January.
- Inactivity over the past few months – If you haven’t been active for several months, there is a good chance running will not be a good way to start. This is especially true as we get older. Your ligaments and tendons weaken when you don’t use them, and the integrity of those structures has been been compromised. By pounding on the sidewalk, you overstress the tissue and can cause injury. Start slowly by walking and see how you do. The next time you go out, try short bouts of light jogging. You can slowly work up to running, but work up to it slowly.
- Previous ankle injuries – If you have a history of ankle sprains, you do not want to start off by jogging if you have had a time off. When you sprain your ankle it often stretches the talofibular ligament (depending on the sprain) and this damage is permanent. The ligament does not return to its normal shape. So with the ligament stretched out, it is more stable therefore more prone to injury. As you lay off your physical activity, the ankle becomes weaker. So if you suddenly start running, you are basically running on a wobbly leg, due to the ankle. This is a recipe for disaster. It doesn’t mean you are without hope though. If you will take the time to strengthen your ankle, studies have shown that your ankle has the possibility to become as strong as if you had never injured it. Take the time to strengthen the ankle and stay on stable surfaces (such as the treadmill) before venturing outside on unstable surfaces.
- Previous Knee Problems – Just like the ankle, there are numerous types of injuries that can affect the knee. And just like the ankle, even with previous knee injuries, there are times you can still run. However, if you are having knee pain, it would not be smart to start off by running. Every step that hits the ground sends a force up the leg. If your knee is unstable due to a previous knee injury (ACL, MCL, Meniscus, etc…) you could run into a problem. I would label previous meniscus damage as one of the ones you need to be most careful with. Once you have damaged your meniscus, there is a chance of further damage. As it continues to tear you run the risk of ending up bone on bone. Do this long enough and you will end up needing a knee replacement. With so many alternatives such as swimming and the elliptical, why push it? Find something safe that won’t destroy your knee. Can you still run if you’ve had an injury in the past? Sure, there are plenty of athletes that have injured their knees and continue to play. But if you are a weekend warrior, you need to make sure you are working hard off the track (strength training and stretching), so you won’t get hurt on the track.
- Back Pain – If you have back pain, there is almost a 100% chance there are instability issues. Many instability issues come from the hip. If your hip is unstable and you are essentially jumping and landing on it (running is controlled jumping if you think about it) that means your hip is taking a lot of force. Would you consider jumping up and down when you have back pain? If you are going to run, you have to start stabilizing the hip, therefore taking the pressure off the spine, before you being a running/jogging program. To run without hip stability is just irresponsible. Take the time to stabilize your joints first. It may seem counterproductive to walk instead of running for cardio, but walking is better than laying in bed for 3 days because your back hurts so bad.
- Cardiovascular Conditions – If you have a history of cardiovascular problems, beginning with a running program is asking for it. You have to work your way up to running; don’t start there. Running increases your heart rate and blood pressure. Yes, it is healthy to exercise, but it’s also important to make sure you live through your run. Find activities that will challenge you. Don’t run for long periods of time. Only increase your heart rate for 30 seconds at a time in order to see how you feel. And without a doubt, the most important thing is to make sure your doctor has cleared you for physical activity and defined what you can and cannot do.
- Poor Recovery Heart Rate – Every January I see people working so hard. They jump on the treadmill and take off running full speed and don’t slow down until they are done. They feel great because they worked out, but they probably feel miserable. The heart has been racing for a prolonged period of time, and I would be willing to bet they are starving soon after. I know you want to lose weight tomorrow, but pay attention to your heart rate. You should alter your heart rate throughout your cardiovascular activity. You should also be able to see a recovery heart rate of 20 beats a minute. So if your heart rate is 145 and you slow the treadmill down, it should drop to 125 within 60 seconds. If you can’t get it to recover that quickly, you need to back off on the intensity until you see it responding properly. Take your time and work up to a run. Your body is still working hard, your head just didn’t know it.
- A Weight Increase – If you have gained a lot of weight from the last time you were in a fitness routine, I would suggest you take it slowly. The extra force on your joints may be too much for them. Your joints, tendons, ligaments, muscles are accustomed to a certain amount of force. By increasing the force by 10 pounds, the joints are under a lot more stress. Work your way up to a more vigorous pace. Don’t worry, you will lose your weight and return to your old form soon, but don’t injur yourself in the process.