Coach Rob: I happen to live next to the park, my backyard faces the park and I see all kinds of people out there every day from morning to evening running. What once made me very pleased to see so many people out there working hard to improve their health and fitness – now often makes me cringe. It took me a long time to realize all this but now I see the running epidemic, and how many people are causing more harm than good. Now bear with me here, especially if you are a runner yourself – because you might be afflicted!
Coach Brendan: As a physical therapist, personal trainer, track coach, and former collegiate hurdler – I have a long history with fitness and running, in particular. Running is an important component to physical fitness, but not in isolation, or without purpose – People need to think about what is their relationship to running. What’s your relationship with running? Why do you run? Do you feel it’s an important part for maintaining a high level of physical fitness?
Coach Rob: I used to hate to just go out there and run; no purpose, no goal, no motivation. You see, being a soccer player at heart I do love to run, or more accurately, chase; however, to just go out there and hit the pavement and run was totally unappealing for me. My years as a fitness coach have changed not only my affinity for why running is important, but more importantly, HOW you are running.
Coach Brendan: Running, when done properly, is proven to be one of the most effective ways to lose weight, improve cardiovascular health, and numerous other health benefits. However, it is imperative to take a few precautions, such as learning proper running technique, in order to prevent injury. How did you develop proper running form?
Coach Rob: Before I began to run, as a fitness coach, I understood that everything is a skill and just to lace up my sneakers and go out for a long run without clearly understanding what I am doing, is a recipe for injury. So in an effort to practice what I preach to my clients, I got educated! I bought the POSE method of running and began to study how to run, and applying the skills to my running. I learned two important things: Have a goal/purpose and do things correctly.
Coach Brendan: Each person must first, have a goal. Know why you are out there putting in miles. Maybe you are training for a race, maybe you want to lose weight, or maybe you want to improve your cardiovascular health. These are all appropriate goals, but might affect your frequency, duration, and intensity of your training. Know your goal and adjust your training routine accordingly. For example, many runners are out there to lose weight. If you refuel each run with 2 cheeseburgers and a 6 pack, you probably won’t lose much weight. You can’t “out exercise” a poor diet.
Secondly, do it right! I would say biggest problems out there are running with poor form, running inefficiently, the uneducated runner, and people pounding their joints and muscles resulting in overuse injuries. Yes, running is a “natural” activity, but times have changed drastically since the hunting and gathering days – and just because the body was designed to run, does not mean you don’t need to educate yourself on proper form, progression, footwear, and injury prevention before you hurt yourself.
Running is made up of endurance through an extremely repetitive motion. What components of physical fitness are most important to run successfully?
Coach Rob: As a fitness coach, I am fit already and so I will go out and run 3 miles today, even though I don’t run regularly. That’s because there are basically two aspects of running. Cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance through a repetitive motion. This is a fine line. Although I have cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance based on my exercise regimen, but running is the same exact motion MANY, MANY times in a row – even the “most fit” person will get injured if you overdo it too soon.
Coach Brendan: So based on those two points: That is why weight training is becoming more and more prevalent as a supplement in the runners toolbox. Law of specificity says that if you want to become a better runner, you have to run. However, you need to make sure you have long and strong musculature to support all that running. Having strong AND flexible muscles will help you not only be a better runner, but help prevent an overuse injury – as long as all the other factors are taken care of as well.
Coach Rob: Here is an anecdotal story. I was on vacation, I hadn’t run in a while but I thought since I’m in shape, I could go to the beach and run 6 miles no problem. I experienced some pain, but I fought through that pain and now I am hurt. I know proper form, I have the general fitness required, but the third piece that I haven’t figured out until now is progressing slowly. Running is an unbelievably repetitive activity. My point is this: if a very fit person, who also understands proper running form and mechanics, can become easily injured from pushing themselves too soon – don’t you think you should be careful and reassess your personal running plan.
Coach Brendan: Running is a skill. You need to educate yourself on how to properly perform that skill. You need to have a goal and then develop your training plan, not the other way around. You need to progress slowly and carefully. Do not push through pain – pain is your body’s signal to you that something is wrong. I understand that runner’s love to run – I’m one of them. I often suggest to a runner to take a break or a step back to reassess their form or let their body heal and they freak out. Running should be a contributing factor to a healthy, functional body – but you might be causing more harm than good. My advice is to reassess your own running habits and to seek help if you are unhappy with your progress and or confused about your goals and/or form.
Rob Jaroszuk fitness coach from Rise Fitness in Ho-ho-kus, NJ can be found on his web site www.risefitness.org for individual and group fitness classes.