"And They're Off!"
Where did people get the idea that running is the best way to "Get In Shape". I see so many people come to the gym and hop on the treadmill, run at a steady pace for an hour and head to the showers; I don't understand it. Do people think that is the best way to lose weight, or get "tone". The only logical explaination for steady state, long distance running is "I love to run, it helps me clear my mind and relieves stress", or "I am training for a marathon". If that is your reason for running then do what makes you happy, but when I ask most people "Why do you run?" or "Do you enjoy running?" They usually respond with something along the lines of, "I hate running, but I'm out of shape and I am trying to lose some weight".
Now don't get me wrong, I think running is a great form of exercise, but running long distances at a steady pace is not very efficient. You can make much better use of your time if you do some form of interval training. This means warm-up at an easy pace for 5mins, adjust the speed and really push yourself at a fast pace for 30secs, then return to a slow pace to recover for 1min, repeat as many times as you feel comfortable for 15-30mins and progress by going faster every week.
This is more efficient then steady state because your body works in three different systems, Phosphagen, Glycolytic, and Oxidative. Basically there are different chemical reactions in the body for each type of activity; whether it is a heavy lift, a sprint, or a long distance run. Working in intervals allows you to work in all three systems during your workout. This means you are improving your strength and maintaining muscle mass while also improving your cardiovascular health.
So here's the deal... I see alot of people start running for the first time after having a very sendentary lifestyle. If your body has been sedentary for a long time it is probably lacking the stability and mobility to allow for proper mechanics while running. This means you are putting extreme amounts of impact on joints that are unstable and potentially causing injury. Many people I see running outside or on the treadmill have poor running mechanics. I see alot of swinging knees, severe heel striking, and poor posture.
To make sure you are running safely and efficiently check yourself for the following:
Posture- Keep your spine in a steady and relaxed neutral position to allow yourself to use energy where you need it most, your legs.
Midfoot- If you are striking the ground with your heel each stride then it is slowing you down. Try landing midfoot (neither the heel nor the ball) to avoid injury from a more severe impact and to produce better momentum in your stride.
Cadence- Try to maintain a pace of 180 steps per minute while running to conserve energy and avoid injury by not overstriding. This will help you stay lighter on your feet.
Lean- When having a slight lean while running gravity forces you to fall foward and instinctively step in the direction of movement. By responding to gravity rather than pushing off with your toes you have better momentum and less strain in your legs.
If you have any mobility or stability issues that you are aware of and are trying to improve then you should find an alternative to running in the mean time. You could intensify a weight lifting routine by creating a total body circuit and taking little to no break in between exercises, or try less impactful cardio equipment for your interval training like the rowing machine, cycling, swimming or the stair master. Remember that exercise is about long-term success and preventing injury so choose your exercises based on your needs. If you have questions and can't decide what is best for you.... please ask!
$2 In Quarters
Here is a great way to improve your cardiovascular health in a time efficient way. The challenge is called "Quarters" and the object is to run 2miles total. You start by running at an 8mph pace at no incline, at .25miles you adjust the speed to 6mphand increase the inline to 10%. When you reach the next .25miles you repeat from the beginning. The object is to repeat until you reach 2miles. If you stop midway then next time you try to beat your old record.
Now for some, 8mph might seem too challenging, if that is the case then you should try doing the intervals I mentioned in the early section. Each week try to push yourself to run faster then the week before until you feel comfortable running at an 8mph pace. Then face the Quarters Challenge.
HAPPY RUNNING EVERYONE!!
Written by: Timothy Khanoyan