Saturday, January 7, 2017

The pain of the run...

According to an article I read today, if statistics hold true, for millions of people, their New Year's Resolution is to start running.  

When I started running it wasn't a grand resolve, and I honestly didn't put that much forethought into it.  I was walking on the treadmill and I simply thought - "I wonder if I could run?" 

A naive and possibly foolhardy way to get into a sport, which worked for me despite the odds..  But perhaps knowing some of the things the article talked about could have prevented some of the issues I would later experience and still am dealing with.

In the article the author states that most people who made running their resolution will quit by February.  This is not just because most people quit their resolutions in general.  It goes beyond that - into the aches and pains associated with running that people are simply not prepared for.

2 parts of us are incredibly adaptable to the demands of a high impact sport like running no matter how horribly out of shape we are.  Our muscles instantly recognize the need to adjust, adapt, and accomodate so the almost immediately start repairing any damage we cause by running and grow incredibly stronger quickly to not just hadle the next time we run, but it makes us better the next time we do it.

Amazing, right?

Our heart, as a muscle, and our respiratory system are also on our side.  Our hearts and lungs grow stronger as soon as we put them to the test.  They also accomodate what we are putting them through - becoming stonger and more efficient each time we run.

However, there are allso parts of us that aren't so impressed with our new found desire to engage in this high impact activity.  Our ligaments and tendons actively resist change according to research.  So while our muscles are allowing and encouraging us to run longer and faster, our ligaments and connective tissues remain weak.  They are slow to repair and are constantly 10 days or so behind.  Which makes the new runner tremendously vulnerable to injury.

And then, let's talk about our bones.  There is a ton of research proving that high impact activities like running is fantastic for bone health - once you've been at it for a while.  But bones are even worse than connective tissues in adapting.  And their process of breaking down and repairing is mind numbing slow.  

2 weeks into running - when even the ligaments are recognizing they need to support the rest of the body - a new runner's bones are the same as a non-runner.  And then they start breaking down in order to repair themselves to become stronger.  So here the new runner is with rapidly growing muscles, better cardio, and some exercise enduced endorphins and scarily weak bones...

It can be a recipe for stress fractures, making someone quit running and if they decide to start again, starting at square one.

This is yet another argument, in my opinion, for using the run walk method to start running.  By running for short periods and then walking, you give your heart and muscles the encouragement to start growing and adapting while being kind and patient with the stubborn ligaments and vulnerable bones.  Increasing the strain slowly is the perfect way to  get the whole body safely on board.

But take it from someone who went from never having run a single mile to regularly running 30 miles a week.  Physically and mentally, it is one of the absolute best things you can do for yourself!

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