I often get asked if running is bad for you. My short answer to that question is no, running is not bad for you. But it’s important to understand that how you run can have a harmful affect on your body.
To help explain my stance I want to go over the benefits of running, then outline some tactics that you can deploy to avoid running-related injuries.
Let’s jump right in.
The Benefits of Running
There are several benefits of running, but here are some of the most notable physiological benefits:
- Increased cardiorespiratory fitness (aerobic fitness) and efficiency
- Increased muscular endurance
- Decreased blood cholesterol
- Increase bone density
Running has also been shown to help relieve stress and promote weight loss. However, there is no denying that running can also put an enormous amount of stress on your joints. Studies have even shown that during each foot strike the body is exposed to repeated impact at a force estimated to be two to three times the body weight of the runner.
I’m not telling you this to deter you from running, but rather to add weight to my point that it’s important to pay attention to the way that you are running.
Running is a sport, and—as with any sport—you must dedicate a certain amount of time to the activity to see the results and/or reap the benefits. There’s also a level of risk that you need to be mindful of if you partake in the activity.
To put things into perspective: we all expose ourselves to the risk of injury daily—whether we’re participating in a sport or not.
For example, the simple act of carrying groceries to your car or picking up your child could result in a injury… if you don’t perform that movement correctly. In other words, it’s not the action that puts you at risk. It’s how you perform the movement associated with that action that’s to blame.
Let’s get into how to avoid running-related injuries.
6 Steps to Avoid Running Injuries
When you participate in recreational or competitive activities you should expect some regular wear and tear to occur, and be prepared to take preventative measures to prevent you from doing serious damage to your body. To help you avoid running injuries, I suggest that you start practicing the following steps… especially if you’re a long distance runner. By doing so you will not only help reduce your risk of injury, but also maximize your running potential.
1. Get assessed and deal with your imbalances
A Functional Movement Screen, performed by our team at here at BIM or any other FMS certified trainer, is ideal as it can identify functional limitations and asymmetries to give you a good idea of your overall quality of movement.
PRO TIP: Try not to wait until your symptoms present as pain, and please do yourself a favour and don’t wait until you cannot run anymore because of your pain. There is no reason why you should be suffering in silence.
2. Consult a professional if you are currently experiencing pain
You should not have pain during or after your run. That’s a fact. Don’t try to give yourself reasons why it’s okay to have some pain. You’re not doing yourself any favours by ignoring your pain. If you are currently suffering from pain during or after a run, do something about it and inform your physician or trainer.
3. Manage your running schedule
Make sure your running schedule is progressively managed with regards to time, frequency, and intensity—with respect to your training goals. This may mean that you don’t run for as long, as often, or as fast as you would like, but it will have a positive affect on your running results.
PRO TIP: If you are serious about increasing your endurance, consider hiring an endurance coach or join a running group so that your progress can be progressively managed.
4. Add in resistance training!
When I say, “resistance training” I am referring to foundational strength training that involves compound lifts and progressive overload.
To help further paint the picture for you, I am going to enlist the help of Eric Cressey—who’s fantastic article, Five Resistance Training Myths in the Running World does an excellent job of explaining why runners need to be doing more than just running if they want to optimize their performance and prevent injury.
Here are 5 reasons why every runner needs to incorporate a strength component into their training:
- It enhances endocrine and immune function (which are compromised by endurance training)
- It maintains muscle mass (also negatively affected by endurance training)
- It improves functional capacity in spite of aging by maintaining maximal strength and power (both of which decrease with prolonged endurance training)
- It builds bone density (something many runners lack due to poor dietary practices, but desperately need in light of the high risk of stress fractures)
- It enables you to more rapidly correct muscle imbalances, as made evident by the fact that resistance training is the cornerstone of any good physical therapy program (I’ve never met a runner without imbalances)
Also within Eric’s article (which I highly recommend you read in full) the following running myths are debunked:
- Machines are just as good as free weights
- Yoga and Pilates “count” as resistance training
- Super-slow training is valuable
- Runners should avoid heavy weights and dynamic lifts
5. Invest in proper running shoes
Everyone has different needs and different preferences. To ensure that you get the right shoe for your foot go to a store where the staff understands basic running mechanics and is well educated in the products available. I like The Running Room and Rackets & Runners.
6. Make sure your nutrition reflects your needs
If you are an endurance athlete—or any athlete for that matter—you need to make sure that you hydrating and fuelling yourself properly. The link between proper nutrition and effective exercise is a strong one because what and how much you eat/drink will affect your performance.
- 2-3 hrs before activity: 400-600 mL (17-20 oz.)
- 10-20 mins before activity: 200-300 mL (7-10 oz.)
PRO TIP: If intensity is high and/or exceeds 45-minutes than I recommend adding 60-70 grams of carbohydrates to your fluid for every hour of activity; which equates to approximately 1 litre of a 6%-8% carbohydrate drink. Anything higher will interfere with your gastric emptying and intestinal absorption rates, so make sure you read the nutrition label and do the math!
(Grams of carbs/240mL) x 100 = % carbohydrate solution
NOTE: Depending on your choice of drink you will most likely be watering it down. Do yourself a favour choose a drink that isn’t supplying your carbohydrates from high-fructose corn syrup. Read the back of the label if you’re not sure.
After (within 2-hours): 16-24 oz. for each pound of body weight lost
You nutrition requirements are dependant on many factors—since your caloric intake (i.e. carbs, proteins, and healthy fats) is based on your body type, your goals, and your training volume. It is always important to fuel accordingly both pre/post workout. However, ensuring that your diet is spot on is even more important.
I want to stress that it doesn’t matter what you eat before or after your sport/training session if the rest of your nutrition is garbage. You are what you eat so you will not see positive results form training if you don’t eat a healthy and balance diet. If your new to the idea of eating balanced meals consisting starting with lean protein, (i.e. chicken) healthy fats, (i.e. walnuts, avocado or omega-3s) fresh fruits and veggies, and other complex carbohydrates, (like quinoa or wild rice) throughout the day. I assure you, doing so will have a positive effect on your training and your overall health.
If you’re not sure what to eat or have more questions about your nutrition, we recommend that you take our 30-Day Nutrition Challenge. This challenge will teach you how to start eating the right foods for your body (based on your needs and fitness goals).
Whether you’re a runner or not, it’s worth applying the majority of the recommendations above to any other sport or activity that you participate in.
No matter what level of fitness you are at, make sure that your are taking the right measures to protect your body from injury by addressing your imbalances and building on your weaknesses. Only then will you be able to maximize your potential. 😉
If you have any questions about running, or are currently suffering from a running-related injury, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be happy to help.
Want to learn how we can help you achieve your training goal? Book a free fitness assessment with us.
- Bobbert, M.F., H.C. Schamhardt, and B.M. Nigg. Calculation of vertical ground reaction force estimates during running from positional data. J. Biomech. 24:1095- 1105, 1991.
- H. H. Fink, L. A. Burgoon, and A. E. Mikesky. Practical Applications of Sports Nutrition. Sudbury MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers;2006.