Hey friends! In the next 5-minutes, I want to share some advice to help you navigate your fitness amidst the challenges of COVID-19.
My guess is that as of today, May 26th, 2020, you don’t have access to your traditional gym environment, and you’re looking for strategies to stay active. There are loads of free workouts going viral on social media, or maybe you’ve thought to yourself:
“Should I take up running while my gym is closed?”
That, my friend, is a simple question with a not-so-simple answer. Should you take up running while your gym is closed? That totally depends on YOU, and as such, warrants a more nuanced answer than this binary question allows for. Limit me to only “Yes” or “No” as options, and I’m inclined to say that, “You probably shouldn’t spontaneously take-up running while your gym is closed.”
The thing is, it’s not my place to make that decision for you. It’s my place to provide the information that educates you and prepares you to make the most informed decision possible.
My advice about running is not that I don’t want people to run, but that I don’t want people to get hurt from running.
According to a 2007 systemic review in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, “The overall incidence of lower extremity injuries found in the 17 studies varied from 19.4% to 79.3%. If you’ll allow me the liberty of rounding up, that means that over the course of a year ⅘ of runners are injured. How many other activities have an almost 80% annual injury rate and we think, “Yea, I guess I’ll give this a try!”
Please know, I’m not sharing that statistic as a scare tactic, but as information – and the reality is that I can’t offer you any information that will stop you from choosing to run if you’ve already chosen to do so. If you’ve got an itch to try running, then I want you to scratch it if you need to.
Also, please allow me to note that if you’ve been running for the months or years before this pandemic, and you’re feeling physically good while doing it, keep it up. Keep doing it if you’re feeling healthy! That may sound like a double standard, that it’s okay for runners to continue to run, but it’s not okay for people to start running. Let’s unpack this, shall we?
“You can’t run to get fit, you need to be fit to run.”
What I love most about that quote is that it provides room for reason. The idea isn’t that you shouldn’t run, that running is inherently bad or dangerous or evil, that marathon runners spread the coronavirus or any other extravagant extrapolation. The idea is simply that if you want to run and you want to remain healthy while doing so, you should add running on top of a solid foundation of fitness.
Fitness comes first, running comes second.
The reality is, running is actually one of the most physically demanding types of exercise possible. On average there are 1,500 foot strikes in a mile, and depending on the speed and technique, between 2-5x bodyweight per impact. Here’s an example to illustrate how quickly that adds up. Right now I’m around 200lbs, so if I run 3 miles at 1,500 foot strikes per mile and an impact force of 3x bodyweight per foot strike, I’d accumulate 2.7 million pounds of volume in about 30 minutes. There isn’t an othopaedist, exercise physiologist, or strength coach in the world that would sign you up for a program that allows you to accumulate that amount of load that quickly. That should lead us to ask, “Why are we willing to do this?”
I can hear the healthy runners from here, saying “Because it feels so good!” There are intoxicatingly empowering effects of running, from the runners high to the sensation of the sunshine on your skin, to the confirmation of willpower that you’re bound to unlock as you pound the pavement. There are people who love how they feel while they run, there are people who love how they feel because they run, there are people who love identifying as runners. To quote Caitlin Constantine in Jezebel:
“We run because we love it. For most of us, running has made our lives better. I know this is true for me. Running has made me more confident, braver, tougher. I suspect that if you go to a road race on any given Saturday morning and ask the women standing around, most of them would tell you the same.”
Rather than the failure that is abstinence-only sex education, if you’re going to run, use protection – in the form of a comprehensive strength training. A well-designed program should prepare your body for the strength required to absorb impact, and one that dedicates time to skipping and other running mechanics drills that can help you be as efficient as possible if and when you do decide to run. Taking a class from folks like the Mile High Run Club can also help you develop a safer stride to better take advantage of your strength, too.
Let’s take another lap around our opening question: “Should I take up running while my gym is closed?” The answer to that question is based on both your predilection for running, and if you feel fit enough to run.”
Please remember that there isn’t anything inherently wrong with running, but rather that problems arise when we take on more stress than our bodies can handle. Since that’s the case, start on the slow and steady side. Running up hills can ease impact forces, and there are a variety of apps with built-in programs that help you increase distance or duration in measured and meaningful ways. If you do decide to take a run, I wish you all of the luck, and if we pass each other out there when circumstances allow for it, I’ll offer you the biggest hug possible!
Okay friends, that’s it for this episode of HGTV, thanks for joining me! I’ll be posting as much content as I can create to help you out in the coming weeks and months, so please leave a comment or ask a question if I can help in any way. As always, you can watch these words on Instagram below: