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Running - An overrated injury monster or the best form of exercise?

There's no questioning that running is one of the most popular forms of exercise across the world but is this justified?

Just grab your trainers and go...

One of the great things about running is it's very low (technically non-existent) barrier to entry. All you need is some space to run in, and fortunately you have over 57 million square miles across the world to choose from. You leave the door, run for your desired time/distance and return home at your door again, no time wasted travelling to the gym and your workout time could be done in 30 minutes.

It's how we are supposed to move...

It's very hard to argue against the fact that the human body has evolved to run, it was a big part of our ability to survive back in our hunter gatherer days after all. So the argument could definitely be made that this is how the body is meant to move and therefore we should use our bodies in a way that compliments it's natural movement.

A feeling of euphoria...

Another undeniable aspect of running is the runners high. Some people have hypothesised that this relates back to our hunter gatherer days where the end of a run was usually rewarded with a dinner for the night or another attack escaped. Whatever the mechanism, anecdotally there are many people who describe this euphoria whilst they are running or once they have finished and I too have experienced this first hand and personally find it very hard to replicate with other modalities of exercise.

What about injuries...?

However due to our modern lifestyles we tend to see running causing more injuries than it solves a lot of the time. I believe the reasons for this are 2 fold:

1) Dysfunction - running, although a natural movement, is an incredibly complex coordination of so many parts of the body. Like in an orchestra, if you've got a couple of cellos and trumpets playing the wrong notes it'll quickly compromise the rest of the orchestra's music. The same goes for running, a slight weakness or tightness in a certain area could disrupt the whole movement pattern causing unnecessary load to be put through other areas which over time will lead to an injury.

2) Too much, too hard, too soon - I'll be the first to admit I've made this mistake many a time. Somewhere down the line we, as a society, just accepted 5km was the standard distance to run however for the majority of people this is an incredibly demanding task (even more so if the last time you ran was back in school)! Start from the bottom. You wouldn't walk in to the gym the first day and try to pick up the heaviest weight. There's no shame in running only for 5 minutes, doing walking intervals or going very very slow. Trust me, you can't just grit your teeth and hope it'll all be fine.

My Personal Opinion...

For me, running represents almost the ultimate expression of 'function'. If you can run with good technique and pain free it's a pretty good indicator that most parts are performing as they should be. I love the feeling you get from running and the convenience of being able to fit it in at almost any point in the day is also a massive upside. However it would be remiss of me not to say 'approach with caution. You may not be ready to run and need to do some stability and strength work before you embark on your journey to avoid those dreaded 'runners knees' we hear so much about.

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