It's finally spring time! Winter seemed endless this year and many of us now want to shed the flab and firm up in time for bathing suit season. It been four months since those New Year's resolutions were made, when we promised ourselves "to get in better shape". Remember?
Jogging or running is a terrific way to achieve an awesome fitness level and shed some pounds. To many of us, nothing seems simpler than going for a run. It can be done anywhere and anytime, lending greatly to its appeal, but few people really appreciate how hard on the body running can be. Naturally, before beginning any exercise plan, especially one as potentially strenuous as jogging, it's advisable to consult with a physician. Once you've been given the green light, give a few things some serious consideration.
RUNNERS, KNOW THY FEET
Before running, understand the type of foot you have and the kind of shoe needed to best protect it. There is a simple home test you can conduct that requires only two pieces of cardboard and a basin of water. If you have a couple of empty shoe boxes, those will work just fine.
Tip #1: Take The Home Foot Test
- While in your bare feet, sit in your bathroom with a piece of cardboard under each foot.
- dip each foot into the water basin, shake off the excess water and gently place it on the cardboard, being careful not to get up or move your foot around too much.
- lift your foot away and you will see an impression of your foot on the wet cardboard that will resemble one of the three below.
- If you have flat feet, there is no need to do the next step.
- If you see any arch use another piece of cardboard to conduct the procedure for second time but this time, after you place your both feet on the cardboard, stand up, then look at the impression of your feet.
Does the arch area appear unchanged?
Is it much less?
Does the impression while standing now look like you have a flat or nearly flat foot?
The answers will help you determine what kind of foot you have. Essentially, there are two kinds of feet: High arched and inflexible feet and flat feet or feet where the arches collapse, or flexible feet.
For the high arched, inflexible foot:
If you have high arched, inflexible feet, you will need to find a running shoe that has an abundance of CUSHIONING. You were blessed with feet that are sturdy and have a natural form of support that comes from them being inflexible, but you will need to cushion them well because inflexible feet don't absorb the pounding of running well. Look out for soreness on the lower shin bone, right above the ankle. If you get that, be very careful! Stress fractures of the foot and leg are common in people with high arched, inflexible feet. So, you would be wise to get a shoe with superior cushioning.
For the flat, collapsed arch, flexible foot:
If you have flat feet, low arched, collapsed arched, inflexible feet, you will need to find a running shoe that has an abundance of SUPPORT. You were blessed with feet that are natural shock absorbers due to their flexibility, but you will really need to support them well because flexible feet don't remain stable through the running motion. Look out for soreness around the kneecaps, and the meaty portion of the shin. These are signs that you may be experiencing over-pronation and the shoes your picked aren't up to the task.
What is over-pronation?
Stated simply, over-pronation is too much pronation. Pronation describes a portion of the stride cycle. When the foot first strikes the ground, "foot strike" usually occurs on the outside edge of the heel. After the "foot strike", the center of gravity move is a diagonal direction toward the big toe. First, the foot must flatten out or supinate. As the center of gravity continues to move diagonally toward the big toe, it is pronating. People with flexible feet often will experience excessive pronating. You may have had occasion to observe this in passing joggers who look almost as if they are running on the inside of their ankles. That's over-pronation.
Combating overpronation is not easy, but it can be effectively dealt with if you have shoes with excellent support, particularly arch support.
Who is Morton and why do I need to care if I have his toe?
When looking at your foot, is your big toe longer, shorter for the same length as the tone next to it? If your big toe is noticeably shorter, you have a Morton's Toe. People with Morton's Toe are more likely to over-pronate. If you have Morton's Toe, don't be surprised if you also over-pronate. Like with other issues for the flexibly footed, you need to be in a shoe with great support. Does your foot look like the one depicted below? If it does, you have Morton's Toe.
HAVE RESPECT FOR THE MECHANICS OF RUNNING
Yes, going out for a jog may seem quite simple. After all, you put one foot in front of the other and voila!, you're a jogger. But it's important to understand the effects running has on your body. If we understand the effects, than we can become better joggers and achieve our fitness goals without working harder than we need to. Plus, it will be more enjoyable.
Running is tough on your feet and skeletal system. No matter what level of runner you are: from the beginning jogger to the Olympic marathoner, when you run, your foot strikes the ground at 3 times your body weight. Do the math on that and you can see why some people shy away from running. Remember too, that the average recreational runner takes approximately 1,500 strides in a mile. If you are a man weighing 180 pounds, your feet are absorbing 840,000 pound of force per mile! That's a lot of punishment being dealt to the skeletal system in the feet, legs and pelvis.
If you need any further convincing, look at it another way. Skipping rope is almost as stressful on the feet. Can you ever imagine doing 1,500 jumps on a jump rope? Yet that equates to just one mile of running. If 1,500 jumps on a jump rope sounds excessive to you, a 10K run requires 9,300.
Running long distances tends to soften the bones. All that pounding will do that! So here is some more tips when beginning a running program:
Tip #2: Don't run every day! Run on alternate days to give yourself and your bones a day to recover.
Try not to violate this tip. Many new runners are so enthusiastic about running initially, but they overdo it and hurt themselves. Shin splints, sore knees, stress fractures can all occur when you overdo it.
Tip #3: On days you aren't running, walk, bike ride, work out in the weight room or just plain rest.
Running strengthens only certain muscle groups. Running is great for strengthening your calve, hamstring, gluteal and lumbar muscles. Essentially, all the muscles along the back of the body are strengthened by running. When you begin running, understanding the relationship between muscle groups is also good to know.
KEEP YOUR STRENGTH BALANCED
Our bodies are a magnificent creation where our muscles and the strength they have have a certain, optimal balance. Running, while a great aerobic form of exercise, doesn't strengthen your entire body. The hamstrings are made stronger by running, but the muscle on the other side of your leg, the quadricep is not strengthened. In fact, it's often made weaker. Similarly, the lumbar muscles of the back, which help you move your legs are balanced with the abdominal muscles. If all a person does for physical activity is run, it won't take long before the problems associated with strength imbalances begin to surface. Back pain, knee pain and even injuries to those areas might result. So, what can you do? Here are some more tips that can help:
Tip #4: Keep your thighs strong by riding a bicycle on those days you aren't running. Your knees will thank you.
Running tends to weaken the muscles above the knee, known as the quadriceps. To keep those muscles strong, cylce on days you aren't running. Cycling accomplishes two things: you get a nice workout in, while strengthening a muscle group that running doesn't. It helps avoid injury and gets you into better shape more quickly.
Tip #5: Keep your core strong by doing ab exercises (sit-ups, leg raises, etc).
The running motion tends to strengthen the lumbar muscles in the back. If those muscles become too strong relative to the abdominal muscles, it could lead to back aches, back spasms and other back issues. Throw in ab exercises EVERY DAY. You will know you are doing a great job on your core when running feels easier. Those ab exercises are like money in the bank.
Tip #6: Watch your posture while running.
Runners tend to lose proper posture the longer they run. Become fanatical about your posture. Ab exercises help and shoulder shrugs with weights can help you, too.
Tip #7: Always stretch before and after a run.
It's hard to overemphasize the importance of stretching. Here is a link to a few of the most popular stretches. Stretching before a run alerts you to how "tight" you are. If you try to stretch before a run an notice that you are pretty tight, don't force the stretch. In fact, never force a stretch. Always breath deeply and try relaxing when you stretch. Don't push too hard and don't be impatient. If your muscles are going to loosen up, wait for them. Listen to your body. After a run, stretching is even more important. It helps you cool down and keeps the muscles from tightening later. If you employ a good post-workout stretching routine, you'll find yourself feeling less tight and sore and more limber. Another way to look at it: your post workout stretching helps set up how you will feel prior to your next run.
GET OUT THERE NOW AND RUN! BUT RUN SMART!! Good luck to you all. I hope you all have miles of smiles ahead.