Running is amazing for many reasons. It makes your heart strong, relieves stress, and in some circumstances helps with weight control. But if you don’t like running, should you make yourself do it? Is it the most effective exercise?
The last couple of years have taught me that running is not the most effective exercise for heart health, stress relief, or even weight control. By no means am I telling you not to run, if you love it. But if running is not fun or something you’re interested in being challenged by, then please try something else. Don’t let yourself give up on exercise. Here are some other things to try that may be better choices for you:
1. Walk- Walking takes more time, but is much less stressful. Your joints will feel better and it won’t make you as hungry as running.
2. Strength training- I don’t mean going to the gym and sitting on weight machines that take your body through a range of motion. Of course that is better than nothing. If you feel intimidated by the weights that are not attached to anything, don’t be. Hire a trainer! Or if that’s not in your budget, just watch the trainers while they are training other people. You tube is a great tool for learning what you can do with dumbbells or barbells or even just your own body. A good way to use strength training in place of running, but still get all the same benefits is to mix a lower body (squat) exercise with an upper body (push-up) exercise. Do the squats then without resting, do the pushups. It will get your heart rate up quickly!
3. Kettlebells- Kettlebells can be used in a dynamic way. Swings, snatches, and cleans can get your heart rate up fast and will increase your cardiovascular health just as much as running does. Just be careful with kettlebells. A few sessions with an RKC trainer will put you in a safe place. The money you spend to make sure your form is not going to damage your body is well worth it.
If you do love running, then please keep these tips in mind.
1. Don’t get addicted- Running can take over your life, if you let it. It gives you a high that you start to need in order to function. When running becomes more important than spending time with your people or you skip sleep in order to get that extremely early or late run in, you may have a problem. Don’t think that getting up at 4 am for your morning run, makes you better or more impressive than other people who actually sleep for 8 hours a night. That’s just silly. Of course, if you’re training for a race and it’s not going to be a regular thing…
2. Don’t run every day- Consecutive days of running have been shown to be a predictor of injury. Run 3-4 days a week, and try walking, strength training, kettlebells, or just relaxing on other days.
3. Take time off- Prepare for a race, run it, then spend a few weeks or months trying something else.
The average runner could expect to be injured once every 150-200 hours of running. If you follow my amazing:) advice, hopefully, you will be able to continue running without injury for as long as it stays fun.