Should Everyone Be A Runner?

Run, Run, Run…If You Want to Experience an Injury…Go for it!

We were not born to run!  At least not repeatedly over miles and miles, day in and day out.  I am not against running.  I am against the push to have everyone become a runner.  The latest marketing trend is to move, move, and move. I completely agree that it is important to keep moving.  However, when that is equated to running, especially for that out of shape Joe or Josephine the plumber, let’s be real.

Not Everyone Is Built For Running

Muscle Fibers are often called the “Building blocks” of a muscle. The image below does an excellent job of displaying the differences in the three different types. Type 1, also known as slow twitch fibers, are good for long distance and endurance activities.  Type 2A and Type 2B are known as fast twitch fibers. Type 2A for moderate distances and intensities, Type 2B for short distances and high intensities.

Muscle Fiber Types

Genetics determine the amount of each muscle fiber a person has. Therefore, not everyone is built to run marathons. Chances are an American Football Linesman will have different muscle fibers than that of a Kenyan runner.

Many people will not be able to do the appropriate training to run.  If they do, there is a high probability they will not do it all their life, not to mention the high risk of injury. So, ask yourself, should everyone “move”, yes. Should everyone become a marathoner?  Well, unless they have the time to train appropriately for life, and even then, probably not.

Running Injuries

Running injuries still remain at 60-80 % of all runners since recording of such began in the 1970’s.  Quite the high-risk sport. Many former runners will admit it is too hard on their body and say it was only for the psychological aspect, the “runners high.”  (I wonder if there are any studies on runners being susceptible to opioid abuse?)  Yet, with all the years of research for the best shoe, etc. to prevent injury, what is found is that repeatedly doing the same exercise, e.g. running an extreme number of miles repeatedly, will most likely lead to injury and pain.  Pain that you will have to suffer with while spending money to get relief.

You’ll hear you must train properly, get the ideal sleep, hydration, nutrition, strength, lean muscle mass, shoes, biomechanics, not too much too soon, etc.  All these caring and precautions have not reduced injuries.  Many agree that the answer to reducing injury is to also reduce….REPETITION.  Your running is too repetitive!  You are doing the same thing over and over. (Gee is that not like overdoing it.)

Did you know a study shows that the high school athlete who does multiple sports is less likely to get injured in college athletic activities (increased intensity) than the one who participated in only one sport!

(Although biomechanics have not been triple blind placebo controlled proven to prevent injury, they are important. We are like a machine, albeit one that can break down but also repair itself.  The point of this article is not to debate mechanics. However, clinically, many will concur that the ideal shoe and mechanics does help reduce the injuries. Also, doing too much too soon, some say does not matter, but it does, as there is a load and capacity of the load that changes.)

Why Do So Many Encourage People To Run?

I think it is money.  Follow the money.  Running shoe and apparel companies, exercise enthusiasts, therapists, doctors and the marathon fundraisers themselves push you to it.

I believe it is a futile effort to prove one time that you could run a 5 k or more and then stop doing it. I’ve seen many patients do such. Psychologically, many feel better about it, but did it really improve long term health? I question if it can.  It may even age you with unnecessary wear and tear.

ACSM Exercise Guidelines

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends healthy adults (ages 18-65) participate in moderate intensity activity a minimum of 30 minutes, 5 days a week. The chart below has examples of light, moderate, and vigorous activities. Walking is an excellent alternative to running. It is not as hard on the body and is something a majority of people will be able to do, but also meets the recommended exercise guidelines.

Improving your health is a good thing. It will pay dividends. So if you are starting a journey to improve your health, do so with a variety of exercises, not just one thing over and over.

I enjoy the challenge of treating runners.  Keep running if you like it but go for it in an educated, yet common sense way. If you are not a runner, do not be brainwashed that you must become a runner in order to improve your health.