Running and walking are among the best fitness programs around, plus they’re fun, simple and inexpensive. Done correctly, running or walking can be the perfect exercise for today’s hustle bustle lifestyle.
Walking and Running are good for you!!! The human body was designed to walk and run. It is a perfect motion machine. If you sit still all day (which most people do), you are more at risk of degenerative changes in your joints and even dying then those crazy folks outside walking and running!
When you are walking or running, you push your body against the ‘resistance’ of gravity and the ground. This stresses your musculoskeletal (muscles and joints) and cardiovascular (heart and lungs) systems. This is healthy stress that is good for your body provided you don’t overdo it or overwhelm the system.
Walking and running are also good for you in that they often encourage social time with a group, friendships, fitness, challenge and fun!
Walking and Running are convenient – you can walk or run anywhere and anytime – and they are both a natural motion, so there aren’t a lot of special skills to learn. These activities are also relatively cheap – all you really need is a good pair of shoes and the open road.
Unfortunately, running or walking injuries often take people off the road when they are just getting started. Here are some tips on how to get going safely and stay injury free on your way to the benefits of right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot…
If you have a history of heart disease, diabetes or other chronic illness, consult your medical doctor before you begin. You may also choose to do a pre-activity screening with a chiropractor or another health or fitness professional to flag any potential risks for injury such as foot or alignment problems.
Avoid the Terrible Toos: When you get started in any new exercise program including running and walking, beware of the “Terrible Toos”. Too Much, Too Fast, Too Hard, Too Soon.
These “Terribles” are the number one cause of running injuries. Walking also carries the risk of the same types of injuries despite the fact that the impact is lower. Muscles, joints, ligaments and connective tissues need to be conditioned to react properly to the forces involved in running or walking.
Potential injuries include: muscle strains, iliotibialband syndrome, patellofemoral syndrome, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, as well as other foot, knee, hip and low back problems.
Start Low and Go Slow: To avoid potential injuries, start out slow and see what your body is able to tolerate. The best running and walking programs gradually increase distance or time and include recovery periods of 24 to 48 hours between workouts. Follow the 10 percent rule which states that you should never increase your weekly mileage or any one walk or run by more than 10 percent over the previous week (or workout).
Get the Right Shoe: When you run, each foot strike generates an amount of force that is equal to about 3-6 times your body weight; when you walk it generates 1.5-2 times your body weight. As a result, you need a shoe that will keep your foot stable and help to absorb the force.
There are athletic shoes specifically designed for over-pronators (whose feet roll in too much) and over-supinators (whose feet don’t roll in enough). Your chiropractor or another health professional can recommend which type of shoe best suits your foot. They might also recommend orthotics, which are custom made biomechanical insoles that you wear in your shoes. They can correct or reduce improper foot motions that lead to chronic injuries.
Warm Up: Especially as we get older, the connective tissues and muscles around our joints are less flexible and less pliable than when we were younger. As a result, you can’t just stand up from sitting all day and jump right into your workout….you’ll get injured.
A 5-10 minute warm up will get blood pumping to your muscles and soft tissues and warm up your entire musculoskeletal system. As your body begins to generate heat, your connective tissues soften and become more pliable and are then less likely to get injured.
Once your body is warm, you can then stretch out any tight spots before you begin your workout.
Monitor Your Workout Surface: Walk or run on the softest, most even surface you can find. The asphalt road is softer than the concrete sidewalk and the shoulders of roads are usually soft but they are often slanted. If you’re running consistently on a slanted surface, injury risk increases. If you are on a track, make sure that you turn and go the other direction so as to avoid injuries that occur from always turning the same way. (I see this in my office often)
The Talk Test: The talk test is a simple way to measure intensity when you run or walk. If you can say two or three sentences without gasping for breath, then you are in a good range. If you fail the talk test, it’s time to slow down a little.
After Your Workout: You should always stretch your legs and pelvis well after your workout while your muscles are still warm. Ask a health professional or a fitness trainer for specific stretches.
Expect mild stiffness and soreness 1-2 days after walking or running. You should be relatively pain free before you do the activity again.
The 48 hour Rule: It’s human nature to think that it will go away on it’s own but If discomfort continues for more than 48 hours or 2 days (for example, your knees are so sore that it’s hard to walk downstairs), see your chiropractor, physiotherapist or other health-care professional.
Most running and walking injuries respond well if cared for correctly. Treatment for the symptoms of the injury as well as prescribing certain stretches and strengthening exercises are usually part of the road to recovery from a running or walking injury.
So get out there and start putting one foot in front of the other. Start slow to avoid injury, but if one happens to find you, take care of it right away so you can get back on the road to fitness as soon as possible.
Happy Walking and Running!
Dr. Peggy Malone is a Chiropractor and an Athlete who helps other athletes to overcome injury and get back to their sport. She also inspires patients from all walks of life to take control of their health to be as happy and as healthy as they can be.
Her own athletic endeavors and injuries have given her valuable insight into working with athletes in her practice for both the care of injuries as well as for the improvement of athletic performance.
You can read more about her adventures and get some great information on health and wellness on her website.