It’s easy enough.
A pair of running shoes, some shorts, a loose fitting shirt and out the door you go on your way to a healthier, younger you.
A lot of people run.
They use running to cope with stress, manage their weight, or as a training tool.
But, running isn’t quite as easy as it it seems.
Running is hopping on one leg over and over.
If I asked you to hop on your right leg 1000 times, what would you say?
Yet that is close to what you are doing when you run.
And hopping on one leg creates a force around four times your body weight. Your leg has to absorb all of that load. It’s like throwing your clone over your shoulder and going for a walk uphill.
You might be thinking, “Well, I can run a mile but there’s no way I could hop a mile!” and you would likely be right.
The reason you can run the mile but not hop it is because of the brief but vital rest each leg gets when the other leg is doing the work. It makes you seem more capable than you really are.
And this brings me to the next question. How strong do you need to be to run to lower your risk of injury?
There’s no normative data that I know of but here’s an idea.
Check your form.
Check out these pics. See if you can find the “form leaks” (you can enter your comments in the comments box at the end of this article).
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When you run, your knee, of the landing leg, should not collapse toward the mid-line of the body, the pelvis should stay level, the hips shouldn’t sway like Marilyn Monroe. Your motion should be fluid and graceful.
If it’s not, if you’re a herky-jerky mess, legs that flail or hips that shimmy, there’s a good chance you’re not really strong enough to run safely.
Yeah, I know people run with all kinds of styles and seem to be ok.
Until they’re not.
First up, try a forward lunge, as in the image and notice your form. In the picture, you’ll see some lines I added to help you find the “form leaks”. The pelvis is lower, the leg has caved in toward the midline. These are both indicators of leg and/or trunk weakness. If this happens, it’s time to strengthen your body before you try running.
Next, if you pass this test, there’s another, higher level test I often have used to help determine when someone is ready to try running again.
You need a friend with a video camera. You take a box about 12 inches high. Stand on the box. Then hop down and land on both feet allowing the knees and hips to bend while your friend records the action. Do it three times then review the video.
You’ll be able to see any deviations or “leaks” that you would normally miss by just watching or trying to feel the movements. If you see your leg cave in, twist, trunk bend, then you need more strengthening.
Here are a couple of drills from that are good for building leg strength in more functional patterns (as opposed to sitting on a leg press or doing hamstring curls).
Running is a great activity but unless you’ve been running most of your life and consistently, before you slip on the shoes and dash out the door, check your form and your strength. Your joints will thank you.