The Hard Truth...
I'm about to tell you something that very few doctors will agree with: your running workout is probably bullshit and is causing you more problems than it's solving.
You don't believe me yet and that's perfectly logical: you are dripping sweat and beet red at the end of your runs. Your body is exhausted and sore the next day. You're working hard and burning calories! everyone knows running is a great workout, right? Cardio = calories burned = workout was good, right?
Here's the thing: most people who call themselves runners do not actually run - they jog. Most people's running routines are relatively slow-paced, lack variation, and overload the joints. If you've been jogging every day or almost every day in hopes of quickly achieving the best physique of your life, get ready to keep waiting.
Here's a quick thought experiment: considering human genetics have not change in thousands of years, do you think we were built to jog or to sprint?
If I had to guess, I would say no animal was ever hunted down while jogging after it...
True running and slow steady jogging are not the same thing - nor do they produce the same results. Have you ever compared a sprinter to a marathon runner? Which one has more muscle? Who looks more fit? The sprinter with muscles busting out of their tights, or the marathoner who looks emaciated?
The truth is that jogging is not intense or varied enough to cut it as the sole focus of a workout. Over time the body adapts and becomes more efficient at the repetitive motion, eventually burning fewer calories than when you started and requiring more and more of the activity overtime to achieve the same result.
The fact is: high intensity, varied, short interval activities are required in order to boost metabolism and build muscle. In fact, excessive long jogs can actually counteract our metabolism by keeping our bodies in a catabolic state. This catabolic state causes our bodies to actually break down muscle tissue and DECREASE our metabolic rate if we do not give ourselves the opportunity to recover properly. Muscle mass is what raises your metabolism and keeps you fit - and sustainable lean muscle mass has to be built over time with consistency and proper rest.
Jogging (especially on unforgiving surfaces like city sidewalks) is also incredibly hard on our joints. It's a high impact activity that exerts unnecessary compressive forces on our ankles, knees and hips that reverberate all the way up the spine. Often the compressive forces put through these joints are 1.5 to 2 times our body weight! This is a LOT of weight for most people to handle and can easily cause injuries and setbacks in your routine.
A Better Alternative...
If all of this is sounding completely backwards to you I can see why: running/jogging has been sold to us as the ultimate exercise and key to health. Most people, when they decide they want to get in shape and start exercising, lace up their battered old tennis shoes and head out for a jog.
I see patients on a regular basis with joint pain that stems from jogging who still fail to make the connection between their choice of activity and the pain they experience or who aren't willing to sacrifice their runner's high or modify their routine to meet their bodies halfway.
Sadly these folks are setting themselves up for injury or serious wear and tear down the road which could set their health and fitness goals back for years.
So what should you do instead?
If you haven't figured it out by now...SPRINT! It's easier and more fun that it sounds. It also takes much less time to get a proper sprinting workout than it does to plod through a couple of miles of jogging around the neighborhood. And who doesn't want more bang for their buck when it comes to working out???
Here's what I recommend:
Find a soccer field, park, or any area approximately equal to the width of a soccer field. If you can, try your best to find grass to run on (a hot commodity in NYC and many urban environments, I know). Start on one side and run across- literally as fast as you can. Then rest for 30 seconds to a minute - just long enough to catch your breath. Try doing this 5 to 10 times. I promise you'll be just as sweaty and red as after your 5k jog in less than half the time. You can even try interspersing your sprinting intervals with some pushups or other bodyweight exercises to get more of a full body workout.
Don't forget to take a bottle of water with you! You're going to need it.
A Few Exceptions...
If you just can't quit jogging, can I make a few suggestions?
For starters, stand (jog) up straight! I can't tell you how many times I've seen joggers doing their thing with hunched over posture, leading with their heads like they're going for a photo finish. Leading with the head places an enormous load on the discs in your spine where the neck meets the upper back. For every inch that the head is in front of the body, there is approximately 8lbs of pressure added to that area of the spine. This is the reason your neck hurts after a full day of staring at your computer. Combining the inertia and impact of running with a head-forward posture will add even more load to this area. When you jog, you should do so with your chest tall and try to lead slightly with your chest, not your head/neck.
My next recommendation is this: whatever you do, try to avoid running on sidewalks. If you stop to look at the sidewalks of NYC, or most cities for that matter, you will notice that they all slant down and in towards the road. While this is great for the run off of rain water, this is terrible for.. you guessed it.. joints!! When you run on the slanted sidewalks, the concrete is not the only thing that is slanted. It starts at the ankles, then the knees, and finally works it way up to your hips and spine. This unleveling of the hips is bad enough to WALK around on, but when combined with the impact of jogging, it's no wonder people often feel so sore and stiff after their relatively low intensity jogging workouts.
During your next cardio workout, don't waste precious time doing more harm to your body than good. Don't be afraid to really run! And if you're already struggling with muscle, bone or connective tissue pain and suspect your cardio routine is part of the problem, you're most likely suffering from a buildup of myofascial adhesion in your body which will prevent you from reaching your full potential. You can get your adhesions treated and get back in the sneakers in just a few short adhesion release sessions in our office. It's like chiropractic 2.0.
Call Karma Chiropractic at 347 841 6076 or contact us via our email form and book a visit today!