Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Is running outdoors dangerous?

I recently gave a fitness talk and was asked many interesting questions. From what kinds of food we should eat pre & post workout to how to gain muscle mass. I rarely get asked about muscle gain during my talks, so it was refreshing that there were so many questions on it. Many also asked how they should exercise to see optimum weight loss. It really was an exciting and very interactive talk. One question which caught my attention the most was if running was bad for you? So i explained that its not, as long as you do it properly. So i wanted to cover this topic in this weeks post.

As many of you know, i am not too fond of running... but recently, i have kinda developed a small addiction for it. I think i just like challenging myself with something that i am not good at. and i am making great progress, which makes me want to do it anymore. I am actually looking at joining a 10km race sometime next year... maybe mid next year. Anyone care to join me?

Many people out there believe that running outdoors is extremely bad for your knees and that using a treadmill is safer. Well it is probably less risky than running outside, but running outside is far more superior in terms of building your cardiovascular endurance and burning calories. Why? Because when running on a treadmill, all you are doing is replacing your steps, while running outside requires you to actually pull your body weight through the distance. in short, running on a treadmill is like running on the spot. Secondly, the uneven terrain and speed makes it more challenging than a treadmill. For these reasons, it is far more difficult to run outdoors than it is to run on a treadmill. If you can run on a treadmill for 20 minutes non stop, it does not mean you can run run outdoors for 20 minutes non-stop as well.So is it recommended that we run on treadmills instead of running outdoors? Lets look back at history to our ancestors. Before there were cars, and horse carriages, mankind depended on their legs to get around everywhere. Because of this, people developed strong legs to carry out these duties. Today, in our sedentary lifestyle, we don't need to do such physical demanding tasks anymore, so in other words, our muscles and bones are kinda "pampered". Just because it is pampered does not mean that you shouldn't work at improving it. Law of use and disuse - If you don't use it, you will lose it. What i am trying to say is, we are NOT incapable of running outside. We just need to start developing this slowly.

Here are some tips to running outside without injury

Get a good pair of shoes - I can't emphasize this enough. If you like running outside, invest in a good pair of shoes. So far the best running shoes i have used are New Balance shoes. For about RM 300 to RM 500 you can get a decent pair which will take you far. A good pair of shoes is not necessarily the one with the most amount of padding and cushioning. Too much padding and cushioning can cause foot muscles to atrophy while shortening and stiffening our foot’s tendons. This over cushioning and pampering of our foot can lead to more injury.

Correct technique - Avoiding injury in any sports comes down to technique. If you run using the right technique, there is no reason why you should injure your knees or any other part of your body. There are various techniques to running safely which you can google easily. Try googling Pose running technique. If you can watch some You Tube videos on this, it will provide an excellent tutorial to you on the proper techniques of running. I will cover more tips on proper running techniques in one of my upcoming posts. Its too long to post here.

Do "them Squats"
- Like mentioned earlier, because of our sedentary lifestyle, many of us probably have underdeveloped leg muscles which need to be strengthened before you can run a decent distance. So start doing those squats and other leg exercises and start strengthening your leg muscles, core and back. It will go a long way in protecting yourself from running related injuries

Stretching before and after your run - Stretching before your run and after your run is essential in preventing injuries. So take about 2 or 3 minutes to stretch out your muscles before you head out for your run and another 2 or 3 minutes after your run. I personally find that this also helps with the post workout pains. I usually take a slow walk for about 1km after my run to cool down and then stretch for about 2 to 3 minutes. To warm up, i walk for about 2 minutes and then start my jogging.

Start slow and progress at your own pace - I cannot emphasize this enough. I have seen too many people who get excited and force themselves to run 5km on their first run... then get injured and give up running altogether. Start slow and make it a point to progress, at your own pace. Just because someone you know could progress 1 km a week, does not mean you have to keep up with them. Progress at your own pace and based on the goals you have set for yourself. Everyone is different, so your development needs will be different too.

Running on grass vs concrete - Running on concrete / road will have more impact on your joints compared to running on grass. If you are really worried about injuring your knees, i highly recommend starting on a grass field first. Then as you gain confidence and perfect your running technique, you can attempt running on the road. Again, running on a grass field is still far more superior than the treadmill.

So there you have it. Some simple tips to help you prevent injury when you run outside. For me, running outside is not dangerous. It only becomes dangerous when done wrongly, and done without the right precautions. Just like driving. It can be dangerous if not done properly, but that does not mean we should avoid driving because of the potential risk. With the right precautions, you can avoid injury.

If you follow the simple tips above, running outdoors does not have to be dangerous or harmful to you. Running on a treadmill may be safer, but can be dangerous if done wrongly as well. So go ahead. Try these tips and enjoy you runs outside. Running outside does not have to be dangerous. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.


Aizan Suhaira said...

Yeah, running on concrete/tarred road is really tough. There are times I have to really psych myself up especially during the first few metres of running.

Which reminds me... I haven't run for quite a while.

Anba said...

Outdoor running is very addicted...but it's very important to get a clean place to run ...sometimes the dangers are not just cars..but inhalation of vehicle smoke..jogging in parks or a track is good...

Rajan said...

Aizan: I know what you mean. But i like running on the road coz it provides a change in scenery. But yeah... getting addicted to running now.

Anba: YES... cars are dangerous. So you got to be careful when running outside. Jogging in parks is safer.

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