by Mike Donavanik, Certified Personal Trainer
I love running and I usually run four miles per day. Running helps me center myself, it helps calm my mind and it helps relieve stress -- not to mention it keeps up my cardiovascular endurance.
But I understand not everyone is able to run. Here are six solid reasons NOT to run and some great alternatives to be active and maybe even becoming a runner in the future.
1. The Impact on Your Joints
REASON: While running is a great activity in many ways, one of the downsides is the impact it has. Running places a lot of stress on the bones, tendons and ligaments associated with the legs, ankles, knees and hips – all of which can also affect the low back. If proper running form is not used, further injury can occur.
ALTERNATIVE: If joint impact is a problem, you have a few different options. If you are dead-set on running, you may want to try taking a glucosamine supplement to help build up the cartilage and integrity of your joints. In addition to this, you may also want to work with a running coach to perfect your running form to prevent injury. If you are impartial to running, you should choose a different activity such as cycling, swimming, the elliptical trainer, kayaking, surfing, anything that requires less or zero impact on your joints.
2. Prior and Existing Injuries
REASON: Sometimes prior injuries come into play when choosing whether or not to run. Your mind might be saying “Yeah, let’s do this!” but your body may be saying “Nope, we cannot”. Various knee, ankle, hip, and/or back injuries or surgeries may prevent you from running.
ALTERNATIVE: Before taking on any type of activity that may place stress on an existing injury, it’s important to understand what your injury really is and what you can do to rehab and strengthen that area. Seek out the help of an experienced physical therapist or personal trainer to help you get back into the game.
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3. A Bad Back
REASON: Many people who suffer from lower back pain cannot run due to the impact.
ALTERNATIVE: Strengthen the entire core. Many times, back pain isn’t caused from an injury but because of improper posture, muscular imbalances and a weak core. Instead of avoiding activities that may cause stress on your back, you may need to do activities that strengthen your core. Planks are a great way to start strengthening one of the most important core muscles, your transverse abdominis (which acts almost like an internal girdle holding everything in tight). Plus, there are many regressions and progressions to the plank exercise, so whatever your fitness level you will always be able to find a variation that challenges you. Depending on your current fitness level, you may want to try starting off with three sets of 45-second planks.
4. Lack of Flexibility
REASON: Running actually requires a good amount of flexibility to work efficiently and to get the most out of each stride. A lack of flexibility will force you to work harder with each stride and may cause injury.
ALTERNATIVE: Yoga is a great option to help open up the hip joints (an integral part of running) and to improve overall total body flexibility. In turn, you will improve your posture, core strength, range of motion and your body's efficiency while doing other activities.
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5. The Weather. Oh, and Lack of Time
REASON: You need to set aside a certain amount of time to run. You also may need a gym membership or nice weather. Unfortunately, sometimes the stars don’t always align and running can be out of the question.
ALTERNATIVE: Instead of going out to work out, keep your workout indoors by doing fitness DVDs. Many fitness DVDs require minimal equipment or no equipment at all. The best part of pushing play to work out is you don’t have to leave your house. If you’re on a budget, have time restrictions, or the weather isn’t the best, you now no longer have an excuse not to get your dose of fitness in!
6. You Are Sick
REASON: Illness is a valid reason to skip a run. If you run while you are sick, it can lead to worsened symptoms and possibly getting even more ill. If you feel like a flu is coming on or you already have the flu, know that there's no such thing as "sweating it out." If you have an infection in your chest or lungs, running is a big no-no.
ALTERNATIVE: My advice for anyone who is sick is to remember that your body is in distress and that it needs time off to heal. Take a few days off until you are feeling 90% to 100% better. The last thing you wan to do is jump back into working out before your body is ready only to prolong your illness or relapse.
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Mike Donavanik, CSCS, CPT, is creator of Extreme Burn DVD Workout Series.