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If Running Is So Healthy, Why Are Running Injuries So Common?

Have you ever noticed how running injuries and running seem to go hand in hand?  Why is this?  How can an activity be considered healthy when it can lead to so many injuries, even when performed correctly? (For a listing of some common running injuries, click HERE).

Applying the animal kingdom workout philosophy to running

A Cheetah RunningWhen it comes to health and fitness, I always begin from the premise that animals in the wild are far healthier than human beings.  If you want to be strong and healthy, it is not a bad idea to take a look at how animals eat and exercise.  The evolutionary processes that have affected them have influenced us as well.  When considering any workout or weight loss program, it is always not a bad idea to ask the question "do animals in the natural world do this?"  If the answer is no, you should look upon the program with increased skepticism.

Do Animals Jog?

Now, the question is, do animals jog?  Do they run at a moderate pace over long distances?  My observation is that they do not.  Animals either take their time and walk at a relaxed pace, or they run as fast as they can (usually to catch food, or to avoid becoming food themselves) over short distances.  There is no evolutionary reason for any animal to run at a moderate pace over long distances, so they never did.  This is why, I believe, most animal's (including human beings) essentially have two gears: slow for long distances, fast for short ones.  There is no middle gear for jogging.  Forcing your body to do something it hasn't evolved doing is unnatural and is asking for trouble (such as the running injuries mentioned above).

Consider Olympic Athletes

If you question my logic above, why not use your own eyes?  Have you ever noticed how serious long distances runners often look gaunt, not to mention far older than they really are?  They may have no fat on them, but they have little muscle either.  Better yet, compare the physiques of Olympic athletes who run the sprints, as opposed to those who run the 10,000 meters.  The sprint athletes look as strong and powerful as a human being can possibly be.  In comparison, the long distance runners, even though they are at their physical peak, appear thin and worn, aged beyond their years.

How about Jim Fixx?

Jim Fixx was one of the original evangelists with regards to running,The late running guru, Jim Fixx publishing the best selling book The Complete Guide To Running in 1977.  When he took up running in 1967 at age 35, he weighed 240 pounds and smoked 2 packs a day.  He credited running with helping him lose 60 pounds, as well as giving up smoking.  However, he died of a massive heart attack at the age of 52 after one of his daily runs.  I've read many stories similar to this.  An apparently healthy person, usually older than 40, suffering a major heart attack while running.  In the short term, I believe that Jim Fixx's dedication to running did help him (it's better than being over weight and smoking).  In the long term, I suspect Jim Fixx would have been better off doing Yoga.

In Conclusion ...

Based on the above, I think the following needs to be considererd.  Long distance running, or jogging, simply puts a strain on the human body that it was not designed (via evolution) to handle.  What's worse, the dangers posed by running increase with age.  There is no evolutionary basis for thinking that running is a natural exercise, which is why running injuries are so common.  Animals do not run, and neither should you.

What do you think about the above?  Whether you agree or disagree, I'd love to hear from you.  If you have a comment, feel free to use the comment form on this website.

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