Is Running Bad for You?
We’ve all heard of the benefits of running, but then we also hear the skeptics talk about the risks. But is running bad for you? Or is that a misconception?
The benefits of running outweigh the risks, and like any other activity it comes with its own risks but they’re not more compared to any other sport or exercise.
Running is not inherently bad, but it’s how we handle things that may potentially be wrong. This same principle can be applied to just about every physical activity or sport out there, including CrossFit, cycling, strength training, you name it.
So, in this article, we’ll discuss all the reasons why people may tell you running is bad for you and what exactly the truth is behind it. And after that, we’ll look at all the ways you can focus on making sure running only reaps benefits for you while minimizing any potential risks.
Benefits of Running
Before getting into the risks that are involved with running and how we as runners contribute to it, let’s quickly look at the top benefits to understand why this ancient physical activity is worth it:
- Mental health benefits: Before we even get into any of the physical stuff, the mental health benefits alone make running worth it. From helping ward off depression and anxiety, to releasing endorphins, running is truly incredible.
- Cardiovascular benefits: Over 50,000 runners and non-runners were polled in a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. It discovered that even running for five to ten minutes a day at speeds less than six miles per hour reduced the risk of death from any cause, including cardiovascular disease by 30 to 40% compared to non-runners.
- Physical benefits: Not only does running help improve the quality of your sleep, but it also has numerous other physical benefits including improving bone density, reducing blood pressure, encouraging us to make better health choices, and increasing overall life expectancy, amongst other things. I’ve written about the benefits in more detail in my article on running benefits.
Potential Risks of Running Explored
But like anything else, ‘too much’ of anything can cause issues and lack of information on how to safely run can is another source of issues.
This article is designed to not only bust those myths but empower you with the right information to make healthier choices. So, let’s take a look at different scenarios in more detail:
Taking It Too Far
Just one more minute. Just one more mile. Just one more step.
I’ve got this. I’m doing this. Do this I will.
Push through, don’t stop, don’t give in to the pain.
Runners learn some incredible Jedi mind tricks that allow us to constantly push our boundaries and achieve more in life, but sometimes those Type A achiever qualities can lead friends to start asking “is running bad for you?”
We push it too far, we ignore our instincts and non-runners don’t always know why. Over the years the tribe has grown and with it the lessons. Like while we live running, there are some downsides when we take it too far.
Tough it Out Mentality
We often dig in to this tough mentality. We can push through it. We always want to achieve more, push our boundaries.
It’s a great tool for teaching ourselves that we can do more than we imagine, but a problem when we don’t listen to our bodies. The days where we’ve been sick with bronchitis for a week, but still show up at a start line or have been leaning slightly to the right for a week to relieve pressure on our left foot…yah those are a problem.
There’s a unfortunate perception that we aren’t a “real runner” if we don’t push through. But real runners know that it’s not about 1 race or 1 run, it’s about longevity, which requires rest, recovery and being smart.
Read more on why we run through pain (inside the injured runners brain!)>>
Hormones Gone Awry
This one is really big to me because a few people over the last year have created the impression that running means you can’t get pregnant because if hormones.
Running a lot (well over 50+ miles per week) and underfueling your body for months on end to hit a race day goal weight effects hormones, often called the female athlete triad. And most of them show that after a few months of not following such a punishing program they’re hormones rebound.
Everyone is different. But the average runner, not pushing the boundaries and fueling right has no issues.
Vacations are All About Races
Remember the days of beach lounging and poolside drinks, those are kinda gone. You might get one or two, but only post-race. Suddenly every trip is a great opportunity for a race. Ok, fine. Honestly, we pick the race and then convince you it will be a fun trip.
It usually starts like this…”wanna go to Hawaii?”
Then once we have you hooked, we toss in “and run a marathon!.” Which means there will be 1 day of rest before the race where we don’t want to do a ton of sightseeing or try new foods.
Then there’s race day where family is expected to run around cheering. Finally the post-race hobble.
The good news is the longer we run, the more we learn how to really weave them into a true racecation.
We schedule the race early in the trip, pull on compression pants afterward to go exploring. Or we start focusing on shorter races like the half marathon that take us a little less time to recover.
For a lot of people, race give them an excuse to travel (though we don’t need one). For some reason traveling due to a race ensures that we actually take trips! So, it’s really not all that bad when you look at it in the right way.
Friday’s are for Couches
Happy hour? Maybe. Anything after 8PM, sorry no can do gotta get up at the crack of dawn to run.
We don’t love our friends less, but overtime our priorities shift. That feel good of a long Saturday morning run, usually wins out over the headache of a Friday night party. And in turn…it often means our friends change.
That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but it’s extremely common among distance runners. We fall in to a new pack and have to ensure that we make time for our non-running friends who also bring a lot to our lives!
Sometimes we have to sacrifice a run because they’re big moment is more important.Who else totally knows that feeling?
Runners Get Injured
I walk in to a dresser, doorknob or counter at least once a week. But it never fails if I mention something hurts, “oh must be all that running”.
I see. So it would be better if I hunkered down on the couch for a Netflix marathon?
People get hurt doing CrossFit, playing baseball, cycling, living! It’s part of putting yourself out there and trying to grow.
We also know that running is actually NOT bad for your knees, but running can certainly lead to injuries.
So yes, running can cause injuries. But most of them aren’t because of running, they’re because of us runners.
Closet Take Over
It’s true, even minimalists like me find they begin amassing more shoes than necessary, followed closely by gadgets and gizmos a plenty.
- It’s hard to let go of old shoes which hold months of miles and memories.
- It’s easy to get excited about new shoes, which mean new motivation.
- We NEED different shoes for trails vs road…and you know mowing the yard.
What You Can Do as A Runner to Avoid These Issues
Running often gets a bad rap because people believe it’s too hard on the body, which I’ve debunked before, so I don’t want this to be another “ah ha running is awful” article.
More of a let’s be honest, we like to share the glory of the finish line with our friends and we relish just a tiny bit talking about how long we spent running over the weekend, but it’s not always roses.
Sometimes we have to make sure that like doctors we make a pact with ourselves to “do no harm”.
Enjoy driving yourself hard for a new Personal Best or a new distance record, but make sure you aren’t sacrificing the bigger picture.
Follow the 10% Rule
The 10% rule to increase running distance is one of the most important and time-tested running principles. It advises against increasing your weekly mileage by more than 10% from the week before.
The fact that overuse injuries account for the vast majority of running injuries is the top reason why this is such an important concept for all runners to follow.
Always remember, no good training plan will ever push the bounds of the ten percent rule unless you’ve had sufficient training and are doing it under the guidance of a running coach.
Understand Running Injuries
Although there’s a risk of injury when it comes to running, there are numerous things you can do to prevent that from ever happening.
This is why I’ve written so extensively on different running injuries. I want to help all runners understand the causes, the treatment, and more importantly the ways you can prevent injuries.
My website is filled with tons of information to help empower you to make safer choices every day. I encourage you to start by reading my guide on common running injuries to get started.
In general, overuse and wearing the wrong gear are two of the most common ways to get yourself injured. So read, learn, and empower yourself to stay injury-free!
Get the Right Gear
Speaking of gear, if there’s one thing you should invest in it’s the right gear. And it doesn’t even have to be really expensive or extensive. All you have to do to get started is to get the right shoes and maybe some wicking socks.
From there, you can slowly but surely build up our collection by getting the best running gear that will make your life easier and your runs more fun.
Focus on Rest Days
If there’s anything I hope you’ve come to understand from this article is that as runners, we sometimes have the tendency to take it too far.
The easiest way to combat this is by making sure you get your rest days in. And if complete rest days just doesn’t sound like you, you can read more into active recovery days to add those into your routine instead.
Regardless of how you go about it, getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep per day and letting your body recover from your hard and easy runs is the best way to get all the benefits out of running without being affected by the potential risks.
Have you fallen in to any of the downsides of running?
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