minutes per mile blog

is running for everyone?

Do you know someone who says they can never run because of an ongoing injury or weakness? Or that they can never run because they find it totally boring? I’ve met plenty of people that say both of these things and I never quite know how to respond. I’d ** like ** to say that they should just keep trying and learn to love it — that’s what I did, after all — but then I think: Well, maybe running just isn’t for everyone. What do you think?old_brooks_pureconnects_women_DSC0535

Injuries

When it comes to long-term, nagging injuries and chronic pain, I can imagine it’d be tough to just throw in the towel and give up running altogether (hopefully in exchange for another activity that’s easier on your body). Luckily I’ve been pretty injury-free during my ten-year running career, but I’ve had friends who are constantly fighting injuries in their IT bands, knees, and back. They train for months and then have to drop out weeks before a race — or even worse, they actually run the race while injured (which is probably what my stubborn self would do, ha!). I get really bummed out when I meet people who say they’d like to run but they can’t due to their knees/back/hips and I have a hard time accepting the fact that they really, truly cannot ever run again.

To me, running seems like one of the most natural activities fit for the human body — and according to this Harvard study, running is basically built into the human DNA. And let’s not forget that Kevin Hart says that running is for everyone. This is my “come run with me!” photo.0813150629aAfter an extensive Google search this morning, I found this Men’s Health article useful in answering the question: “Is running for everyone?” I’d recommend reading it in full, but here are some excerpts to consider:

“We’re so used to seeing runners that it’s easy to forget they weren’t always with us. The idea of running for fitness was completely bizarre to most Americans until a half-century ago. Throughout Western civilization, going back to ancient Greece and Rome, you can find an appreciation of exercise. But exercise meant walking, hiking, gymnastics, wrestling. The longest race in the original Olympic games was about 3 miles.

It wasn’t until Ken Cooper published Aerobics in 1968 that the idea of endurance running for fitness moved into the mainstream. Currently about 42 million Americans run at least six times a year, and about 10 million run at least twice a week. Those numbers have been increasing steadily for the past decade.

The health benefits of all that running are solid and well documented. But at the same time, injury rates are astonishingly high. In a poll at runnersworld.com, 66 percent of respondents said they’d suffered an injury in the previous year. Published research shows a range from 27 and 70 percent. The knees account for about half of those injuries. Most of the rest are below the knee.”0520150614The article goes on to note that during scientific studies of exercise, there are typically “nonresponders” who don’t witness results or improvement during the exercise as well as “superresponders” who quickly adapt and improve.

“At the opposite end are the superresponders. Some people are simply programmed to get great results with no more initial effort than you or I put in. They improve fast, and become the best salesmen for a sport like running, since they make it look effortless, and sometimes even fun.”

And let’s not forget genetics. It seems like some people are simply built for running whereas others aren’t. For example, a different article discusses a scientific study of the Kenyans:

“Two separate, European-led studies in a small region in western Kenya, which produces most of the race-winners, found that young men there could, with only a few months training, reliably outperform some of the West’s best professional runners. In other words, they appeared to have a physical advantage that is common to their community, making it probably genetic. The studies found significant differences in body mass index and bone structure between the Western pros and the Kenyan amateurs who had bested them. The studied Kenyans had less mass for their height, longer legs, shorter torsos, and more slender limbs.”

(Okay, so Meb is technically Eritrean but I just wanted an excuse to post this photo again.)20160402_183953And then there are those who are genetically uninclined to succeed in running, according to a different article.

“For most people training helps increase stamina, but for one in five, no matter how hard they push themselves they will never improve and may even get worse… They push themselves as hard as everyone else, but their muscles do not extract the same amount of oxygen.”

Hmmm. When it comes to people’s physical capability to run, I have to reluctantly admit that the evidence has convinced me that maybe the activity just isn’t for everyone. Sad but apparently true. What do you think?

6 thoughts on “is running for everyone?

  1. Milad and I were just talking about this yesterday albeit not nearly as in depth as you. He’s a much stronger runner than I am and I tend to get hurt fairly often and I’m a much stronger swimmer than him despite the fact that with both of these we’ve done them mostly together the last few years. Must be his long slender limbs and my long torso.

  2. I sadly agree that running may not be for everyone. My brother has tried running several times and just can’t get into it. He used to be a swimmer, so he has no problem exerting himself for long periods of time, but running just isn’t his thing! Hopefully these people are in the minority, though :)

  3. I think different body mechanics and how a person walks, or puts pressure on their knees and feet could make running painful and cause injuries for some. Others may not be able to find enjoyment in it and may lose interest. Unfortunately, I feel like there are folks who might use those same things as an excuse. Maybe everyone isn’t built to race, but I think every single person would have definite health benefits from running.