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Why You Shouldn't "Just Run" for Exercise and What Are You Other Options

Erich is a five time marathoner and has about five years of distance running experience

When it comes to finding ways to exercise there is no doubt that running can be a fun and easy sport to do. As long as you don't live in the tundra and live within a reasonable distance of someplace such as public roads which go a couple miles or maybe some woods you should be able to do it. However, just like anything else in life , running too much can eventually cause injuries. Why?

Doing the same movement too much can cause injury and strain on your body and after a period of time it potentially can cause muscle imbalances. But muscle imbalances are much easier to work through rather than actual injuries and I know this from personal experience. There was a period of time where I just ran and ended up with IT band issues. For those not familiar with that is, it's connective tissue that goes between the outside part of your hip and your knee. So the next thing you are probably asking yourself is what type of exercises are good to counter act that and how does it help?

Here are the five best types of exercises you can do in my opinion and in no particular order: 1. Weight lifting; 2. Yoga/Pilates 3. Functional fitness; 4. cross fit; 5. mobility/cardio style workouts. The rest of the article will talk about why each one is beneficial.

  • Weightlifting: This one is especially good for stronger distance runners who actually run the entire race because let's face it, pumping your arms for even six miles at roughly chest level takes a lot of work. I would also highly recommend not skipping leg day as strong glutes and hips are essential to being able to run for a long period of time since you're putting all that extra shock on your body. If you have bad or weak hips you can also replace weighted squats with bands but that is a completely difference article for a different day.
  • Yoga/pilates: Pretty much anything which helps with flexibility is good for a couple of reasons. First is if your more flexible your body is going to be able to take more shock absorption and it can also help with running up hills because technically hill running exercises a different set of muscles than if you are running on a flat surface. It's also good because in Yoga and Pilates some exercises counterbalance what you actually do when running, can help lengthen tissue and also help with any imbalances that you may encounter over your running journey.
  • Functional fitness: Functional fitness is basically a combination of yoga but with weightlifting built into it which can sometimes have more advanced type of exercises.For example, instead of doing a straight dead lift you could do a curtsy lunge (if you don't know what that looks like you move one leg back and curtsy just like a woman would in the old days but with weight in your hand). So why would functional fitness be a good option? It strengthens your overall tissue and since doing dynamic stretching is supposed to be a key component of functional fitness chances are you are going to successfully elongate tissue and add flexibility in the process. If it's a longer workout with lots of repetitions, there is also a chance your endurance could improve as well.
  • Cross fit: OK on this one, confession I have never tried cross fit but have heard of strong runners who do it and still think it can be beneficial. Why? Because having to do a lot of jumping and other types of advanced exercises can help improve your overall strength and anything you do for a period of time has a good chance of improving your endurance if done consistently and you push yourself. Just like in functional fitness if you do enough of the proper stretching you will eventually start to elongate the tissues in your body which can help keep your muscles loose for running.
  • Mobility/cardio style workouts: Just like with the others warming up and stretching before and after should increase your flexibility which will continue to keep your muscles loose. While it is true that running is a form of cardio sometimes during a race or during a run sometimes you may have to run to the right or to the left whether it's to avoid a car, pass another runner or allow another runner to pass, so having some degree of mobility is important.

So what else can I do to complement my running? Lift weights, yoga/Pilates, cross fit, functional fitness and cardio.

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