Is running every day good for you?
As an inpatient physical therapist at Cape Cod Hospital, and an avid runner, Jennifer Cameron knows the rewards of lacing up the running shoes.
“Mental health, cardiovascular health, weight loss,” she ticks them off. “It’s also social for a lot of people.
“I run 15 miles a day; I try to do 70 miles a week. I run before work to wake myself up and get in a good mindset before entering a stressful environment.”
But Cameron also knows that running every day can lead to injury. Running can be addictive, and she urges runners not to ignore their bodies if they feel aches and pain.
"If you have muscle soreness or joint pain that is persistent, take a few days off from running completely,” she said. “Power walking, yoga and stretching can help speed up your recovery."
Rest days – days when you don’t run, or perhaps do lighter exercise – are important to let your body recuperate after strenuous exercise. According to tips for runners from Oregon Health & Science University, a running program should include at least one rest day.
How to Avoid Injuries
The OHSU orthopedics and rehabilitation division states in its tips that running through pain is a good way to get injured. Injuries can also result by ramping up too quickly. It suggests increasing the length of runs by no more than 10 percent a week.
Cameron said a runner with a sore ankle or foot will likely have poor form, which increases the risk of more severe injuries and chronic joint pain. Increasing intensity or distance too quickly can lead to stress fractures and nagging shin splints.
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, frequent running injuries include shin splints, inflammation and micro-tears where muscle attaches to the shinbone; Achilles tendinitis, inflammation of the tendon that connects the calf to the heel; and plantar fasciitis, inflammation of connective tissue on the sole of the foot. Treatment for these employs ice, anti-inflammatory medicines, stretching and rest.
To avoid injuries, the UR Medical Center recommends the following for runners:
- Determine your goals. A slower pace may be best for those trying to lose weight, while a faster pace works for improving cardiovascular health.
- Discuss your exercise plan with your doctor if you have arthritis, osteoporosis or related maladies that may increase risk of injury.
- Stretch and warm up before running, particularly the calves and hamstrings, muscles on the back of the thigh. Try jogging for five minutes before and after a run.
- Use good running shoes, preferably from a sports store that helps customers get the correct fit.
It’s important to replace shoes every 300-400 miles you run, according to Cameron. Prior to working in the hospital, she worked as a physical therapist in an outpatient setting.
“Worn-out shoes or poorly fitting shoes are a major contributor to running injuries we see in the outpatient setting,” she said.
Exercise for Your Off Days
Here’s some of Cameron’s suggestions for exercise on rest days, for those who feel they must remain active:
- Vigorous household chores, such as raking leaves or cleaning the house.
- Run walking: Power walk for two minutes, then jog for 30 seconds. Repeat till the day’s distance goal is reached.
- Instead of running, go for a hike or a bike ride.
Running the same route can be boring, so Cameron advises varying the difficulty and terrain. If training for a race, or just competing with yourself, try an easier run the day before the most strenuous workout of the week, then rest the day after the peak run.
“As you age, the frequency of rest days should increase,” she said. “Do more walking, cycling.”
For competitive runners, avoid injury by limiting the number of events you enter. Cameron recommends training for no more than one marathon and three to four 5-kilometer races per year.