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Deciding on Your Next Step

Training Log For: 02/08/10

Injury prevention, running rehab, detailed exercises. Click Here.

Posted by Matthew

I have decided that I am not a runner, I could probably press the issue and force my body to reconsider, but long distance running is just not something my body is cut out for. My junior year of high school I was hit by a car while in a parking lot and it tore the anterior cruciate , posterior cruciate and ateral collateral ligaments of my left knee in half. Four surgeries later I am able to do most things I was before but my left leg remains weaker and has a reduced range of motion. I still experience arthritis-like pains and aches on an almost daily basis, but usually it's almost unnoticeable. With the LA Marathon in late March I have begun to ask myself the question "is running something I really want to puruse?".

I admit that I enjoy running now more than I ever have. I no longer shudder at the thought of running a mile or 3 miles or even 6 miles, but running could be taking its toll on my legs. I would post pictures on the website of my legs, but no one wants to see those beasts, suffice it to say I have short legs with calf muscles larger than most skinny people's thighs. It's not an area of pride or the result of hours doing calf raises, genetics just decided that I would have a solid base. I'm currently meeting with a physical trainer who is helping me break loose, years of tight leg, foot and ankle muscles. As it turns out, stretching is not enough, but I will save that discussion for another blog post.

Back on topic though, the sore knees, tight muscles and aching legs have left me wondering, is running really what I want (or should) be doing? I am relatively young (26), but already my legs feel like they are warning me about the future. I would like to be healthy enough to run and play sports with my kids and have enough physical conditioning to keep up with them at least some of the time. I don't plan on having kids for another 5-10 years so I'm looking at needing healthy legs for another 20 years. If I kept running though, will my legs hold up that long? I have this reoccurring mental image of my injured knee grinding and cracking every time I run, as it attempts to accommodate the impact of every step (which is around 3-4 times my body weight or 700 lbs). Think about it, every time I run I am placing as much strain on my knees as if I were a 700lbs. man walking down the street.

So I find myself at a crossroads. I still plan on finishing the marathon, but at this point I am more concerned with overall mental and physical health than I am with finish times or even running/jogging the entire time. So what if I have to walk several miles? Having a healthier body and more relaxed mind and spirit seem to be far loftier goals than running for a really, really long time. I realize that the phrases "healthier body" and "relaxed mind and spirit" are extremely vague and will have to be broken down in to measurable sub-goals, but I think you get the picture.

I recently read and article in Men's Journal that seems to agree with several other articles I have read. For men, reaching an apex of physical fitness is better reached through anaerobic exercises like weight lifting and shorter, high intensity workouts. Studies have shown it's better for the heart and leads to a higher rate of fat loss than extended cardio. There is science behind the benefits of having more muscle mass. It increases your metabolism throughout the day and can aid in production in testosterone, which may not be important at 26 but it will be in my 40's.

I still have some thinking and research to do, but at least I'm at a starting point. I hope that focusing on important issues like heart and joint health early in my life will benefit me into my elder years. If you are a guy and are interested in the Men's Journal article, check it out here