As a cardiovascular exercise that keeps you fit, reduces stress and is something you can do almost anywhere, jogging may be pretty hard to beat. But there’s no question that this otherwise excellent activity can be tough on your back due to the constant jarring caused by your feet pounding the pavement. Here’s what you need to know to stay safe while getting in your daily run.
First Thing’s First
If you have chronic back pain, be sure to consult a spine specialist like Dr. Chetan Patel before initiating a new running regimen. He and his medical team can determine whether your condition is something that may be aggravated by jogging and if so, help you get to a point where running is a reasonable activity again.
Remember that, as tough as it can be to get in stride with a running program, being inactive is perhaps the worst thing you can do for your back. In fact, sitting puts more stress on the spine than many exercises, and losing excess weight through diet and exercise can ease back pain and help your spine to better support your body.
Next, Get the Right Gear
Good, cushioned running shoes support your spine by softening the blow that the body feels as your foot hits the ground. With all the high-tech running shoes on the shelves today, it may help to visit a store that specializes in running gear so that you can talk to someone who can explain the pros and cons of specific shoe designs.
Warm Up Right
We’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Warming up is an essential part of any exercise routine. To minimize your potential for injury and get your body ready to move, view our Back To Basics videos for stretches you can use for your back and hamstrings both before and after a run.
Plan Your Route
Pick a soft surface, like a padded track or the perimeter of a grassy field. If you can, steer clear of hills, tight turns and irregular surfaces that might cause falls. And when debris or other obstacles do get in the way, slow your pace and practice additional caution.
Proper Posture Pays
It’s important to be aware of your posture and your stride while running. Keep your head up, your back straight, your elbows at a 90-degree angle and your neck and shoulders relaxed while you exercise. One way to keep your shoulders loose is to lift them up toward your ears and back down to a natural position every mile or so.
Consider Your Cadence
The number of steps you take per minute is your cadence, or your stride rate. A casual run usually comes in at 170 steps per minute, while elite runners may average about 180 steps or more – but these numbers are just guidelines. Knowing your stride rate can help you make sure you’re not overextending your stride length, which is a common mistake that often leads to injury. If you’re trying to push for a faster time, dialing up your stride rate rather than your stride length may be a better option to keep you on the road to better health.
Starting Slow is Smart
If the thought of running even a short distance makes you swoon, remember that every avid runner had to start somewhere. And in fact, walking can be a good way to start moving that allows you to transition to running once you’re ready to do so. Here are some excellent recommendations on walking technique. And if walking’s not your speed, you can always get started with some other outdoor activity that gets you moving – here are a few suggestions.
Still running into pain? When an aching back keeps you from participating in activities you love, it might be time to consider seeing a spine expert. Click here to learn more at our Spine Health Institute.