Life Is Not A Sprint, So Don’t Exercise Like It Is

athletes running

I have completed one marathon, and over ten 100 mile mountain bike races. I finished the marathon in a little over 4 hours. The hundred mile mountain bike races took longer, my fastest time is between 9 and 10 hours.

In every one of those long distance, endurance events, it always amazed me how many people started out too fast and burned out before finishing.

In my 1 marathon, I’ll never forget this one guy who was ripped, lean and revved up and ready to go at the starting line. He started out really fast. I tried to hang with him but couldn’t keep up his pace and I eventually dropped  back.

At mile 13 I saw this guy sitting on the side of the street with his head between his knees. He was finished. He went too hard at the beginning and couldn’t finish.

I always see people do this in the 100 mile mountain bike races. They start out too hard, going way too fast, and then they can’t maintain the pace. They can’t keep it up. The pace they are setting for themselves is unsustainable.

I see many similarities between running a marathon, and how we exercise day to day throughout our lives.

If someone starts out too hard with a new exercise routine, then they won’t be able to keep doing it for very long. They will eventually hurt themselves and have to stop exercising.

If someone exercises at too hard of an intensity, or lifts weights that are too heavy, or just goes too hard, then they will not be able to maintain the exercise routine. They won’t be able to stick with the routine for very long before they injure themselves because they are going too hard.

This is what happens for most people when they participate in an extreme exercise program. From what I have seen in my clinic, those about 25% of our total population are in good enough shape to start to participate in something like crossfit or P90x. Studies show that 75%, or 3 out of 4, who participate in extreme exercise programs, will injure themselves badly enough that they have to stop exercising, and can even interfere with work.

That is why I believe in low intensity and low impact exercising. We should exercise in a sustainable way. Exercise in a way that you can stick with for the rest of your life. This is extremely pertinent as we age. As we age we don’t recover from injuries as quickly as we did when we were younger. Exercise causes minor injuries to the muscle fibers. Do too much exercise and you’ll injure the muscles. And that injury will take longer and longer to recover from.

Maybe when you were in your 20s you could participate in an extreme exercise routine and be fine with it. At that age, you heal very quickly from injuries and can bounce back much quicker than you can in your 30s and beyond.

After age 40 though, it will take longer and longer to recover from an injury. And once injured, you’re never the same again. Avoid pain by avoiding injury by avoiding high impact, high intensity exercising.

These are all reasons why I only ran 1 marathon, and since then have stuck with long distance mountain bike races. Biking is so much easier on your body than running is. Running pounds your joints. Every step that you take while running creates impact throughout your joints.

This impact creates microscopic traumas to your feet, ankles, knees, hips, back, spine and can even affect your neck. All of this pounding eventually wears away the cartilage in joints which is the first step in osteo-arthritis. Once you have arthritis, you have it for the rest of your life. As of now (8-21-14), there is no cure for osteo-arthritis. At this point, we can only manage the symptoms and prevent them from getting worse.

The best way to prevent osteo-arthritis is to go easy on your joints. Treat your joints (and body) like you are going to have it for the rest of your life – which of course, we all are. By keeping the muscles surrounding joints strong and flexible, you will keep the joints stable, and reduce your risk of injury, and therefore osteo-arthritis.

These are all reasons why I like biking. Biking is low impact and easy on your body. Orthopedists regularly recommend riding a stationary bike to help rehab knees. It keeps the knees going through their full range of motion. Since it is low impact, you can do as much of it as you like, and still not injure yourself like you would with running.

After running the 4 hour marathon, I was so sore I couldn’t walk down steps without pain for a week. But after riding my mountain bike for 10 hours in those 100 mile races, I was certainly tired, but I wasn’t beat up the way I was from running.

Don’t mistake the pain from the pounding from running as a sign that your getting a good workout in. You don’t have to be in a lot of pain after a workout to prove that you got a good workout in. We are supposed to be exercising to feel better, not to increase our pain.

Be easy on your body when exercising. You should feel better from exercising, not worse off. If you have a pre-existing condition like osteo-arthritis or joint pain then you will get some pain from exercising, but your overall pain will decrease.

Exercise like you are going to for the rest of your life. Be easy on your body if you want to exercise for the rest of your life. If you can exercise in the right way then you’ll feel better, reduce pain, and improve your overall quality of life. This is the Pain Free Way



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