The question: I run regularly and love it. I consider myself a heavier runner. Is running at a heavier weight causing my body long-term damage?
The answer: I love running too much to tell anyone who is injury-free to stop. Plus, the advice would likely fall on deaf ears. For most runners, myself included, training is akin to breathing, impossible to give up.
So, as long as you are injury-free, the question is not if you should run, but how fast and how often you can safely train.
Running is hard on the body. All runners should pay attention to their biomechanics and should cross-train and recover properly. But the heavier you are, the more prone you are to being injured, and the older you are, the more cautious you should be.
Figuring out how frequently and intensely you can safely train is an often tricky process. Through trial and (lots) of error, I have learned my body doesn't like running three days in a row.
To determine what is appropriate for you, try using my concepts of "body credit" and "body debt."
Body credit is the body's physical resilience, its ability to resist physical stress. Everyone's "body credit" fluctuates.
Activities like running stress the body and therefore consume credit. Heavier runners or runners who have poor biomechanics use up their credit at a proportionally faster rate.
If you consume credit at a faster rate than you earn it (for example, you run too frequently without adequate rest), you go into body debt. If you accumulate enough debt, overuse injuries can occur.
The good news is that recovery techniques such as sleeping, eating well, resting, massage and stretching help you accumulate credit.
As a heavier runner, you need to work harder to replenish your body's energy bank. Rest, cross-train, stay hydrated, eat well, sleep, get massages and stretch. Strength train to increase your body's ability to withstand the ground reaction forces that running places on the body.
Also keep in mind that as we age, it get easier to go into debt, and takes much more work to replenish the bank. So, however much time you put into recovery now, proportionally increase your dedication to recovery as you age.
Trainer's tip: Remember this – don't run to get into shape. Get in shape to run! Prioritize strength training and proper recovery so you can run injury-free for life.
Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.