The Demands of Running

Learn simple self assessments techniques to level up your running performance.

The desire to run comes in many forms.

Some obsessively for sport and competition. Others simply for a good sweat and as a form of meditation and stress relief. Whichever you choose it should be important to note that to meet the demands of running you should have a basic understanding of the costs. 

These costs are not related to gear, equipment and nutrition since that is a topic for an entirely separate conversation. These costs are to your body should you lack the appropriate mobility, strength, balance, endurance and mindfulness to name a few. 

This may sound like a lot to consider, especially when running is just putting one foot in front of the other at a pace faster than walking. However running requires a certain skill and a reason why the expression “you need to be fit to run, not run to get fit” is true. When we break down the running cycle on a biomechanical model we can look at joint position, posture, range of motion and phases of the gait cycle that can predict our reaction to the ground and our efficiency. And the more efficient runner you are the less likely you are to succumb to repetitive over use injuries.

To help you out, I have outlined 3 simple tests you can perform which will give you a starting point for your readiness to make running a routine activity for you. It doesn't matter if you prefer local fun runs or multiple marathons it’s a good idea to self assess and be honest with yourself. 

1. BALANCE - Single Leg

Since running is a process of continuous single leg transitions (hops) with a float phase in between it is crucial that we consider what your balance is like standing statically. 

Video tape yourself or have someone watch you stand for 10seconds on one leg in the position pictured below with your EYES CLOSED:

If you can maintain this position without losing balance, posture or using any compensatory strategies such as moving your arms or opposite leg to counterbalance yourself you have the necessary balance required to run. Bravo

2. STRENGTH - Single Leg Sit to Stand

So if you have balance in a single leg position you must also possess the strength requirements which will afford you the ability to complete the distance you desire. Remember running at its simplest form is a series of single leg hops happening very quickly over and over. 

Again video tape yourself or have someone assess you as you get up and down from a standard chair that allows your thigh to start at 90deg from your lower leg (parallel to the floor). Complete this movement 7x as pictured below:

If you are able to complete this consistently with a steady pace and without excessive side to side movement of your hip, knee, or ankle and do not flail your arms for counter balance then you pass with an appropriate amount of lower extremity strength required for running.

3. MOBILITY - Ankle Wall Test

The foot may be the most important piece to your running longevity. It is the first thing to come in contact with the ground and acts as a lever propelled by the power of your calf which has the highest level of muscular activity during the gait cycle. If you lack motion at your ankle you cannot run efficiently as the force from the ground up through your leg will be transferred inappropriately. 

Position yourself in a half kneeling posture while lining your big toe away from a wall the distance of the width of your palm. Attempt to touch the wall with your knee cap by advancing it forward over the middle of your foot. If you can cleanly touch the wall without excessive effort or your heel coming off the ground then you have adequate mobility in your ankle. 

If you managed to pass all 3 tests then you are on the right path to success with running. However these are only a small portion of the complete tests we would assess if you were looking for professional help. If you managed to fail all three I would recommend seeing a professional who will ultimately save you time and energy managing the deficits that will allow you to keep up with the demands of running. 

Running can be an access point to many avenues in your health and wellness. On one end of the spectrum is the pleasure of the natural “runner’s high” while on the other end is the physicality of pushing your body to its limits. And unless you are only ever running on a treadmill which I do not recommend a great bonus is always the connection and time spent outdoors. 

I understand running for exercise or sport is not for everyone. However I recommend it if only as a self assessment into what your musculoskeletal system and cardiovascular system can perform in combination with one another. 

If you have further questions about running and what these tests may mean for you please send me an email and I would be happy to help: