Ted was a gifted runner. In his late forties his knees began to aggravate him, and they got worse each year. At age 54 his doctor advised him to stop running. He started strength training with the aim of getting back to running.
We worked around his condition for a while and slowly incorporated leg exercises into the routine - leg curl, calf raises, leg press, adduction, abduction, squats, and occasionally partial leg extensions.
Ted wanted to start running again. He did and the next day his was limping again. I told him, “You are able to lift 450 pounds on the leg press to a very deep fatigue to the point where your legs are unable to move, and the next day you have not a hint of pain.” For Ted with adequate rest after strength training he came back stronger each week. With running there was no recovery or improvement, only injury.
We were following a high intensity interval training (HIIT) routine – one to three different exercises per body part with very little rest between sets. We were not doing endless sets exposing the knees to unnecessary stress. With this protocol there is less chance of repetitive-use injuries.
Ted saw that it was working, but he was concerned about weight gain. I told him, “I could run a mile and be in pain for days, or I could eat three less Oreos and stick to a strength training program that will increase my resting metabolism. Besides, you will burn calories after the workout as well”.
Ted had a choice. Run, get injured,and gain weight from inactivity, or strength train, get added protection against injury, and make some dietary changes. It is either the latter or face the possibility of knee replacement well before it might have have been otherwise. For those who overdo it or have a predisposition to injuries that result from running, injuries will occur. It might take years before they become ruinous. I don’t rule out running, but don’t run to the point of injury and take steps to enhance your strength so you can better support your joints.
No amount of running will add strength to your legs, - endurance yes, but strength no. A ten year study comparing non-runners to runners showed that both groups had lost the same amount of lean body weight over the decade. Loss of muscle mass it part of the aging process. The best you can do is to take steps to keep or add the strength and muscle that inexorably diminishes each year without strength training.
There cardiovascular effects from HIIT as well. Start with leg press or squats and work the muscles to a deep fatigue. You will reach your target heart rate very quickly. Just seconds after completion of the first exercise begin the next exercise. You will continue breathing hard, and your pulse will remain elevated. Work all the major muscle groups with minimal rest between each exercise. You will breath hard from start to finish. This type of training produces a high E.P.O.C. response – a large after-workout calorie burn.