Walking or running: Does size matter?

Get off the couch and lace up your tennis shoes because you don’t need to be a ‘skinny-Minnie’ to run.
Does size matter when it comes to running? Nope, says our expert, but preparation does. (For Spectrum Health Beat)
Does size matter when it comes to running? Nope, says our expert, but preparation does. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Have you ever noticed that the best marathon runners in the world are around 5 feet 7 inches tall and tip the scale at 140 pounds?

It begs the question: Is running right for you if you’re built more like a plow horse than a race horse?

“You don’t need to be a skinny-Minnie to run,” according to Phillip Adler, ATC, manager of the Spectrum Health Sports Medicine program. Adler, a certified and licensed athletic trainer, said almost anyone, regardless of their body type, can run a 5K if they train properly.

“Walking is a great way to start. Then keep walking until you find it’s no longer a challenge,” Adler said. “Once you can walk five kilometers without breathing hard, you can step it up. Now it’s time to run.”

To avoid injuries:

  • Build your core strength for proper body mechanics
  • Improve your flexibility
  • Balance the strength of your calves, quadriceps, hamstrings and hips
  • Fuel your body with good nutrition
  • Stay hydrated
  • Wear appropriate footwear for good support
  • Listen to your body and pay special attention to joint pain

Get off the couch

Any exercise is better than sitting around.

Either walking or running can reduce high blood pressure, improve cholesterol, fight diabetes and reduce your likelihood of heart disease, according to a 2013 study of runners’ and walkers’ health.

If you decide to run, gradual training is key to staying injury-free.

“You can’t just get up off the couch, put down a bag of chips and start running,” Adler said. “It requires a complete lifestyle change. You’re fooling yourself if you think you can just jump off the couch and get going.”

He suggests online training from a reliable source such as Runner’s World, or better yet, schedule a few sessions with a personal trainer to get started.

“Personal trainers give you some accountability and help you ramp up your physical activity,” Adler said.

When Adler sees people who aren’t natural athletes pounding the pavement, he gives them credit.

“They may not be fast or have the best form, but they are out there,” Adler said. “I applaud them because they are trying.”

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