Are you strong enough to run?

Tell me if this sounds familiar: Someone you know decides their health and fitness is getting away from them, so they sign up for a marathon and start training. Because they’re out of shape, the plan is to start at one mile and work upward. No problem, right?

Actually, there are a lot of problems.

First off, a marathon is for elite athletes and experienced runners only.  Second, if you haven’t been running in years, you shouldn’t attempt it out of the blue. Running properly requires a ton of base strength, and going in unprepared is a good way to get hurt. The most common injuries you see in the gym are from people running either too much too soon or with bad form. Both can do a number on your body in the form of shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and meniscus tears.

And yet, most people are still convinced you have to run to get back in shape. You don’t. Running is not the most effective form of exercise, nor does it offer any benefit that can’t be achieved through a lower impact activity.

I’m not saying running is bad. If you like to run or play sports, you absolutely should. Just be sure you have the strength to do so without hurting yourself before you start.

Here are three tests to determine if you’re ready for running. Until you can complete all three, you have no business going for a run.

Test 1: Stability

Single leg balance test

Pick your knee up as high as you can without using your hands and balance on one foot for 10 seconds.

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Now pick your heel off the ground and balance for an additional 5 seconds.

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Why does this matter? You are never on both feet while running, so ankle stability and glute strength are key. If you aren’t stable on one foot, you cannot expect to run well.

 

Test 2: Strength

Single leg box squat

Find a chair or stable surface with a height 3 to 4 inches above the top of your kneecap. Sit down, and then stick one leg out away from your body. Stand up all the way on one leg and lower yourself back down with control. Repeat eight times and then switch over to the other leg. If you can do this on both legs without falling or having your knee collapse inward, you pass.

 

Test 3: Endurance

Jump rope for one minute (Feel free to use an invisible jump rope, this isn't a test of rhythm) 

Running is an endurance exercise that consists of a million little jumps. Jumping rope is a great way to get your calves and feet ready for the stress of running. You don’t actually need a jump rope for this—all you have to do is jump in place. The goal is not to jump high, the goal is for you to leave the ground and come back down with control.  Your heels should touch the ground only lightly, if at all. If you can go for the full minute without having your heels crash to the ground, or losing balance, or control, congratulations—you are ready to run!

Jake Dermer