I was wondering if anybody could give his opinion on what I did today, my reasoning behind it, and whether I might be completely making an arse out of myself.
Me: 25 y/o male, 6'4", 200lbs, not in great shape (BMI works out, but i don't have a lot of muscle mass). Physical endurance absolutely not fine. I've had knee problems all my life (tendon got hammered of with a hockey stick, Osgood Slatters, and other things), and a history of back problems. The reason I tell you this is because to me what I'm doing makes very little sense, but it feels good!
What i did: Ran/airborne-shuffled/walked 2.5 miles with a 20-pound pack.
Why: Running is not my forte. Last year I tried to start running to improve my condition, and when I finally came to that point where i started loving to hate it, my knee really said 'stop'. I'm sure I started out in the right way then (slowly) as not to get injured. Recently I've been having a lot of fun playing Airsoft (no, this is not a discussion about whether that's cool or not), and I just loved the way I felt after a day of running, kneeling, jumping, crawling and getting up again with 20 pounds strapped to my body.
Last couple of days i've been doing a 2.5 mile route with 2 big bridges in them at a sort of air-borne shuffle maximum pace, with a 20 pound pack on my back. I have the feeling that the pack keeps me from going into a full run, which is a good thing. My legs are very long for my body, so when i really run, my strides are long and the impact on my knees is high. Just shuffling along without a pack feels really really silly. It seems that with the pack on i can shuffle/run half a mile up-bridge before having to start walking, while with running I could do it for about 3/4 of a mile. (yes, i know, and that is why i'm training).
Today was my third run of this type, and I keep feeling good. I feel more of my body is getting a work-out this way, and everything that was hurting when I really 'ran' doesn't seem to hurt now.
My question is: Can there be something to my theory that not-going-into-a-full-run is a game changer, even though the 20 pounds add to the impact? Are there reasons to absolutely NOT run with a pack?
Hi Dutch Dastard
I do a lot of this kind of exercise (army) and have a similar history of knee joint injuries, although probably not as bad as yours sound, and fortunately no back problems.
Speaking from my own experience then (and how applicable this will be to you I don't know), generally, as you mention yourself, weighted shuffling/running adds a lot to the force of the impact going through your joints and back so I am surprised you find it easier than running without weight, although shuffling is an easier motion than a true run.
Having said that, cardio with extra weight is, in my experience, a great way to not only improve general fitness but also to actually build and maintain core and joint strength. There is no reason not to do it. The key consideration though is that because it is so easy to injure yourself with this kind of exercise, it is something you should be building up to and condition yourself to which it sounds like you are already onto. So keep pushing your limits, but don't go to heavy, fast or far to soon, and try to keep this kind of training to every second day at the most to give time to recover. If you feel something starting to break, stop (and by this I don't mean fatigue type pain (good pain), I mean bad pain like sharp joint pain, back pain, shin splints, stress fractures in the foot etc.).
20 pounds sounds like a good starting point and hopefully you can build on this quickly.
Pro tips if you are not trying this already would be to try and reduce the effect of the impact through good footwear (consider getting customised innersoles from a sports shoe store), and using a pack/webbing/chest-rig that is set up so the weight is distributed reasonably evenly and secured so it is not bouncing around to much. Blisters seem to happen more when you are carrying weight than they would running the same kind of distance so you may find yourself needing to condition your feet as well as your joints. Also, up hill sucks more cardio wise, but you are more likely to injure yourself going down hill, so if you are going to go hard, do it uphill and take it slow on the downhill till you feel a bit more stable through the knees.
Make sure your ruck is properly packed and adjusted as you go to avoid hot spots. Go slow with your progressions in weight and distance. Let pain be your guide on this and if you start getting worse consider low impact training.
If I was to venture a guess, I'd say there are two things going on which makes you feel better rucking than running. The light weight on your back is forcing you into a proper posture, and you're using proper form in your running/shuffling. From your description it sounds like you're heel striking when you run. That airborne shuffle is a proper mid foot strike. Much less impact on the knees as the tendons are doing their shock absorbing job.
Same with hill work, it puts you into proper posture and foot strike. If you want to change your form, do some barefoot running.
One injury to watch out for with that shuffling is runner's toe. Make sure you're laced properly and you have enough room in you're toe box.
Thanks guys, that was exactly the information/confirmation I was looking for. Am I correct in summarizing like this: It doesn't hurt when it feels good and you're properly listening to your body?
As you said: downhill sucks. I try not to run downhill, as this was where it started hurting when i was actually running. The impact is huge downhill.
I'm using a dutch army pack with pretty tight padded straps and a chest strap. Its weight is just below shoulder level, as it is designed to go on top of webbing configuration. I'd run with my webbing configuration, but I think running around with a full battle load would scare the citizens in this wonderful town.
The pack has a half inch thick piece of neoprene for back padding. I've added 4 hefty study books, and two bottles of water. I've packed it tight with some towels so the weight won't bounce around in the pack.
I'm running on combat boots with an excellent custom insole, as I need the support on my ankles and I believe in training with what your working with. Thankfully, as Shane mentioned, the toe box is quite large as to avoid runner's toe.
We'll see what happens.
Thanks a lot guys.
Sounds good. If you're a heel striker, downhill is pretty jarring on the body. With a good mid-foot strike you can use downhill to work on the length of your stride.
One last caution with running in boots, it doesn't do your knees any favors. It's like running with ankle weights, it adds a lot of force to that pendulum which starts at your knees. Long term training will mess you up. I only use it during short term conditioning blocks.
This may sound silly but for you knees sake have you looked at "barefoot" running? The stride is different you land on the balls of your feet, not he heel.
The following link discusses different ways to run: http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/