#224 Can low aerobic fitness cause a running injury? - DOC

#224 Can low aerobic fitness cause a running injury?

Today on the Doc On The Run Podcast we’re talking about how low aerobic fitness can lead to a running injury.

Without oxygen, we die. 

The harder your tissues work when you exercise, the more oxygen they require. When you are working hard and simultaneously depriving your tissues of oxygen, you’re putting yourself at risk in a number of ways. 

A runner who was listening to the Doc On The Run Podcast asked about the association between low aerobic fitness and running injuries. 

The number one, most important resource to a runner is oxygen. When you run, you breathe in Air you use the oxygen and produce energy. That energy propels you forward. The runner’s body is a fantastical physiologic ballet. All manner of chemicals are interacting to allow your living tissues to perform the way they should. 

Any runner who gets an injury does so simply because the tissue has not performed the way it should. In a sense, a muscle strain, torn ligament or a stress fracture or all examples of under performing tissue. 

In every case of an overtraining running injury, the bottom line is that the tissue was just not up to the task when asked to perform. And it broke. 

Every Runner who has ever gone out for a long run, signed up for a marathon or an ultra marathon when not sufficiently trained understands the suffering from a lack of aerobic fitness. When you are exhausted, you cannot run as hard. Your muscles become weaker, faster. And as a consequence of that weakness, your running form falls apart. 

As your running form degenerates, you apply higher peak forces to the metatarsal bones putting them at risk of stress fracture. When you land asymmetrically and your foot wobbles beneath you, the supporting tendons and ligaments are placed under unnatural and excessive stress and strain. 

Since your muscles are not able to work at their full capacity when deprived of oxygen you become more at risk of developing muscle strains as well. Although oxygen is the basic ingredient and currency of tissue performance, a lack of aerobic fitness does not directly correlate to injuries in the tissue. 

But unquestionably, a lack of aerobic fitness will make you weaker, your form will suffer and as a consequence of the degeneration of your running form when you feel weak, you will be prone to loading the tissues in your lower extremities in a way that puts them at risk of an overtraining injury. 

The question sent in from this runner was , “Is it risky, from an overtraing injury standpoint, to train when I have a lack of aerobic fitness?” 

The answer is simple: 

If you want to become a fit runner, you will have to train when you have low aerobic fitness. Every new runner has little to no aerobic fitness. Every runner who resumes training after an offseason has little to no aerobic fitness. But you have to start from somewhere. 

The main point is to realize that when you have a significant lack of aerobic fitness you need to take care to pay attention to your running form. You need to realize you are more prone to injury. 

So when you feel weak, when you feel your fitness level is low, choose your runs wisely.  Pick forgiving surfaces. Pick linear courses devoid of uneven terrain. Run slower than you think you need to run. 

Remember, in that moment you are trying to build your aerobic fitness.  

You do not build aerobic fitness when you are entering anaerobic training zones. So keep your run slow enough to make them truly aerobic and safe. 

Have patience. Wait for the fitness adaptations to happen. And then, when your aerobic fitness actually increases and you start to feel strong again, then you can start pushing the limits. 



If you have a question that you would like answered as a future addition of the Doc On The Run Podcast, send it to me PodcastQuestion@docontherun.com. And then make sure you join me for the next edition of the Doc On The Run Podcast!