With a PhD in exercise physiology and a masters in kinesiology, it’s no wonder Dr. Jason Karp has achieved a national reputation as an expert on running, training and fitness in general. In early 2013, he’ll be making a stop in Chicago to bring his expertise to an upcoming runner’s convention. He spoke with Our Town about barefoot running, avoiding injury and why he loves women runners.
Our Town Why do you run?
Dr. Jason Karp A complicated question, but running is a part of who I am. It gives me an outlet for challenging myself and for finding out what I'm capable of.
OT Why has running gained popularity in our culture?
JK It's the most accessible sport. Anywhere in the world, people can walk out of their front door and run. People are also desperate to lose weight, and running is the most effective physical activity for weight loss.
OT What made you decide to write Running for Women?
JK I love women! From a coaching perspective, I'm interested in how women's physiology influences their training and how they can capitalize on that. The book grew out of an idea I had about training women around their menstrual cycle. At the publisher's suggestion, it turned into a book on everything concerning women, including menopause, older runners, pregnancy, injuries, and nutrition, in addition to all the training.
OT Are women that different as runners?
JK Yes. They are different anatomically, metabolically, and hormonally. They have a lot of issues that men never have to deal with, like the monthly fluctuation of hormones in their menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause. Those differences influence their physiology and how they should train as runners. The components of the training program are the same for both sexes—aerobic base training, acidosis threshold training, aerobic power (VO2max) training, and speed and strength training. The differences lie in the program's subtleties. Unlike a male runner’s training program, which may only need tweaking based on fatigue, rate of adaptation, and outside of running circumstances (work, family, etc.), the female runner's training program incorporates more adjustments based on fluctuations of hormones and other female-specific conditions. The female runner's training program must always be open to change, moving a workout here or there based on how she feels, or backing off on the training load altogether when certain conditions arise, like amenorrhea, pregnancy, or anemia. The secret is knowing how and when to manipulate the training variables to optimize the work and maximize the results so she gets the largest return on her investment. So, while a female runner still does the same types of workouts as her male counterpart, she should do them in a way or at a time or even emphasize certain things that allows her to get the most bang for her buck and avoid injury.
OT What do you think about the new barefoot running trend?
JK I'm not a big fan. It may have some value for runners who have already built up the structures in their feet and ankles over years of running, but new runners may increase their chances of injury. Running barefoot places extra stress on the calves and Achilles tendons. There's no research to show that running barefoot or with minimalist shoes is better for us than running with shoes. If someone is going to try running barefoot, it must be integrated very slowly and systematically into their running routine. Don’t just go out the door barefoot or with minimalist shoes and run 5 miles! The first day you try it, run for just a couple of minutes in them and then do the rest of your run in your shoes. Each day, or just a few times per week, add a couple of minutes in the minimalist shoes. Give your feet and tendons a chance to adapt and get stronger
OT What can runners do to prevent injury?
JK Train smarter by increasing the volume and intensity in a very systematic way. The main reason runners get injured is because they do too much too soon. They increase the volume or intensity or both too quickly for the body to adapt. One of the reasons they do that is because they either don't get advice on what to do or they follow the advice of people who don’t know how to train properly. That's the problem with many marathon training groups. They ramp up people's training much too quickly, trying to rush the marathon training process. And most of the coaches of those groups are not professionally-trained coaches. Aside from training smarter, runners need to treat the causes of injuries rather than the symptoms. Other causes of injuries include overpronation, which can be corrected with the right shoes, and muscle strength imbalances, which can be corrected with specific strength training.
OT What would you say to someone who says "running is too hard for me?"
JK Life is hard. Running is only hard for people because it demands a lot of the body and when people are out of shape, they perceive running to be hard. But if they do a little at a time, most people can run. Just stick with it long enough; once the body adapts, running gets easier. Running is part of our ancestry. Humans evolved to run.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for sites like Pop Matters and
afterellen.com Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," was called “poetic and heartrending” by ALA Booklist. Sarah is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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