I know that many people take up a martial arts in order to get fit and lose weight, and it’s very possible to do so purely through a combination of training and nutrition, as Rick (one of my students) did. But if you’re looking to take your fitness to higher levels, you may need to do some sort of other training outside the dojo. When it comes to bang for buck, running is one of the best cardio workouts you can do. Skipping is great too, but when the weather is nice I like to get out and enjoy it.
Here is a list of the main benefits of running:
1. Builds stronger joints & ligaments. Aerobic exercise is said to be helpful for improving joint health, according to James Fries, M.D., professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine. When you exercise, the cartilage in your hips, knees, and ankles compresses and expands. This, in turn, draws in oxygen and flushes away waste products to nourish cartilage and keep it healthy. “Without exercise, cartilage cells get weak and sick,” he says. Running also specifically strengthens the ligaments that help support joints, making them more stable and less susceptible to sprains and strains,which is useful for any martial artist whether you’re doing Jiu-jitsu, Taekwondo, Judo, etc
2. Helps you lose weight/burn fat. While many other forms of exercise can help you lose weight or burn fat, running is one of the best ones because most people already know how to run and all you need is a pair of shoes to do it. Plus, it’s easier to push yourself harder when you want to step things up because you don’t need to learn any particular technique to do so like you might have to do when skipping, swimming, rollerblading, cross-country skiing, etc. For best results with fat-burning, it’s better to go for longer runs at a lower intensity, around 25-30 min, rather than shorter more intense runs.
3. Strengthens muscles and bone density of your legs, hips and back. Running strengthens your muscles without making you bulk up to help make you a lean, mean, fighting machine. Also, the constant impact that happens during running is great for increasing bone density, so long as you follow a healthy diet.
4. Increased cardio-vascular efficiency. Having good cardio fitness helps you perform your best for longer. Your aerobic cardio helps you last through long belt tests while your anaerobic cardio helps you cope with the quick, bursts of activity when doing things like sparring or grappling. Doing a combination of low intensity running/jogging and sprinting allows you to cover both these forms of fitness. I’ll discuss this more in detail in my next blog post.
5. Improve breathing. Everyone knows that feeling of running out of breath when exerting themselves. While cardio-vascular fitness helps your blood get air and nutrients through your system when needed for activity, lung strength and capacity helps you take in more air with fewer breaths to keep your blood properly oxygenated for the activities you’re performing. Running, of course, helps strengthen your lungs and increase your lung capacity. As you run more and your lung capacity increases, you’ll find it easier to keep your breathing smooth when sparring or grappling or under the stress of a training circle or belt test.
If you’re thinking about taking up running or any other new fitness training, it’s important to speak to your family physician first to make sure you do it safely. Check out this blog post for ideas of how to implement running workouts as part of your martial arts training regimen.
Do you run as part of your fitness regimen? If so, what benefits have you experienced from it? Please share your experiences in the comments.