If you are thinking that military fitness boot camps are a high-intensity alternative to daily running, watch out. A core component of military fitness is indeed running . . . and lots of it. In one training session you might do sprints, jogging, sideways running, slow running, you name it. You will cover miles in your trainers (mostly outside) and then still have to do crunches until your abs wave a white flag and you start all over.
While running can be exhausting and one of the ultimate tests of your endurance, there are many experts in the world who believe that it is exactly what the human body has evolved to do. Walking upright may have been happening as long as 4.5 million years ago according to fossil records but it was around 2 million years ago that our legs started getting longer and our toes shorter. These physical adaptations, as well as increased flexibility, a narrower pelvis, and an enlarged gluteus, helped to facilitate running form and endurance while tracking prey over long distances.
Running is a highly effective form of cardiovascular exercise. It works out your heart, helping to strengthen it so it more efficiently pumps blood through your arteries and delivers oxygen and critical nutrients to your muscles and organs. Over time running can also help expand your lungs so you more efficiently take in oxygen, strengthen your muscles and bones, and even help you burn off excess weight. One study also found that running helps to alleviate feelings of depression and positively enhance mood.
What About Risk of Injury?
With all those benefits, however, does come the risk of injury. Repeated stress on the feet, ankles, and knees when running can lead to inflammation and annoying overuse injuries like patellar tendonitis (also known as patellar tendinopathy or “jumper’s knee”) and patellofemoral pain syndrome (also known as “runner’s knee”). Some people even incur an injury after their first couple of training sessions simply because they try and do too much too soon and over-exert their body or they experience a hard impact (like with an awkward landing) that suddenly stresses the knee.
Understanding patellar tendonitis better and patellofemoral pain syndrome can equip you with the knowledge and tips to prevent these common injuries and stick with your military fitness boot camp for the long haul. Tendonitis, in general, is the inflammation or even tearing of a tendon in the body, the fibrous tissue that helps connect muscles to bone.
Patellar tendonitis specifically affects the tendon connecting your kneecap (patella) to your shinbone (tibia) and is marked by pain, swelling, and stiffness in the front of the kneecap. Patellofemoral pain syndrome refers to pain and discomfort caused by abnormal rubbing of the kneecap over the thigh bone (femur) and is typically felt in the front of the kneecap or underneath it. In either case of recurring knee pain, even if it disappears as your warm up and take part in your boot camp session, you should consult a medical professional for a diagnosis and recovery plan to make sure you do not make the injury worse.
Do not let the risk of injury keep you from challenging your knees and the rest of your body with a boot camp workout though! Research shows that running may actually help improve knee health by strengthening bones, correcting muscle imbalances to facilitate good body mechanics, and promoting low body mass. A new study even found that on a biochemical level running benefits knees by reducing the number of cells that specifically contribute to inflammation in the synovial joint fluid.