While we could debate reducing our impact on the environment until judgement day, that's not what this article is about. Today we are addressing Impact in regards to training.
When we talk about Impact, we're simply talking about any exercise that causes a "shocking" force on your body. Some exercises that result in Impact are: running, jumping, leaping, bounding, flipping, skipping, and so on. For more advanced athletes, this can also include plyometric upper body exercises (ex. Pushup Claps). Anytime your body performs one of the exercises listed above, there is a jarring force on the joints, tendons, ligaments, muscles, and bones responsible for the movement.
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Too much Impact can result in injury and breakdown long-term. It can be beneficial for longevity, performance, and injury-reduction to simply lower Impact when it's not essential. In that regard, below are a few ways (there are many others) you can lower your Impact while still maintaining your physical fitness.
Ride a Bike:
Riding a bike is great for developing your Aerobic system and getting work in for your legs. While riding a bike doesn't Exactly mimic running, it's a great way to take stress off of the impact that occurs while running.
You'll find that a large percentage of runners also do some biking for recovery, cross training, and simply taking some of the load off their legs.
While most people will find that riding a bike outdoors is much more exciting than riding a stationary bike, not everyone has an outdoor bike. Stationary bikes provide you with the same opportunity (physiologically) as a normal bike does...just without the adventure.
If you can access a bike for the outdoors, great! However, an indoor bike (stationary bike) will also do the job.
The simple version is this: In water, gravity doesn't have the same affect on you as when you are out of the water. This means that you could perform exercises in water at a significantly lower impact than if you perform those same exercises on land. Now, If you are simply swimming (Doggy Paddling, Breast Stroke, Butterfly Stroke, etc. etc) and you aren't touching the ground at all, you're essentially working in an impact-free environment.
Anyone who has ever swam a few hundred meters knows that it isn't easy. It takes a lot of technique, and a lot of cardiovascular ability. It's a great way to work on your cardiovascular system, move through different ranges of motion than you might otherwise, and take a lot of impact off your body.
Before I talk about Ellipticals, I need to get something off my chest. I (personally) HATE Ellipticals. It's not because they are bad. It's not because they don't work. My brain just hates the idea of doing a running motion, but having the motion limited to a specific movement range. That being said, I do use Ellipticals occasionally so that I'm able to work (essentially) the same muscles groups as I would when running, but without the impact. I also do it because I hate it. I find it valuable to do things I hate sometimes; builds mental fortitude.
While I personally have a mental block with them, I've worked with dozens of clients who actually enjoy (and prefer) using the Elliptical. It does it's job well, and it does the job without any real Impact. Since this article is about lowering your Impact, it's my duty to recommend the Elliptical, no matter how my brain reacts to it. The further benefit of Ellipticals is that most every gym has them.
Hopefully, after just a few minutes of reading, you now know that it can be beneficial to "take a load off" and try varying your exercise routine to reduce Impact.