Are golf and running compatible? They are certainly not always complementary.
Running as a sport is very popular; you can put on your shoes and go anywhere. Physiologically, running is an effective form of cardiovascular (CV) exercise, not least for its calorie consumption which is greater than any other form of CV exercise. Other positive effects of running include the reported psychological benefits and stress relief from undertaking a sport where one can lose oneself in thought and gain feelings of well-being, associated with endorphin release.
However, are golf and running compatible? They are certainly not always complementary.
The downside of running for golfers is mainly related to the effect running has on mobility of the hip joints. A golf swing requires free hip movement and many runners become tight along the outside of the hips and pelvis, together with the hip flexors at the front of the hips, due to overuse. This causes a reduction of movements of the hip impacting on the mechanics of the golf swing by restricting turn and rotary movement. These restrictions can encourage sliding and swaying, together with overuse of the low back. For a serious golfer, the worst kind of running is a slow jog where the repetition of the same movement pattern over and over means the hips don’t need to move and a runner’s form becomes lazy.
If, as a golfer, you still choose to run here are some guidelines to enable you to do so without adversely affecting your golf swing:
- Mix up your runs: Make some runs short and fast; others hilly sessions (even if you are on a treadmill); or do a tempo session with a slower warm up and cool down and a faster middle section. Interval sessions also help you to keep good form as you run faster for a certain distance, then recovering before increasing the speed again. For example: run faster for 400m then run slowly for 200m or 2 minutes (depending on your level of fitness). Repeat this 4-6 times.
- Avoid doing long slow runs. Running faster for shorter periods encourages you to move your hips more.
- At the end of your run, for the last 100m or so, run backwards for a few paces, sideways and then with high knees or kicking back using these different strides to free up your hip mobility.
- Make sure you keep working on your core strength to be able to cope with the demands that running places on your body.
- Use a foam roller / spiky ball to loosen your hip flexors (front of the hips), ITBs (iliotibial bands which run from your knee to pelvis along the outside of your thigh) and your piriformis muscle in the outside of your buttock.
- Regularly stretch, especially the front of the hips and hip rotation using the stretches below as well as your normal pre / post running stretch regime.
Alternative forms of exercise that a golfer should consider in the gym are:
- Stepper / summit trainer – this works your gluts and core and still is a challenging cardio workout.
- Walking up hill on a treadmill.
- Elliptical / cross trainer.
These CV workouts allow your body to be more supported, helping to minimize the tightness associated with repetitive running from developing. This means a freer swing and easier rotation.