I have played sports and ran all of my life - plus some seriously heavy lifting. As I have gotten older I noticed that the extra muscle has stunted long-distance running. So I have limited myself to 2-3 miles twice a week.

Two big issues:

  1. Once I hit a certain threshold I start to develop hamstring tightness and lower back goes way out of whack. It usually lasts 3-7 days and is helped by stretching the legs and stuff. It is almost like clockwork that once I get under 12:30 for 2 miles or under 19 for 3... within 3-4 weeks boom back goes out. The problem here is I am not good at "jogging" and honestly the runs seem really easy until the next day.

  2. If I run on any hard surface or even a hard treadmill. Boom... could be once or 4-5 times... upper back goes out. These usually are more severe and last longer.

So my question is what can I do instead of running that gives me the workout (I still play basketball and have no issues running on court) that I was getting or how can I run without getting back issues 5-8 times a year?

  • I'm impressed that you can run 6:15 miles on 2-3 miles twice a week. What kind of shoes are you wearing, and how many miles on them? And what do you consider a "soft" surface? (I ask because independent studies have shown very little difference in deflection between surfaces, and almost negligible impact when in modern running shoes).
    – JohnP
    Sep 4, 2018 at 19:52
  • @JohnP - my legs are just fine running that time/distance... however the rest of my body has issues the day after or sometimes two days after (not bad for an old guy that used to squat 650). I wear usually a Nike running/training shoe. You make a really really good point because I have kept a log and the older the shoes the more frequent the back issues - but the speed is for sure a factor too. These issues got magnified when our treadmill broke and I started running at random gyms/tracks. Our treadmill was very very bouncy and had great shocks. 1-2 times on asphalt... back out.
    – DMoore
    Sep 4, 2018 at 20:00
  • Mmm...I would suspect that it is a combination of old shoes or shoes not built for your weight/gait (i.e. the drop, the cushioning, the control, etc), combined with intermittent training. I used to run X-country, but I'm so far out of running shape that I'm going through a couch to 5k program. Maybe try more consistent running of shorter distances and build it up? And definitely get a gait analysis if you can.
    – JohnP
    Sep 4, 2018 at 20:03
  • @JohnP - I am very consistent with 2 times a week times 2-3 miles. I might look into a different shoe but I have tried a lot of styles and I stick with Nike's only because of the elevated heel. I can run 10 miles on any given day - it isn't a cardio or being in shape issue for me it is more of the gait and the surface. (I should have added to the question I do the real stair stepper 2-3 times a week at a ridiculously high pace with no issues at all - 180 floors in 20 mins is normal pace for me)
    – DMoore
    Sep 4, 2018 at 20:09
  • Honestly, then, I'd pick something else for cardio. Cycling maybe. I'd suggest rowing, but that is more back intensive.
    – JohnP
    Sep 5, 2018 at 15:20

2 Answers 2


In my experience, and I’m by no means a pro runner, I have found a lot of these issues to be posture related. As we get tired, just like everything else, our form breaks down. We start to slouch. We bend at the waist. We supinate or pronate. The list goes on.

I always liken it to reaching failure in a weightlifting set. This is why runners are always injured. They keep running when they’re tired and let bad form dominate some of their movement patterns.

Notice that you said you reach a threshold in which issues start to arise. That really is a perfect analogue to, say, a butt wink in a squat that doesn’t cause problems until you throw 600 lbs. on the bar.

I don’t like the word core either. I would rather defer to a more generic description of “tiny little stabilizer muscles that don’t often get a lot of work.” Lower back issues means you’re probably bending at the waist, or hunching over. Upper back issues, and you’re probably not running shoulders back with your spinal column in alignment.

Furthermore, you have to be a big guy. For someone who squatted that kind of weight, I imagine you don’t look like the typical marathon runner. That’s a lot of extra weight to carry with you and although you may feel fine cardio wise, it’s probably just the body not able to sufficiently “power” all of the very large muscle groups you have when you are brushing up against that threshold. That’s causing a slouch, a lean, a bend, or whatever....

Personally, I think swimming is the best complimentary exercise to running. The overwhelming majority of my running issues resolved after I started to swim. I had better posture, more endurance, better lung functioning. Plus, when I did twist an ankle or suffer an injury, the zero impact of the pool always gave me a valid exercise option.

Just be careful. This is how you get sucked into the world of triathlon. You start running. Find that swimming is an awesome alternative. Then you think, “Hey, I already do two sports of the three, I might as well go for it.” Ask me how I know. :-)

  • You raise some really good points. I never thought of running as something on the same level as squatting. I always felt that either you can run a speed or you can't. I think that the thing that bothers me is when I am running my better times it seems effortless until 1-2 days later... and it isn't muscle soreness then it is tightness and maybe back problems. As far as swimming I agree it is a great workout... but I wanted something to help with basketball. Triathalon - tried that before and I am 195 at almost zero fat (205ish normally) so no worries me going back there :)
    – DMoore
    Sep 17, 2018 at 22:44
  • And to further the mentality I am used to... is when I squat 600 and hurt myself... well you know right away. Why this is hard to control.
    – DMoore
    Sep 17, 2018 at 22:45

According to many physiotherapists this would indicate that you may have weak core muscles (more specifically weak abdomen) and your body is trying to stabilize your spine by tightening up your hamstrings and lower back.

You however is extremely strong and some like Mark Rippetoe argue that this means you have a strong core: "Do you not see that an athlete with a 200 lb press, a 300 lb clean, a 400 lb squat, and a 500 lb deadlift has a stronger “core” than your runner who can just manage to do a Standing Reverse Wood-chop with a 2 kg medicine ball?"

In this interesting article: Core Confusion The Truth About Squats & Deads the author states that squats and deads gives you a very strong lower back but don't do much for your abdomen.

So it may be that one can be a very strong powerlifter but still have a relatively weak core (abdomen in particular).

I therfore think it could be worth a try doing some core exercise:

and asessing your level of core strength.

This is of particular interest to me since I've been following the Starting Strength program for 3 months and when I tried the core exercises in "the Best core ..." link above I was still on beginner level. I have therefore started adding a bit of abdomen exercises each week.

  • 1
    Sorry but this couldn't be further from the truth. I boxed for years and even with some extra fat still a 6 pack on a bad day - core is strongest part of my body for sure. Strengthening the core is actually what keeps the back from falling out of place quicker. But I would literally be the worst example of this being this particular issue.
    – DMoore
    Sep 17, 2018 at 22:39

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