Running for Judo athletes.

me myself and I on the road

Photo By ADrop on Flickr

“To me, the best exercise for this is running”
Bruce Lee

As a Judo athlete you will run, I have yet to meet a competitive Judo athlete who has not spent some time running. As an exercise, running is pretty well recognized as valuable tool for developing aerobic and anaerobic fitness as well as other fitness elements such as leg strength.

As a Judo athlete, you will need a mix of endurance, speed and power. Judo is not a sprint nor is it a marathon. Running is very versatile and can provide specific benefits to match most stages in your Judo specific fitness programme.

For example distance runs at low intensity but longer durations will help you develop your aerobic capacity and endurance. Sprint sessions will help develop speed, hill runs will work those quadriceps and develop strength, and will help your mental toughness! More sophisticated methods like interval training and Fartlek training will allow you develop more specifically.

Getting started…

Before launching into running you need to consider several things, some of which are listed here.

1.Injury status.
Running involves a large amount and number of impacts, your entire body weight will bear down through your spine, hips, knees, ankles and feet. Each step you take will apply serious forces on your body. Injuries are very common in running and you need to consider your current state and your likelihood to become injured running.
If you know you have a “trick knee” or a “bad ankle”, then you need to consider this and decide if running is going to provide enough benefits to balance the risk of injury.
2.Decide your objectives
Do not run simple because it sounds like a good idea. Running must be part of your larger training programme. And the type of running you do must be with specific goals in mind. I would suggest starting during your endurance phase, during your “base training”. Take slow runs that are low in intensity but grow in duration. This will help your aerobic capacity and endurance, be aware however if you are just starting that you need to start small and fitness benefits will take some months to start occurring potentially.

3.Buy good shoes from a specialist store.
This relates to point one, injuries are common in running and running in the incorrect footwear can contribute to this. Proper running shoes will help protect you from injury and make your running progression easier.
Don’t go to your local sportswear store to buy your running shoes. Go to a specialist running shoe shop. Take your existing running shoes with you if you have some and allocate about an hour to buying your new shoes. A good store will look at your legs, feet and shoes perhaps even get you on a treadmill and use fancy equipment to assess your gait and other factors.
They will then choose shoes that are designed to match your feet and running. If you over or under pronate you will need shoes that address that. If you have high/low arches, wide/narrow feet etc, this all affects the shoes you need.
Be prepared to spend £100 (GBP) or there about, trust me you’ll appreciate it once you start putting the miles in!
4. Start small and slow, start with a walk.
Even if you consider yourself fit, or are in fact fit, start slow and easy. My recommendation is to follow a “couch to 5km” programme (C25K programme). The reason being that by taking it very careful will help ensure that your body adjusts to the new stresses being placed upon it without breaking. Running is very different to Judo and you will feel the urge to run further and harder than you should, as you are already fitter than a “couch potato”.
However, you are not fit yet for running and your Judo fitness can allow you to run longer and harder than your body can take and lead to injuries, which will affect your training. So, be patient and accept that the first nine weeks will be maddeningly easy. Perhaps you can fit this 9 weeks into a easy phase in your training programme and use it as relaxation more than fitness training?
5.Obey the 5%-10% rule
A common rule in running is the 5%-10% rule. Which means that you should never increase any aspect of your running by more than 5%-10% per week. In other words, you need to balance your duration against intensity and time. If you ran 1 mile this week, then don’t run 2 miles next week. It also matters between runs, increase your running gradually and you shall hopefully avoid injuries.
Using a good training programme and diary will help you here, plan out the distances and speeds you want to run in advance as part of your larger training plans and ensure that you increase no more than 5%-10%
6.Recovery is important!
All that slamming your feet into the ground is hard on your body, running is also very draining on your energy systems. As such, you need to ensure you are planning adequate recovery time between runs and also between runs and Judo.
There is little point running to increase your fitness for Judo if you leave too little time between a run and the next Judo session and show up tired or sore.
You will need to learn what your body needs in terms of recovery times, typically it might be two days from a long run before you are fully recovered. So there is little point in doing a long Judo session in this time. It might be a good time for some skill work or perhaps even some strength work, in short bursts. Perhaps it is the time to hit the gym and do your chest and arms strength workout?
Equally, the morning after a hard Randori evening is probably not the time for hill sprints. A nice gentle jog might be good though, it will help your fitness and perhaps your relaxation whilst allowing your body to recover from the randori session.

Probably the most important advice I would give is to start small and progress slowly, even if you feel you can do more. Listen to your body and always be willing to take it easier if you feel too tired and always stop if there is pain involved! ALWAYS!

You could do worse than attending a running club and getting some coaching on technique or having a proper running programme designed. This should be done in collaboration with your Judo coaches, to ensure you are not over training or developing in the wrong ways to match your Judo and your Judo training plan.

As always, please do contact me with any questions you might have.


P.s. A good Judo friend of mine (and friends) are running a half marathon to raise money for a VERY worthwhile charity, please consider donating to the cause via the follwoing websites: and

References/Further Reading:,,,,

Comments (3)

LexMarch 27th, 2009 at 2:13 pm

I agree with all the reasons you describe why running is great for judo. The one that wasn’t always obvious for me was the relaxation element (you mention it as something that’s okay to do the day after a hard randori session). The long slow runs (especially outside where you can be more alone) are invaluable. I visualize the matches I lost and make myself more hungry for training in the dojo. I think about how hard I’ll work the next week to eventually have a chance to give those folks more of a challenge with better judo and better conditioning.

After all, living in Philadelphia, most of my longer runs involve passing the Rocky statue and the stairs he ran up on!

LanceMarch 27th, 2009 at 2:31 pm

One day I am going to run up those stairs and to the statue!

It took me a long while, but eventually I reached a point where a long slow run was recreational and relaxing for me. When I was younger (and competed) I used to use running as mental prep too, positive self-talk etc along with visualisation.

I think sometimes that Judo clubs should have a running night, where players meet and go for a run together. I founded a running club in my village and it made a big difference to my motivation to go out.

LexMarch 28th, 2009 at 7:23 pm

Which gives me an idea!

I’m going to try to convince some of our club members to run the Broad Street Run with me (which is a popular 10 mile race here in Philadelphia). Another way to bond as a team through turmoil 😉 A half-marathon might be a good thing to do also.

PS: Is there a way to register on your blog so I can get notifications about new comments. I’m subscribed to the RSS but that only gives notification of new posts. Sometimes the comments are very interesting to read.

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