I won’t keep you in suspense, here it is:
Instead of getting caught up in the latest fads, always make sure each workout is contributing to your long term goals.
I was in the airport yesterday and starring at the news stand. Every single issue has some variation of “the 5 workouts you must do this month” plastered across the cover. There are lots of great workouts out there, but only you can identify who you want to be.
Its pretty easy to work backwards. Define your goal, and ensure that each day’s heart beats, muscle contractions, nutrition intake, and rest schedules are target focused on that goal. Because we both want the same thing: for you to be able to cross your next challenge off your list.
Today in PT is a magazine for the physical therapy profession. They wrote:
Americans are increasingly on the run, with Running USA’s 2012 State of the Sport report counting nearly 39 million runners. Runners spend nearly $2.5 billion annually on footwear, according to the report. But, unfortunately, new shoes don’t come with accurate information and proper training to safely and successfully pursue the activity. For that, Today in PT turned to Jay Dicharry, PT, MPT, SCS, author of “Anatomy for Runners: Unlocking Your Athletic Potential for Health, Speed, and Injury Prevention.” click here for the rest
They threw out 10 questions, and i threw out 10 answers. Check out the link if you’d like to see some of the reasons why i do what I do, a few lines on the book, and why i got into this aspect of athletic injury care in the first place.
Multisport athletes have a lot of challenges in their training, but the training demands of 3 sports seem to creep up on all of us. Athletes spend so much time trying to fit in their volume that the body often gets ignored.
Well, this all ends now. Join me at the University of Michigan April 20-21st where we discuss “Putting the Athlete in Triathlete: a clinician’s role in endurance sports.” During this 13 hrs course, we’ll lay the ground work and discuss how endurance training impacts the tissues of the body, and then move on to detailed descriptions of the mechanics of each sport. You’ll learn how to correlate your musculoskeletal evaluation of the body with a runner’s swim, bike, and running performance. We’ll discuss why swimmers aren’t your typical overhead athletes, you’ll learn how to do bike fits (how to fit the bike to the rider, and more importantly how to fit the rider to the bike) with hands on practice, learn how to identify common gait patterns and cue them out of problems that overload the body, and understand the role of complimentary training and strengthening. At the end of the weekend, you’ll understand how to help your athletes make training easier on their body, and improve their efficiency.
What happens when you get 220+ clinicians in the room and talk about running? It was a beautiful day. About 55 degrees and sunny. The remnants of the 10+ in snowstorm on the ground helped dampen the air and made the sun feel even stronger. It’s a beautiful day for a run….but instead,about 220 clinicians sat inside, on their glutes, so they can learn to help you use your glutes better.
The 10th anniversary of the longest running, running specific medical conference produced a host of content to help “us” help “you.” Do you ever wonder why running is as challenging as it is? How your running would change if you had no gravity to fight, arms to swing, or perhaps even legs to stand on? Dr Rodger Kram led us in 2 enlightening presentations on the energetics of gait. Talks like this completely shift how you think about running.
Dr. Eric Carson reviewed the current and future trends on cartilage repair. Take home: right now, cutting edge surgeons are able to offer some pretty incredible proceedures, and they’ll be even more magic to come in the future.
Brian Hoke, PT helped us think critically through our video gait analysis. Anyone can watch a video in slow motion, but learning what to look for is critical.
Your’s truly helped clinicians through their musculoskeletal exams as they relate to a runner’s needs. No one can tlak about “correct running form” unless you understand that each runner is an individual with unique needs and attributes. If you understand how a person’s body wants to work, you can understand how to help that person run. For those of you who read the screen’s in Anatomy for Runners, that 8-point exam just got a whole lot more thorough: 32-points to be exact.
Dr Sibohn Stattua reviewed the literature on the female athlete triad. Turns out that there is more to it than just low energy intake, menstrual irregularity, and poor bone remodeling…..the triad is turning into a square? That’s right, there is a 4th “leg” to the triad, and this one might be even more severe of a long term complication from this complex disorder.
Eric Magrum, PT discussed the current research on the #1 injury affecting runners: anterior knee pain. He told us why runners with chronic pain in the knee try to avoid their pain. The problem is that the compensations we adopt to avoid pain in the knee are just as much of a problem as the original cause itself.
Kyle Kiesel, PhD, PT helped us through an eval process to identify core imbalances that affect far more than just the core.
And finally, Dr Bob Wilder guided us through the process of guiding you back to your running in explaining the best return to run programs after an injury.
And that doesn’t even mention the incredible lab session on Saturday by Brian Hoke, Kyle Kiesel, Dr Mark Cuccuzzella, myself, and the amazing cookies that I ate at the afternoon break. Egos were dropped at the door, and we all got down to the same level to help runners do what they love: run.
As always, the conference returns next year……
Foot strike: your cross country coach from 1972 told you to always roll through from heel to toe. the barefoot zealots tell us we should always land on the forefoot. And several other schools of though tell us something else: to land on our midfoot.
Measuring all this stuff in the biomechanics lab has taught me a lot. Foot strike is but one of many variables that are worth looking at, but not the only one worth looking at. Additionally, people often strike different than they think they do. Lastly, Pete Larson found that there isn’t much of a difference in foot strike patterns and running times.
Foot strike is more of an effect of many things related to your form, rather than the overiding factor that governs your form. And if you’d like to see more, check out what Pete Larson and I said to Competitor Magazine.
Today, you have to drive through town town to get some groceries, and then to the mall. Its a slow drive on neighborhood streets to the freeway. Your SUV is comfortable, affords a good view of the road, and has lots of room for the stuff you are going to buy. Given the fact that SUV’s account for huge number of sales in the US, the public agrees this is a logical choice.
OK – its the weekend. You are going to flee the city and head up to the cabin. Its a really twisty backcountry mountain road. Turn after turn, its hard to even maintain the posted speed limit. Do you select the SUV that ensures you need to slow down due to body roll, or do you take the sports car? The sports car is lighter, lower, and has a firmer suspension. It was designed for these very conditions. While a stiffer suspension may be less comfortable driving through the burbs, the improved “road feel” you get with the sports car helps you drive better at speed through more challenging roads.
Time to go shoe shopping! You ask the salesman to pull two pairs of shoes for you. The first feels like a cloud at first step. It feels like you could stand around in them for hours. Your quick run test on the sidewalk in front the shop confirms that same cushy marshmallow feel during your run. Going back inside, you slip on shoe #2. It feels comfortable, but is much firmer. It didn’t grab you at first step as you walked around the store, but when you repeated your short demo run outside, it felt pretty much like the shoe wasn’t even there. The firmer feel felt a bit more responsive.
What running shoe should you buy?
Well, the marketing research is clear. People buy shoes b/c of 1) color, and 2) “first feel”. First feel is that first step you take. You know that sense of walking on a cloud…..the same feeling that made you think you could stand around in them for hours? Well, that doesn’t have anything to do with running shoe selection. Running is not standing. When you stand, you have half your body weight split between each foot. The total load on each each leg is about half your body weight. When you walk, sometimes you have two feet on the ground, and sometimes you have one foot down on the ground. So at the most, you’d have your full body weight on one leg, and at the least, it would be split between both legs. And when you are walking, your feet are on the ground for a long time. If you need to “micro-correct” your muscles to stabilize your body, you’ve got time to do so.
Running isn’t standing. And its not walking. During running, your foot is only on the ground for a very short time: The average runner moving at 7.2 mph is on the ground for only .17 seconds. Decisions on stability need to happen very very quickly, faster than you can actually think about them. And when running, there is no double leg contact. You are either sailing through the air, or in contact with a single leg. That single leg must not only support your full body weight, but about 2.5x’s your body weight.
So what “car” do you pick? Well, lets look at hundreds of research articles on foot and ankle balance. Almost every single article says that you have a harder time balancing and stabilizing when on a cushioned surface. On marshmallow-cushy surfaces, the muscles that control your foot and ankle kick on too late and not enough to keep things under control. So if you are going to rally around a twisty mountain mountain road, the stiffer suspension on the Mini Cooper gives you better traction and feel. When running, a firmer feeling shoe provides a stiffer surface for the muscles in your foot and ankle to support your body. Said very simply: the foot works better when on a firmer surface.
So do yourself a favor. Go to the store. Try on your shoes. Obviously you’ll stand, and then walk outside or over to the treadmill. But resist the urge to make an impression on the shoe until you are actually running. Of course you should buy a pair that feels comfortable! But most of us are in shoes too soft and squishy to be running fast. Pick the right car for your drive, and the right shoe for your run. Running comfort, not walking comfort, should be key.
It’s pretty tough for a lot of runners to make sense of all the changes in footwear these days. One key message is that shoes don’t run on their own. You are profoundly more important than the shoes on your feet. This being said, footwear construction can and does make a difference. And when we talk about kids shoes, it affects not only how they walk and run, but more importantly, how they develop.
Want to learn a bit more? Check out the “Shoes for Small Fry” article I wrote for Running Times. As a parent, we all try to give our kids an advantage. I’m well aware that there are a lot of things coming up in my kids life that I can’t control. But giving my kids the gift of strong feet is one I can control. Those little feet just might be passing you up on the race course sooner than you think!
The media at large has done a dis-service to you, the consumer. They love polarizing images. They love the battle between overly built-up clodd-hopper motion control shoes vs. naked feet. They try to instantly declare one “better” than the other. The reality is that the barefooot buzz has been incredible for ALL athletes. No matter which side of this polarizing topic you stand on, it has directed attention on form. And that’s one of the main things really.
Let’s clear out the sewer lines folks. Barefoot is very DIFFERENT from running in shoes. Sure a good number of folks switch their contact style from rearfoot to forefoot when going barefoot, but a lot DON’T. And while the media loves to harp on this one single factor, its like saying only one tree in the entire forrest is important. And that’s just not true.
Its not so much forefooot vs rearfoot here, its more about where the foot is in relation to the body that counts. Striding too far in front of the body results in bad things. Your feet were meant to be beneath you – not flying out in front. Imagine running over ice. Anyone feel safe over-striding on ice? Didn’t think so……But its not just “runners” who are beginning to take notice. Other “running athletes” are asking question too.
Recently, I had a conversation with basketball journalist Steve McPherson. He was asking me about the apparent rise of injuries in basketball, and wanted to know if anything from all this barefoot hoopla translates over to the hoop. Steve did an excellent job with this piece, “What can the NBA learn from barefoot running?” I recommend you take a look, whether you run with barefeet, wrapped feet, or a ball.
Here at UVA, I teach a course called Neuro-muscular Basis of Human Movement, and today we are speaking of all things running mechanics. One of my students made an analogy that actually tells us a lot about running. Well, the analogy doesn’t really tell us that much, but a host of really angry and pissed off birds will….. Yes–> those angry birds!
Angry Birds is a simple game ( if it’s so simple, why has our country’s gross national product dropped since its launch????) that forces us to abide by the laws physics. Your goal, of course, is to knock out those smirky smiling pigs at various locations. You learn very quickly that aiming too high blasts your bird up to the clouds, at the expense of sacrificing distance. Aiming too low also compromises distance. Aiming just right produces the greatest distance covered with a pull of the slingshot….. The fancy name for this would be the optimum trajectory
While you don’t have to land on a pig when running, you do try to cover a given amount of distance per stride. In fact, the definition of running economy would be to cover a given distance with as little energy as possible. Too much up and down motion while running wastes a lot of energy. Actually about 80% of the energy required to run comes from raising and lowering the body against gravity. So “aiming too high”- too much vertical rise an fall- is not a smart move.
A lot of people get this. The problem is that they take it to the opposite extreme. They tell us that we need to minimize the rise and fall of our body. Does this play out? Go play angry birds again, and aim your bird dead flat. Pull back all the way and watch your bird take flight….. It won’t go very far. Limiting the up and down motion of the body when running not only ensures you won’t go far with each stride, it also costs a lot of energy! Go for a run and try to keep your head as still as possible- you won’t be able to do this for long- its tough!
So what is best? If you try to get maximum distance per fire on angry birds, you’ll find that about 45 degrees gives you the greatest distance. So does this mean that you should aim for this when running? Well, not exactly. The body isn’t a bird, a cannon ball, or any other type of projectile. It’s an actively controlled spring that actually stores and releases elastic energy to help you move forward. Some amount of vertical rise and fall is actually beneficial to “load the slingshot” and store and release this elastic energy. Exactly how much depends on your body weight, your leg length, and your pace, and your contact time. A sort of nice number is around 4-6 cm of vertical rise and fall of the body typically produces optimal results. In labs like ours at UVA, we study this kind of stuff to tweak your economy.
The take home message is that some rise and fall is necessary, even advantageous, when running.* So when someone tells you that a runner is efficient because their head stays perfectly still when running, maybe you should hand them your smartphone and tell them to play a little game.
* note- excessive rise and fall of your phone, as in when you throw it against the wall after not beating a level for the 37th time, isn’t recommended.