GBG Magazine March

GBG Magazine March

Run like a child and save your knees


It's common knowledge amongst runners that 65% of all runners will get injured in any given year with at least half of them out for a minimum of a fortnight!  So this month we're going to have a look at moving away from the majority of runners who get injured to the minority of who do not.


It is the joints and connective tissue that generally takes the brunt of an inefficient running style.  Muscle can be replaced in the gym, power can be worked on with training sessions but worn out cartridge can't be replaced ... least ways not yet!  When we lose the materials that coat, cushion and separate bone from bone osteoarthritis results ... and the running days are over.


Happily there is a simple solution to this problem!  We need to go back to running the way we did as children.  Back to a softer, more gentle and more natural way to run.  And if that is not enough on its own research tells us that such a change in running style can reduce damage by as much as 50%.


"Running like a child" is as much a compliment to a runner as "golfing like a woman" is to a golfer.  Women don't take their egos with them onto the golf course unlike many of their male counterparts.  Women swing the golf club naturally and easily letting the club do the work.  They don't try to take the jacket off the golf ball when hitting it!  In similar vein when children run they let their style come naturally with resultant efficiency, inhibition and grace.


Continuing on with the golfing connection we would not think past a golf lesson if wanting to improve in that sport, or getting lessons to improve our tennis or getting coaching in any team sport.  Yet with our running most folk believe that  it is individual to the runner, not to be messed or tampered with.  They will cite the fact that Google doesn't come up with the definitive answer when asked to search for "good" or "proper" running form to support their case. 


It is an argument I suppose, but a weak one.  In Christopher McDougall's excellent book "Born to Run" the author puts forward a good argument to support his view that man is the best and most efficient long distance running animal on the planet.  McDougall's argues that we had to be runners to survive.  But running, not for survival but to keep fit as we do today, is a fairly recent phenomenon only coming to prominence in the mid 70s.  Before that time ... very little!  Now?  The fact that runners of all ages regularly run 20 or 30 miles per week isn't seen as strange or peculiar.  Though the human body might have been designed to run, it wasn't designed to run modern mileages at a fast pace on Tarmac!


How do children learn to walk?  Initially they hold on to something for support and lean until gravity takes over and they fall down.  Once they find their "tipping point" they will lean, let go of the support and take tiny steps, their foot fall falling under their body  mass.  To stop moving they take off the lean and return to the vertical ... try it sometime.  It really does work.


And the running form that a child has is based on extending the principals learnt when starting to walk.  Nice soft knees acting as shock absorbers; short strides with foot falling under the body mass giving a mid foot strike; a quick strike rate running at something around 180 paces per minute; the heel floats up behind; the arms like pendulums with elbows at 90 degrees.  Graceful.  Natural.


"What" do I hear you ask "is wrong running with slow strike rate, long striding, foot landing in front of the body mass and heel striking?"  The answer, research tells us, is that we are substantially more likely to get injured and we are more likely to be a slower runner.  To see the potential damage caused by the "accelerate-brake-accelerate-brake" of the heel striker check it out on a slo-mo video!  Frightening!


So next time the tide is out head for Vazon and the beach.  Watch the way the children run.  Get the shoes off and try to mimic them.  Your running will be the better for it and your aging body will thank you!!