Eighty percent of runners are sidelined with pain or injury each year – eighty percent! In an attempt to explain this phenomenal statistic, some have concluded that humans simply are not designed for running, that there is a fundamental flaw in the human design, or that only the exceptional escape injury. Others don assistive devices such as motion control shoes or orthotics, or do compensatory exercises in an effort to hang in there ‘til the next run, race or goal.
While it is true that there must be a fundamental, systemic flaw when 80% of people become injured doing something as natural as running, the underlying problem is not poor design or a lack of corrective or assistive devices, but a misunderstanding of our bodies’ natural mechanics.
At its most basic level, our modern struggle with running originated in the 1920s, when, as a culture, we collectively modified the way we sit, stand and move. New on the scene were the “flappers”, the cultural icons of the day, with their forward hips, rounded back and slumped shoulders. As our cultural models changed, we subconsciously altered our basic mechanics as we imitated and emulated their images.
Picture James Dean, Vinnie Barbarino, or the kid who sat in front of you in 9th grade science class, and compare their postures to those of immigrants in the early twentieth century. While people from both eras share the same musculoskeletal systems, they demonstrate completely different ways of sitting, standing and moving.
How does all of this relate to running? The fundamental shift in posture has resulted in a musculoskeletal system that is out of balance and is paying a price for it. When the human body is out of balance, muscles respond accordingly. For example, in a body in which the spine is chronically curved forward in an imbalanced manner, the muscles on the wide part of the curve become overstretched, inelastic and not fully functional while the muscles on the inside of the curve become shortened, tight and inelastic. Neither muscle group is healthy and fully available for use in natural, optimal movement.
Conversely, when the spine is stacked as designed, in a balanced orientation, the muscles relax and are readily available for recruitment when called upon for movement. When our musculoskeletal system is arranged in a balanced manner, our entire body functions effectively – joints move more efficiently and enjoy their full range of movement, bones track properly in proper alignment with each other, and the wear-and-tear that we attribute to aging is drastically reduced. We can sit, stand, move and even run with ease.
So, what’s a runner to do? Begin by learning how your body works and how to balance your posture. Then take steps to rebuild your posture until you move naturally as you did as a child. Understand that what we do when we are not running has an impact on how we feel and how we function when we run. Finally, apply these concepts to your running form.
Balanced form is vitally important to successful running. Put simply, if we continue to run with an imbalanced running form, pain and injury is the likely result. We are a culture that tends to focus on speed and distance, but when we begin with the solid foundation of a balanced form, we can run with ease throughout our lives.
Copyright © 2014-2016 Mary A. Williams, Corporate Health Alliance/BACKCoach/Long May U Run. All rights reserved.