Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Don't Run to Get Fit, Get Fit to Run

Now that it is March, many recreational runners have ramped up their running in preparation for the Mini Marathon in May. Some are even following specific training programs to prepare them for the 13.1 mile race. A good number are also finding that their feet and knees are feeling the affects of all of that pavement pounding.

Do I need new shoes? I often hear this question in response to their aches and pains. No. The shoes are not the issue at hand. In fact, your feet are not the issue at hand, they are just the symptom. The issue is that you are not handling the ground-reaction forces well. Whats that? Ground reaction forces are the forces that your feet experience as your foot hits the ground. These forces are responsible for pushing your body off the ground into your next stride. You obviously need these forces to move you along, but often your feet and legs can't handle the compounding stress of these forces. Depending on your running mechanics (I will discuss this shortly) and running speed, you can be putting up to three times of your body weight in force through these joints! This is like squatting with twice your body weight on your back! The feet bear the most weight of all your joints and are closest to the point of impact, so they are most likely to feel the pain.

The traditional training model is short-sighted. Typically, When someone starts training for a race, they start off with their first, short, some-what tiring run. They gauge their fitness based on how hard they were breathing and how tired they were. Generally, they progress the mileage over time. The problem is that most people have horrible running mechanics and their muscles and joints aren't strong enough to handle the ground-reaction forces. With the the progressively increasing volume (like all training programs recommend) the aches and pains will pop up. Often, you will have to take time off or cut back significantly on your running.

To be continued.

Next post will discuss common problems with running mechanics.

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