Never Run Again …

… unless, of course, you are strong enough!  You didn’t let me finish.

You will find that I have many pet-peeves in the fitness arena, and one of them is the people who think that the only prerequisite for running is to go and buy a pair of fancy, expensive shoes.  I may not be an “expert” when it comes to running, but I do know that you don’t run to get fit, you need to be fit to run!  Understand this, I am not trying to pick any fights, but I think of the many people that I see “running” on my way to work and how all I want to do is jump out of my car, tackle them, and say, ‘STOP!’  I don’t mean to contiue picking, yes – nevermind, I do mean it – but, c’mon, these people’s gait resembles someone that was shot in the leg, and oh, OH, the faces that I see!  Most people that I pass have a face that makes me think, ‘why are you even doing this?’  They look to be in extreme pain and not enjoying their “runners’ high.”

Okay.  Enough with the ranting because I could honestly go on for days!  I know people are good-willed, well-intentioned and I know that they are looking to get “in shape” by a cost-effective means.  I mean, think about it, no membership dues, no trainers’ fee … just them and the ground (of course, after they pay an outrageous amount of money for shoes that won’t last them 9 months, the latest and smallest music device, running apparel, and a water bottle that straps to your waist); I get that.  However, I think that many of our good-willed, naive running enthusiasts miss a BIG point: you need to be movement saavy and have a base of strength to run – basically, you should aim for Tarzan (or Jane) athleticism.

Does this mean forever?
Does this mean forever?

I am going to first address this from the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) point of view.  Our buddies over at FMS suggest that if you have a movement dysfunction, or asymmetry in your Active Straight Leg Raise (hip mobility), you should stop any running activities until you right the wrongs.  Whoa!  STOP RUNNING?  Are you nuts, what else am I suppose to do?  I can hear the hyperventilating and feel the anxiety now!  Now, when you see a cross-walk signal that says, ‘Don’t Walk,’ does that mean forever?  Of course not, the signal merely suggests you wait and then walk when it is safe to cross.  This is what the FMS offers, too … just wait until the sign says it’s safe to go back into your beloved exercise.  I know a big majority of people believe that just getting up and doing something is better than nothing – and those aches and pains?  Oh, they’ll just work themselves out.  What if I were to tell you that you are buying into a big lie?

Children.  That is my answer when I’ve been asked, ‘Are we suppose to run?’  If we were not meant to run, trust me, kids would not be running.  However, my two older children (6 1/2 & 4 years old) have proved to me, as many times as I have told them not to do it in the house, that kids run – and RUN A LOT!  My kids do not require any special kind of footwear to run, they don’t ask daddy to wrap up their knees before they play, and they are not throwing down the Ibuprofen, either.  Well, how can that be?  Are they some sort of super-human when they are young?  No, its just the fact that they have prepared for over 18 months to be coordinated and strong enough to move their legs fast enough that only one, or none, of their feet are in contact with the ground at one time.  Plus, they continue this form of training that has prepared them to run in the form of playing – they roll, scoot, climb, jump, throw, and everything in between.  Now, I am certain that my 9 month-old will prove to me that when she starts becoming a biped (a two-legged mover), her running skills are not going to occur until she has the motor control and strength to perform a whole series of alternating single-leg hops – which, in a nutshell, is what running is.  Mother nature is not forgiving, and will not allow her to run before she can walk – or even better – creep.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, our bodies compensate to make up for the lack of natural movement in our daily lives – and those compensations come along for the run, also.  If you are lacking proper mobility and motor control, your body is going to make up for it somewhere else – this is not a good thing long-term.  When compensating, every time your foot lands while running (way different than walking) that shock absorption occurring in your body gets spread throughout the body and parts are asked to do more … or even something that they are not designed to do at all … all this while the main workers are on break and doing nothing at all!  You have energy leaking issues.  Your body cannot keep up with these high compensation bills, just like you cannot keep up with high energy bills (or you do everything in your power to bring down the cost).

Let’s look at it this way: its a very cold winter in Wisconsin and a part of the duct work in your home has come apart.  Now the house still is warm in some areas, but the rooms you want warm are unable to maintain the desired temperature because the ducts cannot bring the heat through those vents.  What do you do?  First you locate the area that is costing you money, you move the ducts so that they are reconnected (mobility), and then you take out your handy duct tape and secure the newly found connection (stability/motor control).  That’s what I do with your body and the movement screen; I find the part of your body that is costing you  money and I do what is needed … duct tape and all!

As I stated earlier, mother nature does not forgive and let you skip steps on your way to becoming bipedal.  So, why would she change her mind and allow you to run poorly with all these compensations?  She doesn’t, man has tried to outsmart her by giving you the perfect running shoe; however, she will ultimately have the last laugh.  We have come up with these shoes that allow you to, for a lack of better word, run.  You are enabling your compensations without even knowing it because your feet are dead in your shoes and your thick soles are not allowing your feet to tell your brain what is happening at ground level.  So, you continue to run like you have been shot in the leg and keep pounding away at your physical well being, and for what?  To burn a few calories?  I’m going to tell you it’s not worth it at this stage.  You need to lose your soles (not souls) and get your fitness lying down to create some of that much needed strength necessary for proper running!

Let’s say you have done awesome on the FMS and it shows that your hip mobility is where it needs to be and no asymmetries, does that mean you are ready to run?  I think you know the answer to this question!  I’ve thought about all the exercises in my extensive fitness library, and I think I came up with a great exercise to provide the litmus test for running.  In general, if you can make this exercise happen over a distance of about 30 yards – without appearing to be putting in any effort – I would say you are good to go (of course there are always exceptions to the rule)!  A couple notes: 1. make sure you are utilizing a reciprocal movement pattern, meaning move with your right hand/left foot and left hand/right foot 2. keep the spine long … do not allow yourself to get all bunched up in the middle 3. keep the hips from swaying side-to-side … think about doing this movement in a very  narrow, tight tunnel.

Okay, so your pretty cool at that?  Why not throw a little lumber into the mix (didn’t I tell you I was raised by a lumberjack)?

Well now, I hope that you have figured out that I am not against running … its a very natural way to move, but we are approaching it in a very unnatural way.  Am I urging you to rip off your shoes and go barefoot?  No, not right now; I feel another blog coming up, though!  All I want is for us to find out if our movement patterns, especially hip mobility, need to be cleaned up before we lace ’em up and run.  After we are given the green light from the movement screen, I want us to appreciate being strong to run, not run to be strong.  I know for a fact that if you are in need of some tuning up, and go back to get the necessary fixes – you will feel like a kid running again!