Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Three Running Myths Busted

I love running.

I was never an athletic person - whenever there was a race, I was the last, play any competitive physical sport with me and I assure you I would have made you triumphant. As a kid I never cared much about sports and hated PT classes. However I discovered running the last couple of years and it was just what the Doctor ordered. I set my own pace, listen to a podcast and I am content and happy.

I touched 10km a few months back and I celebrated. Then I pushed to 12km and a nagging pain started - "shin splints". Read all about it and in the process came to know the names of other minor pains I was having. So I tweeted


 venkat kandaswamy 

dear runner friends - did any of you have shin splints.. I am touching 12 km and having this pain.. any help/pointers appreciated


got a few replies


 knowsnotmuch 

@ 
 yeah it does creep slowly. Back off a bit, increase gradually when you get back and examine how you land on your feet when you run


 knowsnotmuch 

@ 
 got it when i touched 6-7km because I pushed too quickly. It put me out of action and it took me ages to recover. Ease up a little.


 khushnood 

@ 
 have you read 'born to run' by Chris Mcdougall ? It could help.

A book suggestion - wow! - immediately I grabbed Born to Run and started crunching it.

The author who writes in a sports journal is also a runner and is always in pain because of his runs. He meets various podiatrists, physiotherapists and the answer is always the same - slow down on running, human body is not supposed to take so much of shock while running. 

Then on a trip to Mexico he reads an article about a runner tribe - Tarahumara - who run for days in one of their parties (tesguinado) and the winners usually are the veterans at the age of 60s, they just wear a handmade sandal and run on hostile terrain. They contradict everything we have come to know of running.

This leads him to Kabayo Blanco, an american who has is now living with the Tarahumarians and follow their simple life style. They arrange for a run where the best of ultra runners in America ( an ultra is > than a marathon - 160 KMs and even more, while a marathon is only 42Kms ) - come to the Copper Canyons and they run with the Tarahumara.

While the story progresses Chris Mcdougall keeps uncovering interesting facts about running.

Myth 1 : You need sophisticated shoes.


I love conspiracies and this one is about a $20 Billion industry started by Nike. Prior to 1970s - there were no shin splints, plantar fascilitis, over pronation, plica syndrome or the running ailments that are so common today. Then Nike was born and it made a good shoe ( Nike Pegasus ) - which had a thin sole and was great for running. Then the Capitalist greed kicked in and Nike started retiring their successful models every 10 months.

Nike gave more and more support and cushion to the feet - and the feet forgot how to run how the way the human body was supposed to run. All the nerves in our human body that starts in the brain - ends in the feet ( Some 70,000 or so ). Whenever the feet touches the ground it is taking a snapshot of the temperature, the hardness of the surface etc. - and this feedback is used to plan the next step.

a) When the feet is put in a nice comfortable soft shoe - the brain thinks that it has to put more force on the next step for stability as it feels its on soft ground and has to plant the leg firmly.

b) Also the way the shoe is designed ( thicker heel ) - the body lands on the heel - and the shock wave gets multiplied. Our foot is designed to land on the toes to dissipate the shock.

so a) makes your foot to land harder and b) makes you land the whole body on the wrong place - a) x b) has a multiplicative effect on the "wrong" way of running - and it leads to pain.





This brings us to the "barefoot movement" - people are kicking their shoes off and running barefoot - as the best shoe is "nothing".

This was an ahaa moment for me - it made complete sense. My running shoe ( which I got free for a Reebok sandals that I got 5 years back ) has a thin sole but still has a nice cushion at the heel. I started noticing that I was landing on my heel. I contemplated running bare foot - but before that I want to get the cheapest Bata canvas shoe and give it a shot. The road has got lots of dirt and sharp objects - do not want to take chances.

This book just saved me a few thousands of rupees. One of the things I was going to do was get a more fancy, cushiony Nike or Reebok shoe - thinking it will ease my pain. Myth busted.

Myth 2 : Woman cannot run.


This one is for the Wife who I am encouraging her to run with me. There are stories of 2 lady ultra marathoners - one a school teacher who has won so many ultra marathons and one a young upcoming ultra marathoner - both have no special training - but they beat the best American runners and even beat the Tarahumara tribe's best runners. As the distance increases - women seem to beat men - as their endurance levels are much higher.

Men are wimps when it comes to pain. I keep crying all the time that my feet hurt, my shin hurts.

However a woman can experience an incredible amount of pain during child birth and can laugh about it later.

Also the human body was designed to run - as the title of this book "Born to run". We are not supposed to walk or pump irons or pull fancy weights in gym - but run. This is the best way to exercise and can ward off diabetes, hypertension, back pain and whole lot of ailments brought to us thanks to the progressive and lazy lifestyle. The whole body reacts beautifully to running - I am no longer a coffee addict - I drink coffee when I am bored - thats all.

So ladies rethink again if you have any doubts on running - the "Men" have spread lot of mis information and taken away your right to run. Second Myth - Woman cannot run - is also busted.

Myth 3 : You need to be a carnivore if you have to run.


Another eye-opener. The best ultra marathoner ever - Scott Jurek - who has won 7 titles in his career and has won in all hostile environments - turned a vegetarian. The tarahumara are vegetarians. There are these monks in Japan who run 70 miles every day for 7 years.. ( as they reach Nirvana daily by running ) - eat just Tofu and veggies.

Animal protein is bad for the human body. It brings cancer and also gets stored as fat. Like all the studies - we were not supposed to process animal flesh. It is bad for running. There are issues with water retention and fat build up. Also when you are a vegan - your body is more supple, leaner and can run better, faster and longer - I am sold.

Other than the humanitarian and ecological aspects of turning Vegan - the running angle appeals to me a lot. Already I am cutting down on my carnivorishness - and I am now following the Veggie on auspicious days strictly ( Monday,Thursday,Friday,Saturday) - and planning to expand it to all 7 days so I can joke like my good friend Sathya [ he is a Vegetarian and will joke - oh I do not eat meat today - because its  ____day ]

Myth 3 busted - you need to be a carnivore to run.

So thats all folks - all the pre conceived notions I have about running are all over turned. Thank you Christopher McDougall, Barefoot Ted, Scott Jurek, Kabayo Blanco ( search these names on You Tube and you can see videos, TED Talks, interviews ) and Harruki Murrakami. You guys have changed me for the better.





4 comments:

  1. Lots of people are living with pre conceived notions about Good running shoes, as mentioned in the blog it is just a myth.

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  2. Sorry first time I am visiting your blog. Do you run everyday? Without shoes? How long? Can I join you too?

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  3. Hi Avineni - My runs do not have any schedule because I let 3,4 days inbetween a run to rest my shins.. I am just starting on barefoot - or rather going to purchase a Bata canvas shoe and start running.. if pain continues I will try barefoot..

    btw - i run around Chinnapannahalli lake.. if you are near this area we can meet up sometime

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  4. Thanks for sharing this Venkat. It was an eye opener.

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