Monday, September 14, 2009

Your Injury IS Your Training ~Plato

I am changing the schedule... to no schedule. I got waaaaay ahead of myself: long runs, 30/30's, pace runs... What was I thinking?!

I love having a schedule. I love making a schedule. I love following a schedule. I have not had a schedule for years because of my hip/leg.

Six weeks ago my hip/leg was feeling a little bit better so I ran that 5k. Before that I had no schedule... running real easy, mostly on soft trails, not more than about seven miles at the longest, and maybe five days a week, for several months. I was also doing a resistance workout routine twice a week that I devised for myself. Having a good race and not hurting so much, well... I got carried away: "I can train for a marathon!"

I stopped doing the resistance workout I was doing, because I was now training, and started following the resistance exercises in Matt Fitzgerald's book Brain Training for Runners. There is nothing wrong with the exercises (they are designed for complementing your marathon training), but I now realize that I was not ready for those, and that I still need to do a lot of strengthening, until my pain is completely gone.

"You have to become a strong person before you can be a strong runner." That's from a book I just finished reading, a fascinating book called Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. It takes the reader through McDougall's journey to the Copper Canyons of Mexico, the Tarahumara tribe of "superathletes," and "the greatest race the world has never seen." Recommended reading for everyone, in my opinion, not just those of us who love to run. McDougall knows how to tell a story, with lots of historical, anthropological, running, and scientific info mixed in.

What both books talk a lot about is running form and how modern running shoes not only don't help us in running, but hurt us. Fitzgerald and McDougall both advocate getting as close to running barefoot as possible. We need to strengthen our feet, not support them with stability and motion control devices and tons of cushioning. You want your foot to have to work a little, so that the muscles get strong. Also, wearing shoes while running allows you to land on your heel, which you do naturally when you walk. But when you run barefoot, you naturally land midfoot (otherwise you hurt your heel). Landing midfoot helps keep your feet directly under your body, helps keep you from overstriding, reducing chances of injury.

For a running shoe, Matt recommends Nike's "Nike Free" model, which I tried but, as with most Nike models I've tried, found it way too narrow for my foot. What I did find was the Nike Zoom Moire. It fits my wide foot and is relatively support-free and thin-soled. Both authors recommend running in Vibram Fivefingers. These were originally made for water sports--sailing, kayaking, and such. With their thin rubber soles and glove-like fit, they are supposed to be the closest thing to being barefoot without actually being barefoot.

I first saw this Nike ad for their "Nike Free" posted on Facebook by a running friend; it's very clever, as Nike ads always are, and fun :

Matt also recommends techniques for working on your form, such as: falling forward--leaning forward from your ankles (not your waist or hips) when you run as if you were falling and catching yourself; navel to spine--pulling your navel in toward your spine as you run, which engages the deep abdominal muscles; counting your strides--the best runners do about 180 strides per minute.

Looking at it differently, then, I guess if I was not hurt, I would not be trying these other methods, and maybe, just maybe, my running will be better than it would have been.

So, I will run how I feel (wearing my Nike Moires), work on my form, do my resistance workouts three times a week, and get strong.

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