I have been running with relative consistency for the last 17+ years, a little over half of my trips around the sun, but it is fairly recently that I started asking myself this question: Do I ever practice how I run? To me, it is something routine and, dare I say, "natural" at this point in time but this question really struck me a few years ago after running a track workout and noticing all of the different "styles" of other recreational runners. Quite honestly, I am not sure how so many of them appeared to be running pain free with their unique versions. My answer back then was essentially 'no' but after so many years of running, I knew my typical style at the time and that I was symmetrical for the most part. Thankfully I had dealt with few injuries as well so I never really felt the need to analyze and practice my running technique and skill.
Now that I have had several years to ponder this question and work with many injured runners, I am fully convinced that running is a modern day skill requiring practice and is not as "natural" of a movement pattern as it used to be when humans were running in the savannas of Africa. We all grow up running (and are usually told to stop running in the house!) but add modern lifestyles to the equation and most of us stop running consistently so that motor pattern is not repeatedly reinforced. Take into account a plethora of other factors like strength, balance, everyday shoe choices, genetics, work requirements, mode of transportation, training schedules, etc. and performance of that motor pattern can, and most likely, will change over time. This is not unique to running. Take any skill, swimming, hitting a baseball, or shooting a basketball just to name a few, and I think we can all agree that the same holds true. Mindful repetition and practice of a skill dramatically improves the consistency and performance of that skill so why would it be any different for running? I highlight 'mindful' because repetition itself does not necessarily mean that someone is actively engaged in practicing a given skill. In the case of running, anyone can go run mile after mile without actually practicing.
This becomes a potential issue when you start talking about injuries. It is commonly reported that 80% of runners in a year will sustain an injury. My question now is how many of those injured runners actually practiced how they ran? I believe that the majority would say no. That being said, I cannot assume that that is the primary factor in each of those cases but I would have to argue that it is a significant factor for many runners. Running has become a modern day skill and should be treated as such. Introduce the idea of practicing it in a mindful manner and I believe that the percentage of injured runners would drop and performance would improve.
So if you ask me the same question today, my answer is most definitely yes! Mindful practice of how I run along with the rest of my training has corresponded to 2+ years of being injury free and a steady improvement in performance. Granted, I am only an experiment of one and correlation does not equal causation but I do not think it to be coincidence that practicing how I run and not simply running a lot has led to successful and injury free running! Now I pose the same question to you:
Knowledge = Power; Share The Power:
Dr. Greg Cecere
Your personal physical therapist, movement educator and knowledge dispenser.
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The contents of this blog is meant for educational purposes only. Momentum Physical Therapy of New Paltz and Dr. Greg Cecere are not responsible for any harm or injury that may occur due to any information on this blog as it is by no means a substitute for a thorough evaluation by a medical professional.