Thursday April 8, 2010

Prevention or Fix When Broken; The Dentist or Doctor Approach?http://barefoot-running.com/blog/?p=197

After visiting both the dentist and the doctor recently, I found how their approaches mimic how many people view their running.  Do you (or your running store) rely upon the latest gizmo or do you actively take preventative measures towards staying injury free and healthy?

Most recently I visited the dentist.  I hate going to the dentist.  I went there the other day and was reminded about the fact that although a great brusher, I need to work on my flossing skills.  They found two cavities then proceeded to routinely clean my teeth.  I was chastened then forced by my dentist to recommit to a flossing routine.  Finally he scheduled another preventative cleaning 6 months from now.  It was very contrary to my doctor’s visit last year.  I was having all sorts of stomach pains so I stopped in to the doctor.  He did a few tests and diagnosed me with an ulcer.  He gave me two prescriptions and sent me out the door.  For some reason I was happy with the medication and viewed the doctors visit with satisfaction especially when my ulcer disappeared.

Upon further review I found that ulcers are caused primarily from diet and stress, both of which had been less than ideal in my life as of late.  Why hadn’t the doctor spent more time talking about how to prevent future instances rather then just writing a prescription and fixing the current problem?  Yet the dentist was thinking ahead saying that if I would floss I could eliminate nearly all of my cavities and then setting up a 6 month check up.   Shocking how opposite the two mentalities are!

It made me think of my running and more particularly about running stores in their approach to running.  Having worked running retail for a good portion of my life, I thought of how some people get the wham bam fix ‘um up mentality when others get the health, strengthening and training, proper mechanics and foot strike treatment. I hope that your running store takes the time to give you the full treatment on how to create long term health rather then up-selling you to the latest high end pronation control shoe plus an expensive insole.

Shouldn’t we as runners be cognizant of our body, constantly trying to prevent the injuries rather than getting injured and then impatiently relying on some stiff expensive heavy shoe or insole to fix all of the problems immediately?  It might make us feel better for the moment but more often then not those cushy shoes and insoles become a crutch.  Our feet become weak and reliant upon their grasp—using more support makes you need more support.

However, I believe strongly that the long-term healthy solution is to strengthen your feet over time.  Several key features seem to be effective in preventing running injuries by merely strengthening your feet.  Here are a few things I do to be pro-active in injury prevention.  Working on one or all of these techniques could greatly decrease your chance of injury.

1-     Master your form.  Work on shortening your stride and increasing your cadence while landing directly under your body with a bent knee and midfoot strike.  This minimizes shock  and puts you in an optimal position for propulsion.  Aka Run Natural!

2-     Run barefoot or with a minimal barefoot shoe like Vibram Five Fingers.  This forces you to run with the above mentioned form.  Remember to transition slowly but it’s a great training tool.

3-     Choose minimal lower profile shoes.  These flexible shoes or flats will encourage a lighter, softer style of running while strengthening your feet and legs.  Take this to the next level by making your shoes Zero Drop! (Cut off the heel making a zero deviation between heel and forefoot heights in your shoe: 10-12 mm off the heel is typical!)

4-     Balance.  Take off your shoes and see how long you can balance standing on one leg.  Can you comfortably do this for 2 minutes?  Now close your eyes and repeat.  Then progress to squatting with your eyes closed still on one leg.  This simple yet effective exercise works your feet and lower legs targeting the weakest muscles first.  This can be done throughout the day in all sorts of situations.

5-     Run on softer more uneven terrain.  Running  on the same flat roads works the same set of muscles, ignoring  the all important, intrinsic, balancing muscles.  Most running related injuries are overuse injuries…so spread the load!  Proper form has a similar effect by dispersing the shock but running hills, trails, and/or grass makes you work muscles that otherwise aren’t being worked giving you a more complete workout and decreasing the chance of an overuse/muscle imbalance injury.

So although I dislike the dentist visits, I have to admit that proactive preventative treatment is a superior system than fixing it when it’s broken.  Taking the time and doing the small daily treatments will help keep you injury free and save you money (minimal, simple shoes are currently half the price as heavy high end trainers and an insole)!  Run healthy and happy, RUN NATURAL!


Front squat: attempt to pr


5 Box jumps/ full foot

1 round of The Bear (*see below)

*Power Clean 135#/95#
  Front Squat
  Push Press
  Back Squat
  Push Press

Endurance: 5 x 30,60,90 seconds on with equal recovery