However, just like throwing a baseball or shooting a basketball, running is a skill that must be learned.
– Steve Magness, running coach
For almost 10 years now I’ve confronted various chronic aches and pains. I love to run but often my running efforts have been derailed by some extremely frustrating issues. My most recent battle has been with Achilles pain/heel pain/plantar fascitis/somesuch in my left foot. I’ve been dealing with these issues for about two years–and it’s driven me insane.
Of course the idea of quitting is nonsense. Humans should be able to run. I want to run and so I’ve searched for a solution. I can very happily report that it seems I have indeed found the key and I’ve spent the past eight weeks or so running almost daily. Seems up until recently I was walking and running incorrectly. Now I know what I’m doing!
Thanks to Rick Olderman
First I must thank Denver-area physical therapist Rick Olderman for helping me with this process. He’s by far the best physical therapist I’ve ever worked with–and I’ve worked with quite a few. Rick truly understands movement, not just muscles and joints. He’s helped me see and feel what I’ve been doing wrong and how to change my ways. If you’re battling with chronic pain and you’re in the Denver area, I highly recommend a visit to Rick.
Tough concepts to discuss
The idea of learning (or re-learning) how to walk and run is sort of a strange thing to consider. Most of us are able to use our legs to ambulate across the earth at various speeds. We typically don’t need to spend much time thinking about how to do this stuff, we just do it. But how well do we run or walk? In my case, I developed poor movement habits–but I didn’t know it. I never actually lost the ability to walk/run, I just lost the ability to do these things efficiently and properly. We know that habits are very hard to break, especially if we can’t identify them.
Identifying and dissecting poor walking/running habits is pretty tough. We’re talking about fairly complex processes that we do without thinking. It’s like blinking or breathing. Analyzing this stuff is challenging and then teaching someone a new method of walking or running is even tougher. As a strength coach and personal trainer, I can say that we rarely consider how to teach someone proper gait mechanics. At the Science of Running, big-time running coach Steve Magness discusses this issue in his excellent blog post titled How to run with proper biomechanics (This post is absolutely essential reading for any runner or running coach.):
“Distance runners and coaches seem to hate the topic of running form. Most subscribe to the idea that a runner will naturally find his best stride and that stride should not be changed. However, just like throwing a baseball or shooting a basketball, running is a skill that must be learned. The problem with learning how to run is that there are so many wrong ideas out there. This is partly due to the complexity of the process and partly due to a lack of understanding of biomechanics. It’s my belief that the wide range of “correct” ways to run has led to this apathetic attitude towards running form changes by most athletes and coaches.”
Over the next several posts I’m going to discuss my understanding of gait mechanics and how you can analyze and improve your gait.