Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ignore rules of thumb and build form through experience

Ok, don't totally ignore rules of thumb about running form. Just don't take them entirely on faith. Try to figure out why they exist. How are they supposed to help you? Don't blindly apply them. Be skeptical, but open-minded to direct experience with changes in running form. I recommend this because there are some key general claims you find when you look into running form, and in many ways they confound or contradict one another. They are often floated by proponents of one type of running or another, often who have something to gain if you buy what they say, as universal truths.

Things that need to be sorted out:

Statement 1: Biomechanical factors contribute to some running injuries, or overuse syndromes.
Statement 2: Most running injuries are due to overuse syndromes.
Statement 3: The [insert running form name here] technique will have you running injury free.
Statement 4: Trying too much, too fast with the [insert same running form name as above] form, can cause injury or overuse syndromes.

I think there is truth in all of these statements, but the third is probably hyperbole. If you distill these commonly heard statements down to their essences, the first two are all you need. Regardless of how you run, your form and how much you "bite off" in your training, probably determine the likelihood that you will develop certain types of injuries.

Going a step further, the types of injuries you are most likely develop might obviously depend on which running form you are using, or attempting to use, and whether you are in the process of changing your form, or have a lot of experience with it.

This isn't intended to suggest still further than running causes injury, but as in most things physical, you can hurt yourself with improper technique, or by 'overdoing' it. As of yet, there are no long-term studies I am aware of which convincingly show that one form of running is better than another with regard to injury prevention. However, given the choice, I'd rather run with form that I think most closely approximates what my body has evolves to do.

So what running form would I chose? I'd say there probably isn't one single running form that can be clearly demonstrated best, so what makes the most sense at this time is to take what makes sense from the information and advice that you find floating around in the world today, put it to the test, practice body awareness, and learn from direct experience what changes in your running form get your human running machine running on all cylinders.

Someday, sufficient research might be available to substantiate Statement 3 above for some running form, or type of running form, or perhaps different running forms will be shown better at different running speeds (as I suspect). For now, however, experience is your best teacher. Don't take anyone's word for it. Hell, don't take my word for it. Think it, do it, be it, and let clear-minded, honest experience be your teacher.

Although the direct and confident person is appealing, and you may want to believe them, in my experience such supreme confidence is as much an indicator of over-confidence, as it is an indicator of true wisdom. Wisdom usually tells us that universal truths that rules of thumb imply, are relatively rare.

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