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So why do we run?

Added: 23 April 2013

We've teamed up with a local running magazine "Lets Go Running". We are writing a monthly column and below is our first article ....

So why do we run?

As I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone reading this article, running is tough. Running is very tough. Running is such a difficult way of getting from A to B that mankind decided to invent the push bike, the train and the car as way of avoiding it. And looking purely at the physics of it is enough to make most sane people realise why.

In order to run, the individual must jump from one foot to the other repeatedly. Every time the foot strikes down 3 times your body weight is transferred through it. That’s you, your evil twin and your evil twins best mate on your back for every step you take.

And for arguments sake let’s assume the average runner takes 400 foot strikes per foot per mile. I don’t want to get too boring and mathematical but it works out that about 70tons of force are transmitted through each foot per mile. If you chose to run distances, say 26.2miles….I think you understand my point! It’s an astounding volume of force and stress that we ask our bodies to absorb every time we strap on our wheels and head for the great unconquered trails.

And these stats are only in the context of foot load in the average runner on the average day. We’re not talking about the other joints, the muscular work, the effect of hills, foot striking position, knee angles, terrain, footwear. The variables the runner has to deal with are huge.

Then there’s the consideration of the body organs. Most organs adapt fairly well to exercise in the long term. However, and I wouldn’t ask around too loudly, one of the most common dysfunctions associated with running is that of the bladder. History is full of runners with weakened pelvic floors who are too embarrassed to cough or get up quickly “just in case”. By the way if this is you, don’t worry, you’re not alone, it’s pretty common and very under reported!

So when you think about it, it really is no surprise why very few people run, and why only a few of the most tenacious, hardened and gifted individuals complete marathons. Obviously the stats vary with the source, but it has been calculated that only 5% of the population are regular runners. Itis purely a personal opinion but I believe a large proportion of this is due to natural selection and modern day survival of the fittest.

I’ll use my brother in law as an example to illustrate this. He, like many others, heard that this running lark is really good for you, enjoyable and very rewarding. So, he popped down to his local sports shop, picked up a pair of fully approved and measured trainers for £120, a few pairs of shorts and of course a High-Viz-Jacket. Then off he trots into a summers evening with excitement and anticipation flowing through his veins. However within a mile and half he was reduced to a walk because of sore shins. Naturally he’s pretty peeved. This isn’t what he signed up for.

Wounded but still keen, he tries again the next day. This time his shins hurt but now his knees hurt too. He’s had enough of this. So off he goes back to the sports shop and picks up a set of golf clubs and hasn’t touched his running shoes since. Nature has told him that running isn’t that easy and he’s off else where to find something less tough. He’s now safely tucked back into the 95% of non-running population and is probably lost to the sport forever.

My point is that not everyone is made for running. Many of our bodies just arn’t made for dealing with the repetitive loading, the horrendous conditions, the lifestyle adaptations, all the things it takes to enjoy and be vaguely good at running. And this is where we at Performance Physiotherapy come in.

Fortunately, unlike my brother-in-law, many of us arn’t beaten by sore shins, knees and achey backs. We love running. We want to keep going. We won’t be beaten when our bodies tell us it’s time to quit. We welcome the sore muscles, the painful joints, the wet clothes because it’s our reward, our drug, our sport.

So in times of need the sensible runner reaches out for help and as physiotherapists we enter an agreement with you. We commit to doing whatever it takes to get you back out there again. We don’t want you to be selected against. We want you to keep running.

The challenge you place at the feet of the physiotherapist is a tough one. But we’ll answer with a diagnosis, a rehab plan and a phased return to running. We’ll manipulate tissues and joints to make them move more effectively. We’ll talk to you about movement patterns, muscle imbalances, primary movers and how important your arse muscles are. We’ll make you sit on gym balls, play with large bits of rubber band, wear ludicrously coloured tapes. That’s our role.

But please don’t forget you’re part of his agreement. Your role is to do the rehab drills, to listen to the advice, to cool things down and heat them up when told and to behave yourself even when you’re tempted not to.

Between us we agree to do whatever it takes to beat the statistics and natures whispering voice and get you back out there. Mr Darwin will be proven wrong and you shall live to run another day. Because, when it comes down to it, that’s what we do.

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