Monday, May 23, 2011

Why Not To Run Like Forest Gump

Everyone, unless you don’t own a TV, has seen Forest Gump once, twice, or 30 times in their life, and we all know that he spent a good chunk of his time RUNN-INGG. While we all know that there was a bit of fiction and exaggeration in the movie, I think sometimes, there is also a lot of parallel in Mr. Gump’s approach to running and ours.

One day, sitting on the porch, Gump had an idea. He decided to start RUNN-INGG. And that is exactly what he did. What he did right, was he had a new, sturdy pair of running shoes. This is important because running, while great cardiovascular exercise, has one big downside. It is HIGH IMPACT, and that impact is absorbed by our joints in the lower extremity and lower back. Which is why runners typically are prone to having foot, ankle, knee, hip and lower back injuries. It is important to have good shoes, with proper fit to YOUR feet. When buying a running shoe, make sure there is a good arch that fits YOUR arch. Every foot is different. If you can’t find a shoe that fits your arch, maybe a good insert would be valuable for you. Also, test the shoe by holding it at the toes and heel, then try to bend it in half. The “bend” should happen at the area of the sole that is at the ball of the foot so that you can get the proper push off when running. Lastly, a key point in the movie showed that Forest never replaced his shoes. You should, and it is recommended to do so every 300-600 miles or 3-6 months.

What did he do wrong? He forgot to WARM UP! Forest, just got up off the porch swing and took off. A major no-no. Rule number one of exercise is warm up properly before and STRETCH after. How much of a warm up is good enough is the next question I get. I would say a good rule of thumb is that for every hour of exercise, you should warm up for 15 minutes and stretch for 15 minutes. So, if you go out on a Saturday morning and run 5 miles, with a 8 minute mile average, you should warm up for 10 minutes and stretch at the end for 10 minutes. What was never mentioned in the movie was that Forest Gump probably had an inflamed IT Band, a strained hamstring, shin splints, and runner’s knee. I hope he had a good chiropractor, as all these conditions can possibly be helped with chiropractic treatment.

Tell me if this has ever happened to you. One day you are sitting on the couch and you reach into the potato chip bag only to discover that the chips are gone. You look around, no one is in the room, so you take the bag, turn it upside down and try to get those last little, greasy crumbs to fall into your mouth. Then you reach for the Big Gulp and suck the last watered down drink up. At that point, you decide you are not happy with your body and make the decision to get in THE BEST SHAPE OF YOUR LIFE! You have a new energy and decide running is going to be the primary exercise that takes you to the next level of health and give you a body that will be gawked at on the Tahoe beaches this summer. You throw your shoes on and run 8 miles. Then 8 miles the next day, then 8 miles the next day. The next day your wake up with shin splints and plantar fasciitis. Is this anyone’s story? SLOW DOWN! Nobody could do what Forest Gump did, but everyone keeps trying. Start slow, a mile or two a few days a week, then when that becomes easy, move to 2-3 miles, then 3-4 miles, up to whatever your goal is. Make a chart, set goals, up the increments by 10 percent every week or so, or more if you are a first time runner. I can train for a 5K in one week, but I have been a runner for 10 years and workout 3-4 times a week. If I were to run a marathon or even a half marathon, I would train for a few months on a very specific schedule because my body is not conditioned for that degree of running.

Forest was a rookie runner, and coincidently he made a lot of rookie mistake. Another was the route he took. He ran back and forth across the United States on the pavement and blacktop. This is very hard on your joints, because there is no give in the hard surface. The force of impact must go somewhere, so it transfers to your knees and lower back. In order of least to most impact on your joins it goes; grass, mulch (like on a trail), blacktop/pavement, concrete and finally the treadmill (although, now some treadmills have shocks built into them). So whenever you can, run on the grass or on a natural trail.

Of course, something that Gump had no control over because of the scoliosis that gave him crooked legs was his gait. It was AWFUL. This is a very important part of running and is just as critical to being able to run without injury as everything mentioned above. It is also a very extensive topic which you can read about in the next blog, or ask Dr Tom to evaluate your running gate the next time you are in the office.

In Good Health,
Dr Tom Rammel

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