Thursday, May 13, 2010

What is it?

A lot is made of assessing athlete’s movement and criticizing what he or she does wrong. There are very often cases where poor movement leads to injury, but there are also cases where there seems to be poor/inefficient movement that leads to excellent performance and very little occurrences of injury. Can we make improvement? Sure. Should we try to make improvement? Most definitely. What amuses me though. is how quick we are to blame or assess the movement when we rarely blame or assess the environment and/or equipment. Specifically, let’s look at running… instead of having one microscope on movement…

What about looking at the terrestrial environment? Running on hard, flat surfaces repeatedly is asking for it.

What about equipment? How would changing footwear or getting rid of shoes all-together change things? We don’t necessarily do to well in the expensive products.

What about an individual’s social environment? Why are they running? Is it enjoyable? Is there a deep psychology reason for wanting/needing to run? Is running a marathon or half marathon just ‘what everybody’s doing’?

What type of personality is an individual bringing to their activity? Emotions are strong in that they have the capacity to change us; how we see the world, our approach to whatever we endeavor, and most definitely how we move.

What came before? What type of lifestyle have they lived? What was/is the long-term adaptation to the specific activity(ies) that they partook.

How about diet? What about all the possibilities with one's nutrition? Different cultures have vastly different diets.

Then there’s the activity itself… Is running, especially long distance running good for you? There’s been research on showing both sides of this one, from the basic idea that cardiovascular/aerobic exercise is excellent for health, to distance running/marathons are bad for your heart; increasing plaque in the coronary arteries. Increased bone density vs. the repetitive stress injuries…

An excellent book that has received a lot of attention is “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. The book was an excellent story regarding ultra-running, the Tarahumara people of Mexico, shoes, and how humans are ‘built’ for running. My fear though is that most people missed the most important aspect of the book; the Tarahumara people, their culture and environment. What most people took is that we can/should go run long distances and run barefoot or at least with minimal footwear.

What the Tarahumara are not is probably more important than who they are with regards to their astounding health and ability to perform amazing running feats. They do not bring a “Type A” personality to their running (Type A personalities can bring some pretty serious health implications to the table). They don’t attempt to accumulate a specific number of miles each week, following a specific routine. Most of their running is ‘community’ based in their ball game they play while covering long distances. They don’t have a sedentary culture centered on the individual and “advanced” technology. They don’t wear the type of footwear that Western culture grows up with.

… And… this is important… their ecological environment is extremely varied; huge canyons of constantly changing terrain, making their running into an extremely random activity… far different from the monotonous steady-state drudgery that most view as long distance running. This is another case and point regarding the variation principle I alluded to in a previous post. The type of terrain forces changes in speeds and movements, making the Tarahumara’s form of running far different from being a repetitive steady-state activity; variation is necessary for health.

See more of everything to understand what’s really going on.



adam said...

great write up Aaron

Brett Jones said...

well put - I have helped a lot of people with "IT band" issues by reminding them that the roads they run on are raised in the middle and lower on the sides and running the same direction with one leg lower and one leg higher "might" cause an issue.
Looking at movement is a concession to our current movement skill as a people - nothing like 12 plus hours a day of sitting (hunched over etc...) to torpedo your movement. Sad but true.
If we as people had maintained our authentic movement we wouldn't need movement screening.
But we do.

Aaron Schwenzfeier said...

Thanks Adam.

I agree Brett.

The problem I see, is we need to be getting this message out stronger/better to where it matters. A book like "Born to Run" should be somewhat of a wake-up call to the problems of our society. Most read it and think, "huh, great book! I should start running." When what I am saying is look at the people it depicted and look at the intangibles. It's 'normal' to run a 100+ miles in the Tarahumara culture, while most of the rest of us think these people are just an anomaly, while others just "bull" forward thinking I am just going to go out and start running because I am built for it. Watching the video, if you pay close attention and 'see' everything, what you notice is something far more powerful at work here than just the running; great sense of community/living (leading to good health), very little modern technology (leading again to better health), lots of outdoor/in nature (again better health) and of course the physical which is far different from the physical we think of; very rarely is the exact same movement repeated. AND their running is recreational; done for the pure enjoyment of it.

What most of us do in our profession is deal with the symptoms and become the indespensible "experts" when physicality should be just a part of who we ALL are. I understand both sides of this though, as there will always be people too lazy for whatever reason to take their own health into their own hands. The problem is we 'exercise' because we are supposed to, but that's prescription adherence, which is not very good.

I do agree we have to fix the symptoms, but we must make people aware of the cause... and the cause of that... and the cause of that...